Press Release

Moore: without planning, Affordable Heating Act “will end in disaster”

Agency of Natural Resources Secretary Julie Moore steps to podium at today’s press conference at the Vermont State House

At his weekly press conference today, Governor Phil Scott and Natural Resources Secretary Julie Moore discussed S.5, which is currently before the Senate.

They addressed the potential significant financial hardship the proposal could inflict to low- and moderate-income Vermonters, and the need to thoroughly plan how to make a transition to carbon-free heating alternatives – a goal the Governor shares.

“Vermont is taking significant action to combat climate change. In fiscal year 22 alone, I asked for, and then worked with the Legislature, to secure more than $200 million for climate action,” said Governor Scott. “So there’s no confusion, I want to be clear, my Administration agrees with many of the same objectives as legislators, like reducing emissions from the thermal sector. But I firmly believe we need to help people make changes, not punish them.”

A transcript of remarks from Governor Scott and Secretary Moore can be found below, and you can watch the press conference by clicking here.

Governor Scott:

Thank you for coming. We’re here today to talk about Senate Bill 5, the “Affordable Heat Act,” previously known as the “Clean Heat Standard.”

But before I start talking about the bill, I’d like to remind everyone of the actions we’re taking to combat climate change. In Fiscal Year 22 alone, I asked for and then worked with the Legislature to secure more than $200 million for climate action.

So there’s no confusion, I want to be clear, my Administration agrees with many of the same objectives as legislators like reducing emissions from the thermal sector. But how we achieve our shared goals is where there is disagreement. I firmly believe we need to help people make changes, not punish them.

Last January, my Administration was at the table with legislators, listening, engaging, and asking questions about the “Clean Heat Standard,” then H.715. But after months of discussion, it became clear that the bill was not going to get any more specific or provide the details Vermonters expected or deserve.

At that point, I clearly, repeatedly, and respectfully asked the Legislature to include language that after the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) finished designing this new strategy to reduce emissions that the General Assembly would put the PUC design in bill form, and then transparently debate the policy and costs with all the details before any burden would be imposed on Vermonters.

From my standpoint, that’s what Vermonters expect, deserve, and have a right to receive. Now, that was last year, but unfortunately, it appears we’re in the exact same situation today – at least in the Senate version. 

As Governor and as elected legislators, we have an obligation to ensure Vermonters have all the details and understand the financial costs and impacts of what any policy would have on their lives and the State’s economy.

Last year, the Legislature’s own Joint Fiscal Office wrote the following in regard to the “Clean Heat Standard”:

“It is too soon to estimate the impact on Vermont’s economy, households, and businesses. The way in which the Clean Heat Standard is implemented including the way in which clean heat credits are priced and how incentives or subsidies are offered to households and businesses must be established before meaningful analysis is possible. At the same time, those incentives or subsidies could be costly for the State, suggesting larger fiscal impacts in future years.”

Again, while I support the work to reduce emissions, we’ve got to be realistic about what’s achievable, consider the very real workforce challenges we face, and make sure we don’t harm already struggling Vermonters in the transition.

As most of you are aware, I’m an advocate for the transition to electrification. I believe there will be long-term savings as a result.  But we cannot ignore the fact that there are significant upfront costs which could be regressive and harmful to low-income Vermonters. A policy like this will require a lot of thought to ensure those who can least afford it are not punished because they have no real choice.

At last week’s press conference, I gave an example of the Vermonters I’m most worried about. People in mobile homes, often have above ground tanks and have to buy kerosene at $6 per gallon to prevent gelling in the winter. And if they want to electrify, they’ll need to make thousands of dollars in upgrades, and this is money they simply don’t have.

Whether it’s a retiree on a fixed-income or a single mom barely making ends meet, none can afford to pay a premium on a gallon of heating fuel, whether it’s 70 cents or even more. And they certainly can’t afford the upfront costs to upgrade their service panels, weatherize their homes, and install cold climate heat pumps.

We’re joined today by Steve Richards of Richards Electric who will talk through the logistical challenges needed to make this transition.

Again, we can’t rush into this without a well thought out plan.

