Roper: Lawmaker tells ANR Secretary to ‘lighten up’ on informing citizens about cost of S.5

Rep. Stebbins of Burlington works for energy company that would benefit from bill passing

by Rob Roper

Vermont’s Secretary of Natural Resources, Julie Moore, incurred the ire of Clean Heat Standard (S.5) supporters when, in late January, she presented the Senate Committee on Natural Resources & Energy with her estimate that their bill would result in an additional $0.70 charge (carbon tax) on home heating fuels. Advocates for the program that would force sellers of oil, propane, natural gas, and kerosene to purchase “carbon credits” in order to sell their product – the cost of which will be passed along to customers – had been trying their best to hide that number from the public.

Now that the Clean Heat Standard (AKA Affordable Heating Act, and now with yet another name) bill has passed the senate and moved to the house, Moore is back defending her math, this time in the House Energy & Environment Committee – and once again she is incurring ire.

After Moore gave a detailed breakdown for the committee about how she arrived at the $0.70 per gallon number, which is if anything conservatively low, Representative Gabrielle Stebbins (D-Burlington) sternly admonished Moore to “lighten up on it.”

It is worth noting that Stebbins works for the Energy Futures Group, which would certainly benefit financially from passage of S.5.

Stebbins tried to take Moore to task on a few points. Her first admonishment was over why Moore would even have the nerve to do this cost analysis in the first place. “We have a Climate Council, which is an administrative entity, and we have a Climate Action Plan that has been doing analysis. I’m concerned with this analysis. I don’t know why you chose to take it when we have a Climate Council that has hired people to do analysis.”

The answer to this is, of course, that for two plus years the Climate Council, like pro-S.5 legislators and activists, has assiduously avoided any reference to what its policy recommendations, including the Clean Heat Standard, will cost. Senator Chris Bray (D-Addison), who chairs the senate committee that passed out S.5, repeatedly argued that we can’t know what S.5 will cost precisely because that analysis hasn’t been and (in his false assertion) it can’t be done until the details of the program have been established.

Just for an example of the Climate Council’s attitude regarding cost analysis, at the August 29 Transportation Task Group meeting Gina Campoli asked why they didn’t come up with an estimate of how much money the state would need to raise to fund the transportation recommendations in the Climate Action Plan. “For example,” Campoli said, “we need X amount of incentives and X amount of charging infrastructure. We’re spending X amount now. Then there’s a gap… to get to the numbers of electric vehicles that are necessary. This would be the easiest calculation. It’s going to require a certain investment on the part of the state both to underwrite the incentives and the cost of the infrastructure. … What’s the gap to get to the numbers we need?” The reaction to Campoli’s suggestion: crickets. And no action ever taken to find the answer.

But this is basically what Moore did for her calculations on thermal sector costs. She took the mandated actions in under the Clean Heat Standard, which are a known quantity, the average cost of these actions, for which we have good estimates, multiplied them together and divided by the number of gallons of fuel oil sold, which is another known quantity. After subtracting federal funds and individuals covering their own upfront costs, and some other adjustments, Moore came to the conclusion that this is going to cost Vermonters who heat with fossil fuels about $1.2 billion over four years, or $0.70 per gallon. Somebody needed to do this because nobody else dared. So, thank you, Julie Moore!

Next Stebbins attacked Moore’s assumption that it would take a 90% subsidy to get people to swap out their perfectly good furnaces for a cold climate heat pump.

Moore explained, “The way S.5 is structured, it needs to meet the 2030 requirements of the Global Warming Solutions Act…. What I am saying is that in order to incentivize enough Vermonters to weatherize their homes [and install heat pumps, etc.] a very high cost-share will need to be provided because we’re not meeting people where they’re at…. If you have a functional [fossil fuel burning furnace] or water heater in your basement that has years of useful life left, it will require a very high incentive to encourage you to change it out. The way we’re going to drive people to change it out is through the sale of ‘clean heat credits’ that we will be able to use [the revenue from forcing fossil fuel users to buy] to provide incentives. And because S.5 is required to meet these targets, it is effectively going to require incredibly generous incentives to achieve the rate of implementation that’s been established here.”

In fact, Richard Cowart, who is a principal architect of the Clean Heat Standard, testified to the senate committee about a similar British program that ultimately required cases of 100% subsidization of such projects in order to get people to participate and meet their mandates. So, again, Moore is being conservatively low in her estimates.

Stebbins’ last attack on Moore’s $0.70 number had to do with how the Secretary calculated the cost of heat pumps and other technologies over time. “We’ve seen what the cost of an iPhone has been market-wide in terms of decreased costs,” said Stebbins. “Did you factor in… all of those market externalities?”

