Epiphany in Vermont Climate Council: The Climate Action Plan isn’t realistic

“We don’t do things based on helping poor people. We do things based on saving the world.” – Sen. Mark MacDonald (D-Orange County)

by Rob Roper

At the February 16 meeting of the Climate Council’s subcommittee on Cross Sector Mitigation, TJ Poor, an administration appointee to the Council from the Public Service Department, asked the assembled group an awkward if critical question about the thermal sector mandates under the Global Warming Solutions Act. “We have this 120 thousand goal [of total of homes weatherized by 2030], 90 thousand new in the CAP (Climate Action Plan), and, um, is that even technically possible?… The challenges we’re seeing, is it even time to say, hey, we want to do as much as we can, but we should be realistic here. We’re not going to get 90,000.”

The two principal challenges Poor was referring to are an acute labor shortage and a severe lack of long-term funding.

Sarah Phillips, who runs the state’s Home Weatherization Assistance Program (HWAP), replied to the question, “Can we get it done? Is it realistic? I’m not sure that it is. I think we see it as sort of a moon shot and we’re going for it, but we’ve been honest all along the way that we’re not sure we can accomplish these goals.”

As one of the presenters at the meeting, Philips shared statistics from her organizations work in 2022, which included spending $13 million on weatherization projects. This led to 1033 units weatherized at an average cost of $10,036 per unit. This was 279 weatherization jobs short of HWAP’s goal for the year – a twenty-two percent shortfall.

Efficiency Vermont also presented statistics on their weatherization work, which amounted to an average of 800 units weatherized annually between 2018 and 2022 (work described as a “high cost, low savings program”). Kelly Lucci of Efficiency Vermont also cited labor issues as a major problem, noting that this was “the first time I’ve seen it this bad across all of the programs…. There’s just a broader dearth of folks in the trades.”

So, between Efficiency Vermont and the Home Weatherization Assistance Program, two of the largest purveyors of this work, less than 2000 Vermont homes are weatherized each year. In order for the state to meet its mandated goals under the Global Warming Solutions Act, that number has to increase to over 11,000 – which isn’t going to happen because Vermont’s skilled, trained labor force in this sector is already maxed out.

And these are the salad days for these programs with hundreds of millions in federal dollars pouring into Vermont from ARPA and the Inflation Reduction Act. However, this money goes away after 2026, and, as the Council and their guests noted, there is no revenue source currently identified to replace it. There is a cliff after 2026 where the expected annual work output drops by over half.

This is a deadly dangerous scenario our politicians are setting Vermonters up for with the UnAffordable Heat Act (S.5), which just passed out of the Natural Resources & Energy Committee 5-0 and is on its way to the full senate.

Their logic (highly flawed as it is) is that Vermonters will ultimately save money by transitioning away from fossil fuel heating sources and onto electricity-based alternatives. In order to affect this transition, they plan on jacking up the price of fossil heating fuels through the “carbon credit” system established in S.5, which is a de facto excise tax on oil, propane, natural gas, and kerosene. Estimates of this tax range from 70 cents per gallon to over $4.00, with the higher estimate the more likely. This will, by design, make heating with fossil based fuels unaffordable, hammering low income Vermonters the hardest.

The only chance this scheme could ever have at being successful is if the transition away from fossil fuels occurs broadly, quickly, and efficiently. This is like a statewide energy version of a heart transplant. You’ve got a few minutes to get the old heart out and the new heart in place or the patient will die for lack of oxygen to the vital organs. And, as we have seen above, there is no chance that this transition occurs quickly and efficiently due to the lack of a labor force to do the work required. The old heart will be removed, but no surgeon is on call to put the new one in. The patient will die on the table – or more literally by freezing to death in their home one cold winter night.

What will happen if the UnAffordable Heat Act becomes law is this: Fossil fuel prices will skyrocket as a result of the “carbon credit” mandates. Over three quarters of Vermont homes – the overwhelming majority — currently use fossil fuels for heat. This majority of folks’ heating bills will go through the roof. A few Vermonters will be lucky enough to have the government direct the money taken from fossil fuel heating customers to pay to weatherize their homes, purchase and install a heat-pump system, etc. But most Vermonters will be stuck paying higher fossil fuel heating bills whether they want to or not.