But first, I’d like to turn it over to Secretary Moore to talk about our proposal and additional concerns from the Agency’s perspective on S.5, but before I do, I want to express my sincere appreciation for her dedication, poise, and professionalism.

Julie has been the target of some unfair attacks throughout this process for the simple crime of bringing up potential impacts of this policy, asking questions, and seeking answers which have been in short supply.

Now Julie doesn’t typically tout her credentials, but she’s a civil engineer and also has a master’s in environmental science and policy from Johns Hopkins University. In total, she’s served over a decade as a public servant in the Agency of Natural Resources, and in her previous stint helped lead the state’s efforts in cleaning up our waterways which she’s still championing today.

She’s a true expert and unlike some who are leading the charge on the so-called “Clean Heat Standard” she has nothing personal to gain from it passing, or not passing. She just wants to help get this right.

That’s all we’re asking for. We need the Legislature to fully understand the impacts of this bill, and then be honest with Vermonters about those very real costs and complications. That’s it, that’s our request.

So I’ll now turn it over to Secretary Moore to recap the testimony and advice she’s been providing to the five members of the Senate Natural Resources Committee over the last six weeks.

Secretary Moore:

Over the past several weeks, there has been considerable criticism of the cost estimate I provided for the Clean Heat Standard legislation.

I stand by my cost estimate and, perhaps more importantly, the principles it represents – that government has an obligation to be honest about benefits and costs, and that Vermonters deserve transparency from government.

Transitions cost money, real money. To date, my concerns and my cost estimate have been largely dismissed by the Legislature and advocates as “scare tactics.” This is unfortunate. My goal in developing a ballpark estimate was to highlight what was missing from the discussion – careful consideration of the upfront cost of making big changes in how we heat our homes.

The fact is that while there have been numerous studies on the need to address carbon emissions generated from building heat, there has not been a detailed evaluation of the Clean Heat Standard, how it would apply to Vermont and what the near-term cost impact will be on Vermonters. We raised this concern a year ago and the groups advocating for the program declined to study this important issue.

If such work had been already completed around the Clean Heat Standard we would have the answer to the question that matters most to Vermonters: how is this going to affect my heating bill?

The simple fact is, we don’t yet know.

There is no economic study, no fiscal analysis of the Clean Heat Program, and S.5 currently contains no cost containment provisions. To be clear, I think we can know these things, but it will take a bit more time.

Despite the rhetoric, it is important to remember, as the Governor said, there is no disagreement between the Legislature and the Administration. We need to transition from heating our homes and businesses with increasingly high-priced and volatile fossil fuels.

Transitioning how we heat our homes won’t be easy. It is complex. It requires significant investments and, done poorly, will disproportionately affect those least able to afford it, because as the cost of fuel rises – as clean heat costs incurred by fuel dealers are passed along to consumers – fuel assistance benefits will not go as far.

My team at ANR has contracted with Hinesburg-based Energy Futures Group to gather more data points and complete needed technical analysis to better understand price impacts and support a thoughtful program design. This work includes:

  • Assessing the opportunities to take advantage of the tens of millions of dollars in federal programs to support things like weatherization and installing heat pumps.
  • Undertaking technical analysis of policy options for clean heat that evaluate:

o   The full cost of implementation, regardless of how much of the cost is born by fuel suppliers, individual homeowners or government.

o   Price impacts, by fuel type and rate impacts on natural gas and electricity.

o   Savings because of changes in heating fuel and electricity consumption.

o   And knowing that costs and savings may not be distributed evenly across Vermont households – looking at differences between urban and rural, by income level, and impacts on the commercial/industrial building heat.

o   The need for supporting policies – such as residential electrical service upgrades and improvements to grid infrastructure – that are critical to implementation.

This work is on track to be completed in June; absent this sort of work, legislators are voting for an idea, not a plan. And there are real risks in acting hastily.

I want to close by saying, I care deeply about supporting meaningful and timely climate action, environmental protection is my life’s work. And as a public servant, I feel an incredible obligation to Vermonters to be forthright and make clear that how we heat our homes is not going to be simple or free.

I absolutely believe that we can achieve the “desired future state” the Legislature envisions if we work together. It will, however, take a bit more time to do the necessary homework for something this impactful, this complex demands.

