“Legislature is not being told the truth” about S.5 decision-making

In-depth analysis, discussion limited to tiny, separate group within Climate Council, environmental leader says

By Alison Despathy

A small group within the Climate Council was responsible for most of the decision-making analysis and discussion behind S.5, the Affordable Heating Act now under review by the Vermont House, the results of a public documents request has revealed.

The public documents request was made by Annette Smith, Executive Director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment (VCE). VCE occupies an interesting position among environmental advocacy groups: intensely committed to environmental well-being but skeptical of the Montpelier lobby/government complex commitment to it.

S.5 has raised red flags since its introduction in January. A concerning development has recently surfaced after Vermonters for a Clean Environment submitted a public records request to the Public Utilities Commission and the Department of Public Service for all material related to the Clean Heat Standard Design Group – a select group that convened regularly and separately from the Vermont Climate Council.  

Smith observed there was never any robust discussions or analysis of the decision to develop and implement a Clean Heat Standard or another strategy among the Climate Council itself.  After reviewing the recently received public records and meeting minutes, it turns out that virtually all of these conversations were happening outside of the Vermont Climate Council in the Clean Heat Standard Design Group, a/k/a the Clean Heat Working Group.  

Smith is in a unique position. She is one of the few members of the public who has watched most all of the Climate Council Cross Sector Mitigation subcommittee meetings. With this knowledge and after reviewing the Clean Heat Standard Design Group meeting records, it is evident to her “that the public is not being told an honest story and the legislature is not being told the truth about how this came about.” 

Regular attendees of the Clean Heat Standard Design Group meetings consisted of Jared Duval of Energy Action Network, Richard Cowart of the Regulatory Assistance Project, David Farnsworth, Richard Westman, Riley Allen from the Department of Public Service who is now at the Public Utility Commission, Chris Neme, Gabrielle Stebbins of the Energy Futures Group, an Don Rendall, Tom Murray and Neale Lunderville of Vermont Gas Systems.  

This is deeply concerning to Smith. Options on how to reach the Vermont Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) carbon reduction requirements were not robustly presented, debated, analyzed or decided upon by the Vermont Climate Council. As set forth by the GWSA, this was supposed to be their job because the Climate Council included representation from a diverse group including low income Vermonters, rural representatives, fuel dealers, and the Agency of Natural Resources. 

Instead this decision was made by a self-selected, private group from the Burlington and Montpelier areas, some of whom also served on the Climate Council. This group decided on the Clean Heat Standard approach that led to the legislation, briefly introduced the concept to the Climate Council and then embedded it in the Climate Action Plan. 

There is a lack of transparency in this situation, Smith said. An allowance or other strategy could have been developed and rigorously discussed by the Climate Council in public.  It never was. This is important for all to take into account when determining if this legislation is sound and is the best path for Vermont, Smith said.  

This new information raises questions about the integrity of this process and the Clean Heat Standard legislation itself. The intended role of the Vermont Climate Council to develop a Climate Action Plan appears to have been usurped, bypassed and compromised,  

Smith said the conversations within the Clean Heat Standard Design Group were “the kinds of things that you would have wanted to see the Climate Council doing, and that you would have expected. I think the legislators probably thought this happened — it never happened and that is the problem.” 

We have this elite group….that has come up with a policy that proposes to totally disrupt an entire industry in the state of Vermont without the transparency that the legislators are being led to believe happened at the Climate Council,” Smith said. 

“We are not having any of this honest discussion and I think that is the part of this that I find most disturbing,” Smith continued. “The legislature is being misled and we even heard our Attorney General Charity Clark state in her testimony, ‘We do support the Clean Heat Standard and urge you to pass it, the GWSA is law. It has instructed all of us to work together and the Climate Council did a phenomenal job in a short amount of time to provide a Climate Action Plan — the Clean Heat Standard was obviously in the forefront of the plan.’  

Most legislators and the public believe this decision to use the Clean Heat Standard approach was made and deliberated upon by the Climate Council.  This is not the case.  

After a careful analysis of the recent public records from this Clean Heat Standard Design Group, Smith remarked:  

“This whole thing is the result of a dishonest process. The reaction to that sort of thing is:  STOP. Let’s have an honest discussion about how this came about. Who are the winners and losers? Is this good policy for Vermont at this time? I think that learning all that we have just learned — some of us thought that the PUC was going to be an independent reviewer. To find out they have been in the room from the very beginning, to find out the DPS including a current PUC commissioner was in the room from the very beginning, it does not feel right to continue with something that was the product of such a hidden process.”

Categories: Legislation

9 replies »

    • The Clean Heat Standard aka Affordable Heating Act is NOT law yet. A veto from phil scott may hold, it happened last year- by one vote.
      The overriding law, Global Warming Solutions Act is the codified law that needs to be repealed. Good Luck with that, there is too much dirty money, nepotism and crony capitalism involved. Concealed in these socialist dream bills are billions of dollars- tax dollars and revenue dollars for those businesses and NGO’s such as The CLF, VPIRG, VNRC that are pushing hard for passage and investing heavily in certain political campaigns. The payoff will be staggering.
      This is the new Socialist Democratic State of Vermont we’ve warned about.

  1. The simple solution to this and many other recently passed and future proposals is to disband the un-democratically elected, but rather appointed, Climate Council.

  2. The Clean Heat Standard should be tossed since it was illegally conceived. Those involved in the illegal process should be relieved of their duties for misleading the legislature and the citizens of VT.

  3. These people should be ashamed of this back door dealing. Neale, Tom…we thought you were better than this!!!

  4. The legislature and it’s leadership is as adept at pretending as the lobbyist and special interest group seeking their legislation enacted. There are a sparse few legislators naive enough to buy into S.5 on it’s ideology, but most are in for the money and power it brings them.
    S.5 clearly puts ALL energy, save for what’s used for transportation under the control of the PUC, a 3 member politically appointed board. ALL energy. Electricity (Solar, Wind included) Oil, Natural Gas and Propane Gas, Biomass (Wood and Landfill gasses) will be controlled as to price and amount available by the PUC should this pass.
    Feel free to join the D/P majority in celebrating this legislation to save the planet- but the cost for energy will skyrocket, no matter what form you purchase- for the admitted result of ZERO effect to earth’s climate.
    Perhaps mr. bray or mr. macdonald’s rhetoric will keep you warm next winter.

  5. It is based on a hoax: there is no climate crisis.
    The Climate Crisis industry thrives on tens of billions of dollars annually, for one-sided climate research, drilling and fracking studies, renewable energy projects and other programs, all based on dubious claims that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions threaten climate stability and planetary survival.

    Climate great Swindle


  6. Windmills and solar panels will never be able to supply our energy needs and will be dinosaur remains after new and more efficient energy supplies are developed. Already we have two great sources available, hydro and nuclear, but for some reason, not implemented. But charlatans have hoaxed us with inadequate windmills and solar while the means to energy abundance has been lied about.

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