Moore admitted she did not. Probably a good thing for Stebbins that she didn’t, both in terms of the iPhone comparison and the actual cost trends for things like heat pumps. The original high-end iPhone, the 3G, in 2008 cost $499. The high-end iPhone 13 Pro Max cost $1099 in 2021. So, there’s that. And while many technologies do drop in price over time, heat-pumps and especially the labor necessary to install them are getting more expensive, not less.

Vermont is not the only state pushing people to adopt this technology. Subsidy fueled demand is rising and logistical issues are limiting supply. Strong demand coupled with low supply for both the products and the professional services necessary to install the products probably means Moore’s assumptions regarding future costs for swapping in heat pumps and heat pump water heaters in the foreseeable future are actually low.

So, Secretary Moore and everybody else out there, definitely do not “lighten up” on pressing for more and better answers on what a Clean Heat Standard will cost Vermonters. Right now we should all be able to agree it’s a lot.

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

20 replies »

  1. Representative Gabrielle Stebbins should recuse herself from anything to do with energy.

  2. Step one should be to prove that Vermont’s electrical grid has sufficient, reliable, affordable electricity from non-fossil fuel sources to replace the energy being priced out of the marketplace.

    A friend of mine pointed out that this whole activity has anti-trust implications as the state government is colluding with the electric providers to push fossil fuel prodicers out of the marketplace.

  3. Representative Gabrielle Stebbins, YOU lighten up and recuse yourself so Vermonters can have the hope to be governed in a representative democratic form of government and not under the boot of crony capitalism . You are not in the legislature to promote renewable energy but to assure the most efficient and least costly sources of energy to Vermonters. It is time to stop looking at subsidies as miracles from heaven, subsidies in renewable energy are simply robbing money from the taxpayers to enrich renewable entrepreneurs Your game is over !! You must apologize to Vermont’s Secretary of Natural Resources, Julie Moore. You must educate yourself about the geopolitics of renewable energy and spend some time in the foodbanks of Germany where a new middle class poverty is spreading due to failed renewable energy policies or in the streets of France .You must inform yourself of the vulnerability of the electric grid in times of war as it is lived right now in Ukraine which renders the concept of “all electric policies” an ignominy.
    From Stebbins bio at Energy Future group :
    “Gabrielle specializes in the development of policy and programs for promotion of renewable energy, strategic electrification and energy efficiency, with a special focus on efforts to integrate all three. She has extensive expertise in policy and planning from current work as a managing consultant at EFG and her past work as director of Vermont’s statewide renewable energy industry trade association, member of the Vermont System Planning Committee (addressing transmission grid reliability planning), the American Public Power Association’s Policy Committee, and as Chair of the Board of the Burlington Electric Department (BED), Vermont’s largest municipal electric utility. In the latter role Gabrielle has provided strategic direction on BED’s IRP, maintaining BED’s 100% renewably-sourced portfolio and on Burlington’s goal to be a net zero city across all energy use by 2030. Gabrielle is also a Vermont State Representative, serving as co-chair of the Vermont Legislative Climate Solutions Caucus and co-chair of the Energy Action Network’s Climate Workforce coalition. Gabrielle brings to her policy and planning work a grounded understanding of what it takes to move markets from policy incubation in the legislative arena, to program design in the regulatory arena, to delivery in the implementation arena, having developed and passed energy legislation and regulation, testified in regulatory proceedings, and having managed energy efficiency and renewable energy incentive programs.”

    • An astute and accurate assessment of the politically connected, biased non scientific , self aggrandizing political shills utilized by the left wing renewable ideologues that occupy Vermont ‘ s non representative legislature. The average Vermonter will pay for this fake narrative dearly if this is not stopped. Thank you Monique for this accurate and erudite comment on Stebbins, the obvious Renewable Energy Shill.

    • Excellent Commentary Monique. Yet another *representative* with conflict of interest.

  4. Go Julie, sounds like Ms. Stebbins is more interested in lining her pockets and not concerned at all about emptying everyone else’s in the process. Burlington couldn’t you have done better than this?

  5. “we have a Climate Council that has hired people to do analysis,” said Rep. Stebbins. Really? Yes, the Climate Council hired the company Gabrielle Stebbins works for, Energy Futures Group. But no, the Climate Council and none of its subcommittees was ever presented with or reviewed an analysis of the Clean Heat Standard. Not once did the details of this legislation get analyzed or explored before it was put in to the extremely-hastily-constructed and agreed-upon Climate Action Plan. Rep. Stebbins should disclose her conflict of interest and apologize to Sec. Moore for her baseless attack.