Absent this, I am concerned the Senate design will end in disaster.

Categories: Press Release

25 replies »

  1. The Governor states while introducing Secretary Moore that “She’s a true expert and unlike some who are leading the charge on the so-called “Clean Heat Standard” she has nothing personal to gain from it passing, or not passing.” So some “leading the charge” have something personal to gain in this ? Maybe I’m misreading something here, but if this is true wouldn’t this be called a “conflict of interest”, and should someone like this be sitting in on a committee deciding the outcome of this bill ?

  2. Are Vermonters aware that much of the world, including more than 1500 scientists understand that certain malevolent forces in the world would like us to believe that global warming is a threat in order to further their own ends (ever heard of Agenda 21?). Vermont leaders, legislators and citizens need to inform themselves. Here’s a start:

  3. S.5 needs to be thrown in the state house incinerator. Even with the proposed amendment, kicking the can down the road until 2025, this is still a bad bill and an economic disaster for Vermont.
    Quoting Julie Moore, ANR Secretary at today’s press conference:
    “There is no economic study, no fiscal analysis of the Clean Heat Program, and S.5 currently contains no cost containment provisions. To be clear, I think we can know these things, but it will take a bit more time.”
    Now is not the time to lay off the legislature, we need to continue our objections and criticism to S.5 and the 400+ bills introduced so far this session. To allow S.5 to pass even with the proposed amendment, a “two year checkback” is folly. Pass S.5 and allow it to become law allows unelected boards to set energy prices, in a vacuum, away from reality and beholden to the climate evangelist. Remember the ‘climate council’ or the ‘green mountain care board’- a select few that determine your health care and it’s cost?
    For decades, Vermont’s liberal legislatures have thrust garbage laws upon us, imposed fees and taxes upon the fees and taxes…and now seek to control the cost and manner of how you heat your home?
    No, folks. Now is NOT the time to let off the gas and accept any legislation that gives the government more control over daily life here.

    • Frank says it well. “Now is NOT the time to let off the gas and accept any legislation that gives government more control over daily life here.”
      No economic study, no fiscal analysis and no cost containment.
      And, what about those who don’t qualify for some exclusion from additional costs like many workers and small businesses whose competitive advantage will be destroyed.

    • I just had a mini-fantasy of giving anyone who ever mentions this malarkey again a ‘knuckle sandwich’ for starters. Take that, you pansies like Baruch in attempting to shove bills through that defy logic and common sense a.k.a are unconstitutional in depriving working Vermonters of their ability to thrive in an economy that is self-immolating by design. At least Moore and a few other Dems can see the writing on the wall; well enough know that we’re heading towards a catastrophically bad situation. The pansies–that’s certain female impersonators as well–had better brace for impact, because good folks like myself are not interested in their ideological lunacy.

  4. To Patrick Finnie, the committee that “crafted” S5 is loaded with individuals that have serious conflicts of interest. They are setting themselves up for big bucks.

    • Walter38w, I agree with you 100%! As they say “follow the money”. These people don’t give a sh*t about us Vermonters, it’s about lining their pockets!

  5. The carbon credit system contained in S.5 is baked into the law. Regardless of the PUC’s analysis after $1 million and 2 years of analysis, Chris Bray can post the bill in its exact form, put his own dollar figure on the cost of a carbon credit, “because we don’t believe the PUC is correct”, and with the supermajority power of the legislature, force it into law over the governor’s veto the same way the Global Warming Solutions Act became law. “We have to pass it to see how it works!” “We can always make changes later”. This is a slow train running. The only way to stop it is to vote for more Republicans, just as half the Democrats did when they elected Phil Scott.

    • I would think that the slow train running just took a torpedo hit below the waterline with the defection of 2 Senate Democrats.

  6. I suppose we have to be encouraged that folks are talking about planning for…fixing this undertaking. I think that many of us are still back at square one questions. This is an appropriate imitative for our state government? …we’ve reached a consensus on this? …we are watching the pursuit of the people’s will? No…not convinced.

  7. I fully support these sensible and pragmatic comments and much stricter transparency with respect to the involvement of special interest groups in all policy, planning , and execution of same.