Waiting lists for weatherization and heat pump installation will be years long, and for low-income Vermonters who require subsidies for projects that can routinely cost in excess of $20,000 and $30,000, getting on a waiting list will follow a lengthy and intrusive application process. Who knows how long that will take? Meanwhile, during all this time, those least able to overcome the many obstacles — logistical and financial — to transitioning off fossil fuels will have to shoulder the financial burden of subsidizing everyone else. This is what Vermont’s Director of Equity meant when she pointed out S.5 “doesn’t meet the mark.” This is a cruel, callous, and inhuman policy and the willing lack of forethought that has gone into it should be considered an act of criminal negligence.

But, as Senator Mark MacDonald admitted during debate over S.5, “We don’t do things based on helping poor people. We do things to save the world.” And if Granny has to freeze to death after a last meal of discount cat food to satisfy MacDonald’s and his colleagues’ God complexes, so be it.

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

22 replies »

  1. Senator:

    1.) It is IMPOSSIBLE for Vermont to save the world.

    2.) Your job is INDEED to help people specifically within Vermont where you were elected. Your job is to represent the WILL and the NEEDS of: VERMONTERS – NOT Indonesians, NOT the Irish, NOT Africans, etc. Your job is indeed to help the poor, the middle income, and yes, the wealthy of VERMONT in ACCORDANCE with the US Constitution and the Vermont Constitution. In FACT, you swore an oath to do just that.

    DO IT. NOW.

  2. Senator Mark MacDonald epitomizes “The elite” position of the Vt.Legislature to foster the Globalist position in all they do.
    The very idea that MacDonald represents the vermont electorate is obscene. Mark represent himself as a man for the citizenry of vermont with his election lawn signs of an old fashioned tractor (the working people of Vermont) Yet he proclaims that they don’t do things for the poor people but to rather save the world. What a phony blow hard! He should be run out of town.

  3. Efficiency Vermont said during the meeting that some weatherization contractors have asked them to remove their names from the website because they are swamped and can’t take on any more work.

  4. Well said Kathleen J Gaffney.
    I agree, S.5 is a testament to the Senators abdication of their oath to uphold the Vermont Constitution. MacDonald’s statement in particular is testimony to his complete failure to fulfill his duty to serve all the people of Vermont.

    Perhaps they should actually take some time to read the Constitution; seems they’ve been in office so long they’ve forgotten why they’re there. I’d remind them there’s nothing in it that empowers them to enact legislation to save the world. In particular I’d suggest they focus on Article 6, and Paragraph 6 under Legislative Powers before they read the rest. Hopefully it would be the equivalent of a “slap upside the head” reality check.

  5. Orange county voters chose McDonald over John Klar. This is what’s wrong with Vermont. McDonald, 78 years old has been in the legislature for decades. Last year, he told his committee members that if people couldn’t afford this save the world plan, they should buy another blanket. And the idiots that voted for him now have this Unaffordable Heat Bill being forced on them. People are so dumbed down by the media that they think this old F–T is working for them. His God like attitude is on full display. Thank you, Orange County voters, for being so ignorant that you see a name on the ballot and vote for that person even though he could care less about you. He needs to save the world!

  6. Didn’t MacDonald also push for the plastic bag ban with the belief that eliminating them will keep them out of the oceans — When anyone with a working brain would have thought, Vermont has one landfill. How plastic bags from VT getting from that landfill to the oceans?

    This guy MacDonald is an idiot who needs to be drummed out of government forever and a day.

    • How about a medical mask ban. Go anywhere and you see the littered all over the place. I’ve even seen one disposed of on a hiking trail.

    • You should certainly forward it, Betty. Particularly to Mr. ” get a blanket, I’m here to save the world” with the God complex. He’s absolutely disgusting.

  7. Our elected Legislators and Senators need to stop manipulating the energy market by trying to put gasoline and propane providers out of business and limiting Vermonter’s fuel choices. I fear that “big money” is the “electricity” empowering the

  8. Senator Mark McDonald, you are full of wonderful quotes, revealing your allegiance to globalism over the health and well being of Vermonters. Here’s another as you talked about heat issues.

    They (the Public Utilities Commission) in theory understand what we are not able to explain. We are asking them to design the thing that will work. But we can’t explain what we are asking them to design.”

