Director of Racial Equity says Clean Heat Act ‘doesn’t meet the mark’

Proposed “credit” system needs revisiting; not enough attention paid to impacts on low-income Vermonters

by Rob Roper

The very last witness brought into the Senate Natural Resources & Energy Committee, just minutes before a vote on S.5, the Un-Affordable Heat Act, was Xusana Davis, Vermont’s Director of Racial Equity. Given how much high-minded rhetoric has been dedicated to “a just transition” away from fossil fuels, the committee’s failure to even consider reaching out to Davis except as an afterthought was revealing.  

Over a month ago, Behind the Lines broke a story (eventually — and tepidly — picked up by Vermont Digger) highlighting accusations of “racial tokensim” by the Vermont Climate Council and an unwillingness to respect the concerns of marginalized communities. (See Video.) That should have sent a strong signal Chairman Chris Bray to at least have a robust discussion about equity issues and how S.5 might address them. It didn’t.

Davis went through the bill point by point, highlighting positive and negative aspects from her perspective. At the end of her testimony, Senator Dick McCormack (D-Windsor) asked, “Are you prepared to sign off on the bill in terms of its equity?”

Davis responded, “I don’t think the bill in its current version quite meets the mark on equity.”

“Simple things can be done to bring it closer, but at the end of the day I think that the implementation is really going to be – we’ll see what the commitment really is.”

She recapped her list of problems with the bill that need to be addressed, including:

  • Rethink the credit system.
  • Rethink the timing and the funding necessary to roll out the program.
  • Incorporating language (translation) access in public outreach efforts.
  • Address the privacy and data concerns for low-income Vermonters.
  • Define more specifically what constitutes low income and what constitutes moderate income.
  • Provide some analysis about who is not just bearing the benefits and burdens not just from a regional or geographic perspective but also from a demographic perspective.
  • Understand and explain how frontloading versus backloading costs impacts households.

Some of these things are simple, as Davis says, but some are definitely not. “Rethink the credit system” means fundamentally change the central concept of the proposed law.

“Address the privacy and data concerns for low-income Vermonters” is also a sticky topic, as much of the “equity” promised in the bill requires that low-income Vermonters be first identified as low-income via private data collected about their income status. The problem is you have private fuel dealers and a private “Default Delivery Agent” collecting private data on private citizens for public purposes. It is a fundamental, and perhaps unresolvable, flaw in the bill.

Providing analysis about the “demographics of who is bearing the benefits and burdens” is precisely what this committee has assiduously avoided throughout this entire process because the answer would certainly reveal that the “Affordable” Heat Act is painfully unaffordable and severely regressive. As Davis pointed out, it may be true that low-income and marginalized communities are hardest hit by a changing climate, but S.5 won’t change that. The hurricanes and floods will still come. The question is, will low-income and marginalized communities also be hardest hit by this supposed solution that doesn’t actually solve anything. The end result is a double-whammy hitting squarely on the heads of the poor.

Also in this categories-of-questions-that-may-not-be-asked is Davis’ request to understand how the costs associated with this program will impact individual households. The answer is like a wrecking ball, but we’re not allowed to explore that eventuality.  

Senators Bray and White argued with Davis that there are opportunities to fix these social justice and equity shortcomings later in the legislative and rule making process.

Davis was having none of it, “I appreciate the point about there being more opportunities to perfect, and I just need to express a real concern or perhaps a warning about that. It’s now my third or fourth session in the state and one of the things I often hear from legislators is, oh yeah sorry the equity piece isn’t quite there but we’ll fix it in January. We’ll fix it later. And what that says to me is there is something that motivates us to do this that is more important to us than justice. So the justice will have to wait…. I want to caution against the expectation that it will get resolved at some point.”

Davis is right to be concerned. Equity and social justice are just window dressing for S.5. As Richard Cowart, the architect of the Clean Heat Standard for the Climate Council testified, addressing social justice concerns and reducing greenhouse gas emissions are mutually exclusive propositions. And, as Senator Mark MacDonald put it so succinctly, “”We don’t do things based on helping poor people. We do things to save the world.”

After Davis left the committee room, Senator Bray urged his colleagues to, regardless Davis’ testimony, “advance the bill as is,” insisting it can be fixed it later.

The committee voted the bill out unanimously in favor, 5-0 (Senator McCormack who just days ago said he couldn’t vote for a bill he couldn’t explain to his constituents voted “yes”), and the expectation is for a floor vote the week of February 27-March 3 following a stop in the Senate Appropriations Committee.  

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Rob Roper is a freelance writer who has been involved with Vermont politics and policy for over 20 years. This article reprinted with permission from Behind the Lines: Rob Roper on Vermont Politics, robertroper.substack.com

Categories: Legislation

10 replies »

  1. ”We don’t do things based on helping poor people. We do things to save the world.”