    • Of course! The legislature passed ethics rules, and obviously passed an ethics law short on rules about ethics.

  8. Just a few short years ago, they wanted us to all use toxic, mercury-laden CFL lightbulbs because we used too much electricity, and now they want us to use electric cars and electric heat pumps, because they’re hypocritical, sanctimonious idiots. I think that about sums it up.

  9. Are we sure we want “to reach the “desired future state” the Legislature envisions” no matter what the cost? There is a great difference between what someone else pays and what we are individually willing to pay. We need to know our costs.

  10. The Governor speaks of “real money”. When our nation is $31,400,000,000,000.00 dollars in debt and they continue to raise the debt ceiling and conjure digits as a means to fund the government i question these legislator’s concept of real money. I’m so embarrassed of our representatives.

  11. Let’s start at the beginning. “Global Warming” was the phrase used 40 years ago, but people didn’t take the bait. So they started using “Climate Change”. Well, of course the climate is changing. It always has and always will. But is it a global “threat”? I call BS on that line of thinking and those in VT who espouse it. Hopefully it ends up in the dustbin of history, right next to Fauxvid.

    Ask any of these politicians – If climate change/global warming is caused by human activity, why did the glaciers melt? What if the polar ice cap starts expanding southward? Are humans to blame for that too?

    Tell you when I’ll support all this nonsense – When Barry Soetero’s Martha’s Vineyard estate starts going underwater, along with those of all the other “woke” politicians. Until that happens, I’ll just keep using common sense, as should you.

  12. Good comments by the governor, except for this: “I’m an advocate for the transition to electrification.” Why? Throwing all your energy needs into one (monopolized) basket is utter folly.

  13. I am old enough to remember that my grandmother’s house in Barre had a coal fired boiler well into the 60s. I can remember the “Barre Coal Company” on Railroad St. and the trucks making deliveries until the mid 60s. We transitioned from coal to cleaner, easier oil, and gas without the government telling we have to then, (oh but of course the self righteous digbats pushing this say, “no one is forcing you” even though their heavy handed policies are all about making it so expensive you have to) and we will transition to another cleaner, easier, alternative when it becomes physically, and economically advantageous for us to do so. It is happening now, just not fast enough for the people driving this insanity. To them I say, don’t force it, let it happen. It is happening, and it will continue to happen as soon as the technology and economics of this initiative allow.

  14. As for the comments by the Governor and Sec. Moore: They point out the high and volatile cost of fuel oil—entirely the result of Biden’s cynical policy of severely restricting petroleum extraction and refining while being unable to effect an almost inelastic demand. They promote transition to electric heating, heedless of the increasing fragility of the electric grid. A fragility made worse by promoting more wind/solar which requires a delicate balancing of supply versus demand and due to their intermittency always requires more peaking-supply by gas generation. This required redundancy is costly due to now expensive natural gas, a direct but unintended consequence of Europe’s very foolish green energy policies. We seem unable to learn the hard lessons that like Germany which is now burning massive amounts of coal, we too will be subject to the same issues to just keep the lights on.

  15. Even if you accept the premise of climate change, the impact on global co2 emissions by our little green state will be negligible on a global scale. So let’s ruin the lives of our neighbors for no real impact.

  16. Thank you Governor Scott for speaking publicly to the people about this horrendous bill. Bravo Governor!

  17. No wonder the kids are depressed and misbehaving, every day they hear that the world is ending and instead of studying hard and looking towards a bright future they’re being enlisted as a new kind of ‘red guard’ to berate the moral failures of their parents and ‘wavering’ legislators who are not so big-headed to see themselves as saving the planet. And what kind of logic is the governor himself demonstrating when he agrees with the aims and goals of the program when his own advisor reports that it can’t be done without serious, unacceptable damage to the disposable incomes of most Vermonter? Some miracle in the shuffling of papers and juggling of data between now and the end of June that’s going to make the program copecetic?

  18. So the Governor is for going carbon free. Is he going to pass a bill to stop stock car racing with gas engines? I wonder how many votes he would lose when he goes for that. Then maybe outlaw snow machines and motor boats. That way he can really kill VT’s tourist industry which happens to be the life blood of VT’s economy.

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