By Alison Despathy
S.5, the so-called Affordable Heating Act, has been passed by the Vermont Senate and is under review all week by the House Committee on Environment and Energy. A committee discussion is scheduled for Friday morning. Here are 14 reasons to oppose S.5 on principles of environmentalism, justice, safety for vulnerable people, quality of life, and impact on low-income Vermonters.
#1: Copper, essential to the electrification of Vermont, is mined under unjust, horrific conditions.
The installing and upgrading of more electrical systems for heat such as heat pumps all demand copper. All the upgrades of the electrical grid and home electrical panels will all need more copper- the mass production of heat pumps etc all demand more copper- and also windmills, electric cars etc- all driving massive copper mining.
The largest copper mines are in South America where over 5.5 million tons of copper are mined annually. The Chilean state-owned CODELCO mine is the largest copper mine in the world. The people in this region of the country have the highest rates of cancer, severe respiratory disease, birth defects, premature death, infant mortality, and tumors. The air, land and water are contaminated with over 66 toxins from mining operations including arsenic and lead.
Schools and neighborhoods are covered with fine black particulate dust and levels of arsenic in the air are well over 200% of the acceptable limits. The water is drying up due to copper mining and many areas are no longer suitable for growing food or even living. The people are taken advantage of in the mines and protective gear for most is basically nonexistent.
Speaking out about the injustice results in loss of work – work that many are dependent on to feed their families. The women in this area have banded together to reclaim the health of their children, water and lands and basic human rights. Equity does not stop at the borders of Vermont- Be prepared to cry if you watch this video about copper mining in Chile.
#2: Diversity in heating systems, a worthy goal, is NOT the path of S.5. If a home is best served with a high efficiency system that uses half the fossil fuel of an existing system and will work in the coldest temperatures, according to S.5, this is not an eligible measure and the purchaser will still pay in the form of higher costs on heating fuel. In most situations, heat pumps will not work at colder temps – these are still supplemental systems. There are many Vermonters who cannot and will not be able to financially justify a supplemental system even with steep incentives.
#3: Micromanaging and compromising Vermonters who have been moving toward less reliance on fossil fuels and more efficient systems for decades is abusive and cruel. At the heart of S.5 lies greed and the framework to extract money from this sector, promote a monopoly of energy and establish a carbon credit system. Don’t be fooled by the false promise of environmental justice – this is not the point or the end goal of S.5.
#4: Heat pumps are highly prone to mold and bacterial overgrowth. The research is clear and all HVAC sites and heat pump installers have information about this common issue. It is almost guaranteed this will happen in Vermont’s climate. If the mold or bacteria develop in the heat pump, it then circulates through the ducts and house resulting in allergies and health problems. On average, a heat pump cleaning is $250 and is recommended twice a year. Who will pay for the regular upkeep and mold mitigation in these heat pumps – especially for low income Vermonters? Due to the prevalence of this issue, some heat pump manufacturers are reformatting their design to try and prevent this pooling moisture and mold growth.
#5: S.5 brings high risk for fraudulent installation of inefficient and inappropriate heating systems by transient installers who flock here to take advantage of the situation and a guaranteed funding stream. It is often the case that these installers are not properly trained, sell the wrong size systems and will not be around to offer reliable service and maintain equipment for customers. There is also a high risk that some may sell full heat pump installs without a back up system – placing Vermonters at risk for no heat during the coldest temperatures.
#6: Select entities will benefit from S.5. As proclaimed by many legislators, lawyers, utility companies, large fossil fuel dealers/wholesalers and Vermont Gas systems who support this legislation – “this is what it takes to create a market”- Select entities will benefit from this legislation and it will be done on the backs of hard-working Vermonters.
#7: Smuggling. Many Vermonters will opt to use out-of-state fuel dealers who will cross the borders and deliver fuel at a lower cost compromising our entire thermal sector, small fuel dealers and the economy. Penalties and enforcement on this still need to be determined. With a limited ability to monitor purchases, smuggling will be a reality. Also there is nothing stopping people from filling up tanks of fuel over the border in order to afford to heat their homes
#8: Cost increase. Vermonters want to help the environment and pay less not more for heat. Hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding are coming. Instead of appropriating money for reports on the detrimental Clean Heat Standard – which has the ultimate goal of increasing the cost of heating fuel and locking in bogus carbon markets – directing money towards training a workforce to ensure this money gets used should be the priority. We are already paying for that revenue stream in the form of inflation.
#9: Biofuels are not green, renewable energy. Biofuels require massive deforestation of many countries. For example, to reach the demands for biofuel in first world countries, Brazil’s rainforest and ecosystems are destroyed at alarming rates to make way for genetically modified sugar beets used to make biofuel. These GMO crops require glyphosate and pesticides further poisoning the lands, water and people of these regions. This is not green, renewable or ethical.
True, the fossil fuel industry has also wrought destruction and it has taken decades to attempt to clean up practices. Yet here we are again allowing human rights abuses and environmental degradation to run rampant as Vermont plows ahead with grandiose ideas of electrification at the expense of others and the earth.
#10: Weatherization is key to efficiency and reduces both fossil fuel use and heating costs. There are robust agencies and programs in place to ensure weatherization efforts are top priority. This is a win-win situation. With tremendous federal funding and existing fuel taxes that fund weatherization programs, this benefit will increase throughout Vermont. We don’t need S.5 to continue to move this path forward.
#11: Biomass is a highly destructive source of energy. In the Senate, there was an abundance of testimony presented on the dangers of biomass to marginalized and impoverished communities and the earth. Fossil fuels have less carbon footprint than biomass for those who track carbon.
#12: Many areas of Vermont require both grid upgrades and electrical upgrades in homes necessary for heat pump installs and electric vehicles. This takes significant money and time. Meanwhile Vermonters will pay more for heating fuel with a limited workforce to build out the infrastructure.
#13: The corporate carbon market is bogus and rife with greenwashing deals. Why would Vermont even consider entering this predatory game at the expense of Vermonters and small businesses? There is severe injustice and lack of common sense in the S.5 framework. S.5 literally sacrifices the people to claim bogus green policy.
#14: 75% of Vermont is forest. For anyone in Vermont concerned about carbon, this forest is a highly effective and natural carbon sink that offsets all of the fossil fuel use in this state. As China and India embrace fossil fuels and open hundreds of coal plants, Vermont is net zero yet attempting to pass destructive legislation that will result in higher costs of fuel for Vermonters and businesses and bring unnecessary struggle in the name of “environmental justice.”
If you think Vermonters should be punished and charged more for using heating fuel to reliably heat their homes in the winter, then this bill is for you.
If you think it is acceptable for Legislators to attack, blame, and fine an entire sector necessary for the safety and welfare of Vermonters, then this bill is for you.
If you believe that it is acceptable for people, lands, water and air to be poisoned through highly unregulated and abusive practices for mining minerals such as copper, growing GMO crops for biofuel and the use of biomass then this bill is for you.
If you believe that it is acceptable for some legislators to virtue signal and sell false promises that this bill brings environmental and social justice when in reality it brings risk and burden at the expense of Vermonters and people and environments around the world, then this bill is for you.
However, if you see through the lies and understand the dangers of this bill, then please demand your legislator votes no on S.5.