McClaughry: Pay Attention to Corporate Climate Profiteering

by John McClaughry

Up to now criticism of the Clean Heat Standard bill (S.5) has focused on its intended result of driving up prices of heating oil, propane, kerosene and natural gas somewhere from seventy cents to four dollars a gallon, in order to finance $2 billion worth of subsidies to people to quit using those fuels and install “cold climate heat pumps”, “advanced wood heat”, and home weatherization.

The bill is built upon a complex “credit” system managed by the unaccountable Public Utility Commission, designed to shield the law from the charge of being a carbon tax – although it will have precisely the same effect on consumers.


The two largest corporate cheerleaders for the CHS are Vermont Gas Systems (VGS), the regulated monopoly that controls natural gas delivery, and Green Mountain Power (GMP), the state’s largest electricity supplier. Both are owned by the Quebec energy giant Energir.

For three years the lawyers for these two corporations have been working behind the scenes designing the Clean Heat Standard legislation, along with the Regulatory Assistance Project. That is the company of chief CHS designer Richard Cowart, the guiding hand of the Vermont Climate Council. For twelve years Cowart was the chair of the Public Utility Commission.

Here’s how the CHS will work for VGS.  First, it will force Vermont’s 120 independent fuel oil distributors (as well as VGS) to deliver PUC-created credits to the PUC or its agent. Most distributors will have to purchase those credits from companies (like VGS and GMP) that install heat pumps to families, businesses, schools, hospitals, local governments, and so forth. 

The fuel distributors will necessarily raise heating fuel prices to customers to produce the money to buy those credits. If the distributors don’t deliver their quota of credits, they’ll have to make “non-compliance payments” equal to twice the amount of the shortfall. Some of them will go out of business, which is what the backers of the CHS earnestly desire.

VGS also has a special angle built into the CHS. It will earn marketable PUC credits by claiming to deliver “Renewable Natural Gas”, almost all from upstate New York landfills and manure treatment plants. The higher cost of this more costly “renewable” gas will raise the price to VGS’s Vermont customers, who will actually get practically none of that gas.

The Public Utility Commission (PUC) will supposedly protect gas consumers from the higher prices. But its chair Anthony Z. Roisman is an outspoken climate activist who in 2019 urged a “Thermal Efficiency Benefit Charge” (carbon tax) to make natural gas more costly, and bring in millions of dollars to subsidize PUC-favored projects. Roisman said that we faced a “Pearl Harbor moment” that requires a “wartime effort” to stamp out fossil fuels. Don’t look to his PUC to hold down gas prices for consumers.

While VGS profits by selling PUC credits, its corporate sister Green Mountain Power will have to furnish lots more electricity to operate tens of thousands of heat pumps. It will seek PUC approval of rate increases on all its customers to meet that demand.

Annette Smith of Vermonters for a Clean Environment writes “The legislation… disproportionally benefits VGS while overly burdening our rural fuel dealers… It is surprising that Vermont’s mainstream environmental groups are supporting legislation that was crafted by and benefits VGS.”

          She continues: “Our rural fuel dealers will see increased costs and threats to their business’s continuing operations, all passed along to customers who may have no options as heat pumps are only appropriate in 30% of Vermont homes, many of us rely on propane for which there is no renewable alternative, and upgrades from old polluting to newer efficient furnaces are not allowed to earn credits in S.5.”

            Bottom line: Two large Quebec-owned utility corporations, regulated by a Public Utility Commission chaired by an outspoken climate activist, have quietly engineered a complex scheme that will make them and their owners more profitable, and over four years you, your business, and your local public institutions $500 million a year poorer.

Only a few legislators can even explain this, but most of them are voting for it because they have been told that it will produce a “cooler planet” (Richard’s Cowart’s sales-pitch language), or more likely, because they were told to vote for it by the leadership of the Democratic supermajority. (Every Republican in the legislature voted against it.)

            The Democratic leadership and the two big corporations that are eager to exhibit their climateer credentials while making money out of the CHS do not however control Gov. Phil Scott. He has called this bill regressive and harmful to low-income Vermonters. It’s up to him to veto S.5, and go forth and make his case with the 78% approval rating that has made him the nation’s most popular governor.

The author, a Kirby resident, is founder and vice-president of the Ethan Allen Institute. To read all EAI news and commentary, go to

Categories: Commentary

6 replies »

    use deception to deprive (someone) of money or possessions.
    “a businessman swindled investors out of millions of dollars”

  2. I rang this bell a few months ago: Associated Press October 2022: “A Hydro-Quebec subsidiary is buying a company that operates 13 hydropower generating stations in Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, strengthening its relationship with New England. The $2 billion purchase of Great River Hydro LLC and the dams that produce 589 megawatts of electricity will provide Hydro-Quebec with the largest hydropower operation in New England, officials said Wednesday.”

    How much of our critical infrastructure is under the control of foreign corporations operating in foreign countries? The shell corporations established within the United States, but their money and holdings are located and controlled offshore? How many involved in the climate hoax and mandating cardon taxes are holding stock and inside trading with these corporations? My bet is all of them and that includes our “public service” bureaucrats as well. Follow the money! We are finding out now about Ericsson and their control over global communications including EMS/911.

    • Keep in mind, too, that Quebec energy giant, Energir, is controlled by the same conglomerate that controls Hydro Quebec – the fourth largest producer of hydropower in the world. Not to mention that the PUC’s number two commissioner, Margaret Cheney, who was appointed to the Vermont Public Utility Commission in 2013 by Governor Peter Shumlin without any experience in energy management, is Senator Peter Welch’s wife.

  3. In summary this looks like heating fuel feudalism. The poorer folks subsidize the wealthy so they can continue to install more virtual signaling heating. All this because the powers that be are convinced or pretend to believe in, the climate crisis. Even the IPCC reports claim no imminent climate crisis. In addition there is no climate scientific consensus on the climate debate. Consensus supports dogma and is always a sign of unscientific claims, as science abhors consensus, the lack of debate, while scientism thrives on manufactured consensus. Scientism does not equal Science.

  4. Thanks John for another thought provoking article which all our legislators should read..
    Many forget that all utilities, like companies with “cost plus” contracts, benefit from higher costs if they can limit the entrance into the market of alternative suppliers. Local fuel dealers compete in an open market everyday with other fuel dealers and alternative energy suppliers like the utilities, whether gas or electric.
    S.5 looks like a perfect storm for the people of Vermont.

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