    Translation – We do not care – the Climate Council knows the details, but the legislators voting on it don’t. They don’t want to – they want a measure of plausible deniability to be able to tell their constituents they didn’t know.

    VERMONTERS: Hold your legislators accountable – ask them if they will vote for something they don’t even want to understand? Is that why we’ve put you in office, to be an uninformed pilot to guide our state through some challenging narrow straits? Slow down until you do understand the details and can explain it to us. We will tell you upfront, if we can’t afford it, we don’t want it.

  9. Senator McDonald is 80 years old. A fossil who has utilized fossil fuels longer than most of his colleagues and constitutents. He has one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel (as does Peter Welch, Bernie Sanders and 10% Joe Biden.) To the younger Turks: they cannot logically or realistically fathom that every Zoom meeting, every text message, every Starbucks latte, every EV, every scoop of Ben and Jerry’s Social Justice Ice Cream, cannot be created, manufactured, delivered, or consumed without utilizing fossil fuels. Their ongoing march to destruction is beyond the pale. They are a bullhorn minority and clearly the court jesters of the elitist, globalist nihilists that wish them all dead. As we face WWIII or is it WWIV, they may just get what they so deserve.

    • Here’s our problem though Melissa. The “Young” Turks like Balint, Zuckerman, etc. etc. are all following their lead off the proverbial cliff.

      And the mainstream media in Vermont, nationwide, and in print, online, & on TV all spread this stuff the way a farmer does with their manure.

      What is the answer? Vermont ONLY party-line votes. They are completely ignorant of the issues, of proposed bills, of ideologies, etc. Again, without a free press that states only FACTS without chronically injecting opinion, particularly partisan opinion in the form of abject propaganda,……Vermont is cooked.

      • The answer is let them reap what they sow. Ignorance is not exclusive to the left or the right. Vermont is not the only State dealing with a criminal syndicate. Above all, I do not consider them an authority over me or have any control over me. I do not consent. I do not comply to their lies. Until the populace gets a gut full of gut punches – maybe the collective will find the will to take action. We are in a war – a seriously dangerous war. Many have to come to terms with that very soon or they will suffer the consequences of their own ignorance. I consider it separating the wheat from the chaff at this point. Wise to get prepared and decide who will be your foxhole buddies should it come to that and it certainly could at any point.

  10. A high school classmate, that I counted as friend over 50 years, didn’t like the fact that I didn’t support her progressive choices in the Legislature – simply because I couldn’t afford their proposed policies. Because of this, I was “cancelled”. I’ve since learned that same progressive friend is now bemoaning the fact that with S.5, those same progressives she supported are “now coming for her.” Karma! Perhaps Vermonters will wake up this next election cycle.

  11. This reminds me of Aesop’s fable about a wolf who accuses a lamb of polluting a stream. When the lamb says, “It wasn’t me,” the wolf replies: “If it wasn’t you, it was your brother,” and kills him anyway. So, someone who stewards 300 acres of forest land while huddling against the cold with a tiny propane furnace is guilty of changing the climate.

    Like Aesop, the Bible seems to have something for every situation. From Psalm 109 (I suggest people pray the whole thing):

    “For he did not remember to show mercy, but hounded the wretched poor and brought death to the brokenhearted.
    He loved cursing; may it come upon him; he hated blessing; may none come to him.
    May cursing clothe him like a robe; may it enter his belly like water, his bones like oil.
    May it be near as the clothes he wears, as the belt always around him.
    May this be the reward for my accusers from the LORD, for those speaking evil against me.
    But you, LORD, are my Lord, deal kindly with me for your name’s sake; in your great mercy rescue me.
    For I am poor and needy; my heart is pierced within me.
    Like a lengthening shadow I am gone, I am shaken off like the locust.
    My knees totter from fasting; my flesh has wasted away. I have become a mockery to them; when they see me, they shake their heads.
    Help me, LORD, my God; save me in your mercy.
    Make them know this is your hand, that you, LORD, have done this.
    Though they curse, may you bless; arise, shame them, that your servant may rejoice.
    Clothe my accusers with disgrace; make them wear their shame like a mantle.
    I will give fervent thanks to the LORD; before a crowd I will praise him.
    For he stands at the right hand of the poor to save him from those who pass judgment on him.”

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