McClaughry: The “Bypass Scott” Strategy in action

by John McClaughry

The legislature’s enactment of the Community Resilience and Biodiversity Protection Act is another troubling example of how massive changes in Vermont are being engineered these days, whether the democratically elected governor likes it or not.

This particular measure (Act 59) establishes State goals of conserving 30 percent of the land of the State by 2030 and 50 percent by 2050. It requires the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board to develop an inventory of the existing conserved lands in the State and a plan on how to reach the ambitious goals.

The new law defines “conserved” lands as enjoying permanent protection of intact and connected ecosystems – to put it crudely, “Humans! Out!”  Gov. Scott vetoed the bill last year but this year, facing a veto proof Democratic legislature, he allowed the bill to become law without his signature.


Let’s look at some recent history.

When Gov. Scott took office in 2017 he pleased the climate change advocates by creating a Climate Action Commission. To the dismay of the advocates, his Commission stopped short of recommending their heart’s desire, a carbon tax. When it became apparent that Gov. Scott would be easily reelected (as he has been three times so far), the climate advocates conceived a new “Bypass Scott” strategy.

First was the Global Warming Solutions Act, which replaced a CO2 emissions reduction goal with an enforceable mandate. It also created a “climate government within the government”. The 23-member Vermont Climate Council has 15 members appointed by the Democratic legislature, 14 of which could drive climate policy making, outnumbering Scott’s eight statutory members.

Scott vetoed the GWSA as an unconstitutional violation of the separation of powers. The legislature overrode his veto. In December 2021 the Climate Council issued its sweeping 265-page Climate Action Plan. When the multistate Transportation and Climate Initiative gas and diesel fuel tax plan collapsed, VCC’s top priority became the enactment of a Vermont-only Clean Heat Standard.

That bill required the three-member Public Utility Commission to design and carry out a complicated scheme to make heating fuel customers pay higher prices to subsidize conversions to electric heat pumps and “advanced wood heat”. The governor vetoed the CHS as a disguised carbon tax, which it was. The House sustained his veto by a single vote in 2022.

This May the legislature enacted the Council’s CHS plan, relabeled the “Affordable Heat Act”, over Scott’s veto. The act assigned its implementation not to the Scott administration, but to the Public Utility Commission, chaired by a climate change alarmist who has put decarbonization ahead of the Commission’s historic job of protecting gas and electricity ratepayers. The $2+ billion CHS program was thus located largely beyond the governor’s reach.

The principal CHS “default delivery agent” for “clean heat credits” will be Efficiency Vermont, controlled by the nonprofit Vermont Energy Investment Corporation. The chair of the VEIC is Richard Cowart, creator of the CHS plan and a legislatively-appointed member of the VCC.

The Community Resilience and Biodiversity Protection Act of 2023 will lay the groundwork for the coming comprehensive state land use control system. Its aim is to “conserve” 50% (4,800 square miles) of Vermont from humans meddling with ecosystems. That will diminish if not confiscate the rights of thousands of private property owners. It will be designed and possibly implemented by the government-funded Housing and Conservation Board. Four of its eleven members were appointed by the governor, and none of them are directly accountable to the people of the state.

Let’s concede that the PUC and the H&C Board do some useful things. The underlying question is: what accountability do these organizations have to the elected governor? For comparison, if the Agency of Transportation (VTrans) messes up plowing the state highways, that will blow back onto the governor.

But the powerful, well-funded environmental organizations, employing (at recent count) 42 lobbyists in Montpelier, have persuaded the Democratic legislature to implement far reaching state policies –  on the climate crisis, land use, ecosystem protection, and the rest of their list of fashionable progressive causes. This is where the “Bypass Scott” strategy has taken us.

The governor still has resources to slow down or thwart the climateers. But at least in this important sector of state policy making, he is no longer the policy leader who wins elections by delivering on proposals attractive to a majority of voters.

What the people want, how much they are willing to pay for it in tax dollars, how many rights are they willing to see abridged, and who will be held democratically accountable when the show slides off the rails, is of concern to a governor facing reelection. For the Bypass Scott crowd, not so much.

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, Legislation

3 replies »

  1. “The moral tragedy that has befallen Americans is our belief that it is okay for government to forcibly use one American to serve the purposes of another–that in my book is a working definition of slavery.” Walter Williams

    • The God legislature are tyrants. Pure and simple. And that goes for both sides of the aisle (and the VTGOP wonders why they have no support from VT conservatives? When you stand for everything, you stand for nothing) Not a single thing they did this year serves the betterment of the people or Vermont. From the unaffordable heating act, higher DMV costs, 5% payroll tax for childcare for prime making up to 172k. (And those without children, making FAR less will be footing the bill for that) unconstitutional gun legislation, allegedly to prevent suicide, while opening our “right to die” law to non Vermont residents, (huh???) abortion up to the moment of birth ( the alleged * R * governor is fine giving our tax dollars to planned parenthood, but nothing for pregnancy crisis centers??) And the cherry on top? A big pay increase and benefits to the tune of 25k PER LEGISLATOR.
      They seem to have amnesia about the fact that they are REPRESENTATIVES. Many legislators stated that they recieved more calls and correspondence against the unaffordable heating act, than any other piece of legislation, yet they passed it anyway and once again handed over the control to an unelected board.(and clearly biased individuals who stand to benefit from the legislation) I can only assume they smelled the tar and thought better of their big pat on the back via an enormous raise and benefits. The legislators said a raise would make it easier for low income and working people to run and hold office. Vermont is a state of 640k people. There are 25 US CITIES bigger than the population of Vermont! So, here is my recommendation. Meet in odd years only for 60 days. There are a handful of states with larger populations and budgets that successfully work this way. It could without a doubt work in tiny Vermont. SERVING the people of Vermont, via being an elected representative, should not be a career. A shortened session, every other year will allow the representatives to focus on managing key elements and not passing and funding pet projects, THAT DO NOTHING for everyday Vermonters.

  2. The globalists are firing their last rounds of ammunition in hopes of culling as many people as possible (people are producers of CO2) and those who are left will be enslaved and controlled by the smallest segment of elitists. The lies and deception are being revealed and exposed. They must accelerate their plans or face humiliating defeat. They are all in and they will not stop. Nonetheless, they will be defeated with a boomerang of consequences they never saw coming.