    These people are possessed by an insane ideological doomsday cult with dangerous, imaginary solutions to completely imaginary problems, and clearly, they’re perfectly willing to sacrifice some innocent people. Perhaps it will appease the angry God of Climate Change. Perhaps he does not even exist.

    Only one way to find out.

  2. Last time I checked if the problem of global warming is a universal issue continued stratification along racial, diversity or economic lines will not yield the results on a scale necessary to move the meter in any direction.

    Social shape shifters will continue ad nauseum interjecting meaningless drivel into the pot.

    On the plus side their efforts will drag any actions into the quagmire from which it came with no movement. It remains hard to take these efforts seriously.

  3. “as Senator Mark MacDonald put it so succinctly, “”We don’t do things based on helping poor people. We do things to save the world.””
    Sounds more like a God complex or a display of the dark triad to me. A tiny state with a population dwarfed by the populations on the rest of the globe. Hasn’t MacDonald forgotten his oath and responsibility to serve the people of Vermont?

  4. This is total insanity. There is absolutely nothing VT can do that will have the slightest impact on our climate. But the measures it is proposing WILL have a significant negative impact on lower to moderate income Vermonters who won’t be able to afford to heat their homes and still feed their families. And as the majority of low to moderate income VT households are white, I’m not sure anyone even cares.

  5. No worries Xusana Davis. The toxic mushroom cloud over Ohio, other rail “accidents” spewing toxic chemicals, and the large industrial fires that broke out across the USA last week, are truly equitable to all citizens. The acid rain falling on Vermont is a climate changer for years to come and will not discriminate in any fashion. Your job is likely going to be eliminated soon as the overlords have changed up their plans. The corporate giants are all ready elminating departments such as yours due to economic instability.

  6. Schadenfreude:
    (/ˈʃɑːdənfrɔɪdə/; German: [ˈʃaːdn̩ˌfʁɔʏ̯də] ; lit. ‘harm-joy’) is the experience of pleasure, joy, or self-satisfaction that comes from learning of or witnessing the troubles, failures, or humiliation of another.

    Gaslighting is a tactic for manipulating someone in a way that makes them question their own reality.[1][2] A colloquialism, the term derives from the title of the 1944 American film Gaslight, which was based on the 1938 British theatre play Gas Light by Patrick Hamilton, though the term did not gain popular currency in English until the mid-2010s.[3][4]

    And, as Senator Mark MacDonald put it so succinctly, “”We don’t do things based on helping poor people. We do things to save the world.”

  7. This legislature has made Vermonters a “marginalized community”. The bills and the language they use and propose are Marxist. They will never save Vermont, they will surely destroy it!

  8. LOL, racial equity…equity of outcome Not equity of opportunity. Vermont is slowly coming apart at the seems.

  9. If the proponents truly believe that fossil fuel use is killing the planet (as I do to some extent), why should they endorse ANY credit program, regardless of one’s status as “disadvantaged” or “historically disadvantaged”? Formerly-sequestered carbon going into the atmosphere functions as a greenhouse gas no matter the socioeconomic or racial background of the person who burned it. These legislators truly believe that if Vermont sets the example, then China and India are sure to follow. We voted for this.

  10. ‘ “advance the bill as is,” insisting it can be fixed it later.’

    This is the same response I got from Senator Ginny Lyons when several years ago at a legislative Q&A I asked her, knowing full well the toxic and heavy metals going into solar panels which have a lifespan of 20-30 years, what is the plan to keep them from turning our ag soils into EPA brown fields and hold owners, manufacturers and installers accountable so that our children and grandchildren aren’t left holding the bag and suffering their effects. She felt that technology would figure it out and save the day. (If that were the case, then shouldn’t the 50 year old EPA sites in Chittenden County be cleaned up by now?) Being unsatisfied with that cop-out response, I approached after the Q&A period to engage further. She quickly exited in a hostile huff saying “would it satisfy you if we put some language in the bill to that effect?”, to which I said that would be a start. But since then I have yet to see any such thing being discussed, much less included, in all their climate policy. I’m sure their crony donors wouldn’t allow it.

    The main problem with the cult wanting to save the world is that they are completely following and implementing the globalists’ Agenda 2030, whose ultimate goal is depopulation and further control of the remaining humans. They repeatedly say and write about it, so why don’t people believe it? Why don’t they live by their own rules and walk the talk?

    There is no science that definitively shows how CO2, a minute proportion of our atmosphere, causes warming, but there is empirical evidence, ancient ice cores and tree rings, showing the opposite. There’s been no warming trend, and none of their predictions of the last 50 years have come true. They have, however, been doing a lot of geo-engineering which can change weather patterns and intensity regionally. Every “natural” disaster is automatically tagged as climate change and used for more fear mongering. Their solutions always amount to our spending more on their environmentally destructive virtue signaling and their getting richer at our expense.

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