Higley: Why I introduced H.74, repealing the GWSA

by Mark Higley

The bill would repeal the 23 member Vermont Climate Council and the Climate Action Plan (CAP) and revert to goals in the Comprehensive Energy Plan (CEP). It would remove a provision that, any person may sue and a prevailing plaintiff shall be awarded reasonable costs and attorney’s fees, when not meeting our bench marks in the CAP. It would also repeal the rules adopted by the Agency of Natural Resources (ANR), following California’s Clean Cars Standards. We would still have to follow the EPA’s Clean Air Act. Since adoption of the GWSA in 2020, we have been through a pandemic, a war which has effected fuel costs, and a possible recession, all effecting affordability issues for all Vermonters. Our work force is lacking numbers, here and across the country, slowing our ability to accomplish what’s needed for reaching these benchmarks.

Rep. Mark Higley

I was serving on the Energy and Technology Committee when the GWSA passed nine to two. It then went on to the House and Senate where it passed and was then vetoed by the Governor. The Legislature overrode the Governor’s veto. He believed the structure was an unconstitutional separation of powers.

The Comprehensive Energy Plan, updated every 6 years, was just updated in 2022. The CEP covers all energy sectors (electric, thermal, and transportation), and it sets new goals for each sector. In the Electric Sector: meet 100% of energy needs from carbon-free resources by 2032, with at least 75% from renewable energy. In the Transportation Sector:  meet 10% of energy needs from renewable energy by 2025, and 45% by 2040. In the Thermal Sector: meet 30% of energy needs from renewable energy by 2025, and 70% by 2042. Last year alone the state spent $215M on climate change initiatives in its 2023 budget.

As a builder and hobby farm owner, I have certainly seen the effects of our changing climate. I believe we need to take a step back and really consider how these proposals will effect Vermonters in the coming years. The GWSA has locked us into achieving benchmarks rather than goals. The 23 member Climate Council was appointed by the Speaker of the House, Senate Committee on Committees and members of the Administration. This unelected committtee has the charge of how best to meet these carbon reduction benchmarks.

The Climate Council’s initial support was for the Transportation Climate Initiative TCI, which was a cap and trade (gas tax) proposal, which fell apart after many New England states decided not to join. More recently ANR has adopted rules following California’s Clean Car Standards. This proposal stipulates no new internal combustion engine vehicles will be sold in Vermont by 2035. Even if you purchase a vehicle outside Vermont you would not be able to register that vehicle here. Now, there is the second attempt in passing the Clean Heat Standard, Senate Bill S.5, being called the Affordable Heat Act (tax on fuel oil, propane, kerosene). The new version still lacked “details on costs and impacts” and delegated outsized policymaking authority to the three-member Public Utilities Commission. ANR Secretary has estimated S.5 at a cost of seventy cents a gallon, and Ethan Allen Institute estimated as much as four dollars a gallon.

We receive an annual report from the Climate Council every January. They stated “the current plan and suite of actions does not add up to achieving the requirements of the GWSA”. The Biomass subcommittee recommends not approving the McNeil biomass plant’s heat recovery proposal, and also recommends the closure of both it and the Ryegate biomass facility over time. This would be a loss of a market for Vermont’s low grade forest products. The McNeil plant burns 76 wet tons or 30 cords of wood an hour, and Ryegate burns 250,000 tons of chips per year. They have also recommended banning gas cook stoves by 2035.

This short sited effort to electrify with prescriptive remedies, doesn’t allow for innovation of options for the future. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has just certified NuScale Power’s small modular reactor. Each 50 MW module leverages natural processes, such as convection and gravity, to passively cool the reactor without additional water, power, or even operator action. Vermont Gas Systems (VGS) is looking at a hydrogen pilot program with GlobalFoundries to heat its Essex Jct. facility. This technology and others, if considered, could save our ridge lines from wind and our fields from solar.

I’m realistic enough to know H.74 will not be considered in today’s political majority in Montpelier. However, I will not stop in advocating for a balance in what Vermonters can achieve and afford in efforts to reduce our green house gas emissions. In closing, a quote from William Nordhaus, co-recipient of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Economics, that requiring “deep reductions in living standards” to chase climate goals would amount to “burning down the village to save it.”

The author is a Lowell resident and Republican member of the Vermont House of Representatives.

Categories: Commentary

11 replies »

  1. Thank you Representative Higley. What’s the chances of you going to the Senate and trying to educate Chris Bray, the new Becca, and the rest of the “Looney Tunes” characters to uphold their oath to serve and protect the people of the state of Vermont ? A b  ba th th that’s all folks !

  2. H74 should and must pass. Rep. Higley you have more support than you think. Think positively. The GWSA is a bad law. Gov. Scott vetoed it for good reason but the legislators overturned his veto. The GWSA mandated unrealistic goals. The general public knew these mandates were unrealistic even before the pandemic . The GWSA allowed lawsuits paid by the Vermont taxpayer for unattainable mandates. The legislators knew all along that the mandates would be unattainable but they unrealistically thought threats of lawsuits would force the people of Vermont to comply with the mandates. The people of Vermont cannot comply with the mandates because they are unattainable. The people of Vermont do not want S5 to pass. The legislators claim S 5 must pass to comply with the GWSA. No, there is another possibility. Repeal the GWSA. The GWSA was bad from the beginning. It cannot be made better with unrealistic laws. Repeal the GWSA and create something that can work.

  3. Your proposal is the only way out of this luddite trap, built by people who do not know more than they hear from “organizers” who promise utopia, but don’t understand how electricity gets to the plug or fuel to the pump.
    As part of their review, one should not exclude the off budget costs of the various direct charges such as the budget for Efficincy Vermont.

    • Rep. Higley knows- and is willing to do something about the problem.
      As to barite’s senate of climate zealots: a full and true accounting of S.5 will sink this trash bill like a lead balloon. We must insist that the House provide a cost analysis of S.5 when it arrives for krowinski’s minions to fawn over.
      Perhaps Rep. Higley could answer what is required to assure an accurate cost analysis?

  4. Thank you Mark for being one sane voice in a sea of insanity. Co-sponsors of your bill are excluded from the sea.

  5. Thank you Rep. Higley. Thank you so much for your courage, clarity and dedication to the people of Vermont.

  6. Thank you, Rep. Higley. We need more people with common sense like yours in the legislature. H.74 is a ray of sunshine in the dark world created by the Doomsday Democrats.

  7. I would encourage Rep. Higley to force the hand of these unelected commissions to fund and expand the use of LENR technology. It easily conforms to all the mandates in the future for energy. LENR stands for Low Energy Nuclear Reaction which is akin to cold fusion. It is already available NOW by a company called Brillouin Energy. Their process produces MORE energy output then what is inputted, and the byproducts are water and Helium. It can eventually be packaged to fit into every household to produce sustainable amounts of hot water for heating and washing a home. It is not at all hazardous and is intrinsically safe and its fuel lasts approx. thirty years before it needs to be replaced. READ MORE