Roper: Actions speak louder than words regarding Clean Heat Standard costs

Supporters reject amendment capping price impact at 20¢ per gallon for heating fuel

by Rob Roper

Despite the outpouring of public opposition to S.5, the Clean Heat Standard bill, the Vermont House of Representatives passed it on April 20 by a vote of 98-46. But the final vote to pass the bill wasn’t the only vote of interest. There were a couple of very interesting amendments.

For several months now, supporters of the Clean Heat Standard have been accusing opponents of this “Rube Goldberg” carbon tax on home heating fuels of exaggerating what it will do to the price of heating oil, propane, natural gas, and kerosene. The Secretary of Natural Resources, Julie Moore, estimated that number to be  $0.70 per gallon. The pro-Clean Heat Standard folks say, no way! It will only be a few cents at most. You’re just scaring people.

Well, Rep. Jim Harrison (R-Chittenden) called their bluff, proposing an amendment to the Clean Heat Standard that would have capped any impact the program had on the price of heating fuels to $0.20 per gallon. “We offer this amendment in the spirit of assuring our constituents that their worst fears won’t be realized,” said Harrison. He concluded by throwing down this gauntlett, “If you are comfortable that the price impact will be minimal, then this amendment should be easy to support. If you believe it will be more and want the bill to pass and allow it to go higher [than $0.20 per gallon], then you will want to reject this amendment.”

101 of his colleagues rejected the amendment. It failed 43-101. So, I guess we have our answer to that!

Every Republican supported Harrison’s amendment.

Ninety-three Democrats, all five Progressives, and two out of three Independents are just fine with forcing their constituents paying somewhere upwards of $0.20 per gallon to heat their homes in winter. When Rep. Laura Sibilia (I-Dover) spoke in opposition to Harrison’s amendment, she admitted with a shrug of her shoulders that, yeah, the impact of the program could be higher than $0.20.

In presenting his amendment, Harrison noted that, “It is interesting to me how past proposals to increase the tax on heating fuels have been controversial. This legislature debated a $0.02 increase in the fuel tax two years ago and ultimately decided against it.

“The then and current fuel tax rate is $0.02 per gallon on the sale of fuel oil, kerosene, propane, and other dyed diesel fuel, and raises $4 to $4.5 million per year… The Act 62 report recommended expanding that tax on fuel oil, kerosene, etc. from the current two cents to four cents in 2021 and to six cents in 2023 with the revenue used to expand more weatherization. I believe these recommendations were ignored not only because they are tough votes to take, but they also raise costs to our constituents. Yet today, we have a bill before us that is likely to raise the cost of heating fuels by many multiples of two to four cents.”

Of course, this is exactly the point of S.5 – to pass a massive tax on home heating fuels in such a devious and confusing manner, camouflaged by a cloud of misinformation and outright lies, that its supporters hope no one notices what they’ve done.

You can find the official roll call vote for the Harrison Amendment HERE. If you click on the name of a Representative the link will take you to their legislative home page with all their contact information, if you feel like sending any of them a message.

The next steps for S.5 are first a reconciliation of the House version of the bill with the version the senate passed. Then final approval of the compromise version by both chambers before a trip to the governor’s desk where all indications are we can expect a veto. To sustain that veto, five more Democrats at least will have to flip their votes, buck party leadership, and listen to the voices of their constituents and vote no.

Rep. Wayne Laroche (R-Franklin) summed up the situation perfectly, “There’s an agreement the Vermont is too small to impact global climate. So, we’re not going to have a benefit. But we’re going to spend money – forcing people to do things they may or may not want to do. [The Clean Heat Standard is] doing something to Vermonters not for Vermonters.”

Rob Roper is a freelance writer who has been involved with Vermont politics and policy for over 20 years. This article reprinted with permission from Behind the Lines: Rob Roper on Vermont Politics,

Categories: Commentary

5 replies »

  1. Thank you to the 43 Reps. that heard the voices of their constituents, and voted accordingly. To those who “know better” than their constituents, and voted as such, you are standing on the wrong side of the fan, and should not be surprised when that which rolls down hill hits the afore mentioned fan.

  2. Has anyone told the legislators that carbon only makes up 0.04% of our atmosphere? This is nothing more than additional virtue signaling as legislation that will harm lower and middle class Vermonters that are already feeling these squeeze, forced to buy products they don’t want from companies they don’t support at prices they can’t afford. Are legislators working to serve you and I or are they the ones being served?

  3. Senator Mark MacDonald will be at the next Wheels for Warmth event handing out FEMA blankets and hot cocoa mix. With that new raise and benefit package they voted for themselves, they have nothing to worry about now do they?

  4. Year after year they make our lives more difficult 😡 it’s hard to believe people actually vote for the same people every year that tax tax tax ! How bout making some cuts like we have to in the real world

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