Climate Council backs state’s highest CO2 emitting power plant
By Guy Page
In an outcome that might – or might not – spell trouble House leaders’ hoping the supermajority closing ranks to override a likely veto of S.5 by Gov. Phil Scott, a total of eight Democratic/Progressive lawmakers voted No on Thursday’s roll call vote.
In related news, the Vermont Climate Council pushing carbon taxation on home heating fuels has rejected a proposal to close or reduce carbon emissions at the state’s large carbon emissions producer, Burlington’s McNeil wood/natural gas-fueled power plant.
Joseph Andriano of Orwell, John Arrison of Weathersfield, Nelson Brownell of Pownal, Kristi Morris of Springfield, John O’Brien of Tunbridge, Taylor Small of Winooski, Dennis LaBounty of Lyndon, and David Templeman of Brownington all voted no on S.5, which would tax heating fuels to incentivize a transition to electricity-based home heating.
Absent from the vote were Democrats Mari Cordes of Lincoln, Caleb Elder of Starksboro, and Troy Headrick and Kate Logan of Burlington.
It is unclear whether the Democratic No votes will stay Nos when urged to vote Yes on an S.5 veto override – which will surely take place if House Speaker Jill Krowinski believes she can safely muster 100 votes. It is not uncommon for House leadership to give permission to rank-and-filers to vote their conscience and/or constituents’ will on a floor vote where the outcome is all but certain, provided they stay loyal on close votes and especially on veto overrides.
Two of the Democrat No votes hold seats in the Northeast Kingdom, where Democratic voters are relatively scarce. A recent legislative breakfast showed the disparity among NEK Democratic reps. St. Johnsbury’s Scott Campbell – a climate hawk – argued that in the long run, S.5 will be good for constituents’ pocketbooks.
“The climate crisis impact on Vermont is not only environmental, it’s economic; global, national and regional economies are changing, transitioning away from near total reliance on fossil fuels,” Campbell is quoted in the Caledonian-Record. “Governments are incentivizing and beginning to require carbon reductions. Vermont is not prepared. We need to build out the (electric vehicle) charging network, the weatherization installers and heat pump mechanics. We need to upgrade the electric grid. All this takes time and investment and planning, and the longer we delay, the higher the costs, the greater disruption and the greater the threat to those who are most vulnerable economically.” He also pointed to the volatile price fluctuations in the fossil-fuel market.
That didn’t wash with LaBounty.
“The electric bill has never fluctuated,” LaBounty reportedly said. “It’s always gone up.” He added, “People are living paycheck to paycheck. They don’t have the resources to put in a heat pump even with some subsidies.”
LaBounty also expressed skepticism about how well heat pumps – at any price – will warm NEK homes in a region reputed to have the coldest winters in the state.
Climate Council backs state’s biggest CO2 emitter – As reported in True North Reports April 25 by Rob Roper, the Vermont Climate Council – the appointed board charged by the Legislature with planning Vermont’s emission reductions – rejected a subcommittee recommendation to close or limit Burlington’s McNeil biomass-burning plant and a 20 MW biomass plant in Ryegate.
“The vote was controversial because, as supporters of the recommendation pointed out, the McNeil biomass power plant in Burlington is the largest emitter of CO2 in the state,” Roper reports. “Giving it preferential treatment in a law for reducing the state’s CO2 emissions seems absurd. It is, nevertheless, classified as a renewable energy source under state energy policy.”
Reasons given for keeping McNeil open include the power supply impracticality of closing it, and the impact on jobs. Both reasons were raised repeatedly by supporters of carbon-free Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant, but were rejected by the Legislature a decade ago.