  6. Seems all the congratulatory back slapping and chest pounding following passage of S.171 last session ended, this legislature has forgotten about Vermont’s new ethics laws.
    rep. stebbins and a cadre of legislators will profit, either directly or indirectly from passage of S.5 and must recuse themselves from debate and voting on ANY legislation regarding the GWSA including S.5.
    Governor scott is remiss in his duties not to make this an issue, regardless of his personal viewpoint, as is legislative leadership. baruth and krowinski are directly culpable and in violation, regardless of legislative rules- S.171 only allows for additional ethics rules that exceed S.171’s scope, not less than.
    rep. stebbins and other legislators appear to be violating multiple sections of S.171, from Conflicts of Interest(Section 1203) to Misuse of Information Section 1203(e).
    senators bray, macdonald, white and mccormick all are treading a very fine line with their intentional “misinformation”. We used to call this lying.
    Filing a complaint is easy-

    Mr. Roper and others have ripped S.5 apart, exposing the fallacies and corruption rampant in the Vermont Legislature today. Mr. Thurston and others have destroyed any argument for S.5 with accurate factual information that clearly contradicts the mis information legislators and lobbyists are manipulating to force S.5 into law.
    Perhaps if Vermont’s Ethics Commission were to be forced to do their assigned mission, Vermont Voters, Taxpayers and Citizens would see this hubristic, indignant assembly of liberal elites would be exposed for the damage they intend to do to Vermont.

  7. Also on the House Energy and Environment Committee is Rep. Dara Torre who works for Regulatory Assistance Project, Richard Cowart’s organization that got a $200,000 contract from the state of Mass. for a Clean Heat Standard proposal. The idea of the Clean Heat Standard was first presented to the Cross Sector Mitigation Subcommittee of the Climate Council by… Rich Cowart.

    On the Friday of the House E&E Committee’s session the week before town meeting break, the Chair asked the committee what bills they wanted to take up the following week to meet cross-over. The topic was hi-jacked by Rep. Stebbins, who brought up the bill coming to them that had a lot of misinformation associated with it, meaning S.5. She set the table for the committee’s work, with several other members joining in exclaiming dismay at all the misinformation associated with the bill. I wrote to the chair and noted that it was surprising that Reps. Stebbins and Torre were appointed to a committee that was going to be taking up the Clean Heat Standard, and the first statements I would expect from either of them on the bill is disclosure of their conflicts of interest. I got no response. You can watch it here at 21:18 in the video

  8. Stebbins should recuse herself immediately. Her self interest in promoting S5 amounts to corruption. She can’t be taken seriously, and to try to influence secretary Moore is beyond belief.

  9. And where are the republican party leaders and the Vermont republican committee leaders on all this potential corruption? Where is the republican governor who himself signed into law unconstitutional gun laws and voted for Joe Biden? Where is his constitutional duty to protect and defend the citizens of Vermont from the potential unethical and possily illegal activities of certain representatives? The people are apparently on their own to protect and defend themselves from crony capitalism from our their government. This is the government the majority voted for, thank a democrat or a woke progressive for giving you a government of and by those who will benefit from your misery and financial ruin.

  10. Have “they” factored in the army of new state (union) employees needed to buy, sell, & distribute these new “carbon credits”? I read recently that the “Family Leave” law would require 50 to 85 new “employees” to administer THAT boondoggle. And GOOD LUCK to all with your “ethics” complaints! The more laws/rules they have in place always go nowhere and get ignored in the end. We are “governed” by an ever-enlarging bureaucracy of paper shufflers in lifetime appointments to nice, warm chairs as long as they pay their dues to the SEIU. As it stands now 1 in every 6 Vermonters work for the “government” either local, state, or federal yet New Hampshire, double or triple our population and similar in geography has 1/2 the number of state employees and NO sales nor income tax? I wonder why?

  11. Thanks to Monique for writing up Stebbin’s C/V (above) & it’s telling that she’s SO PROUD of the BED’s “100% renewable portfolio” of burning forests to boil water to spin the turbines to generate electricity! What’s the “carbon footprint” of oil (bar oil) spewing chain saws, diesel skidders leaking hydraulic oil, and logging trucks to drag the trees to the BED plant? In terms of both CO2 AND particulates/ash using natural gas to spin turbines DIRECTLY vs. boiling/steam is much “greener” & these fools NEVER mention China (2 new coal plants a week) and India both being exempt as “developing” nations while the USA’s CO2 emissions have been cut in HALF over the past 20 years? And yet they’re going to foist THIS monstrosity on tiny Vermont? Please..WE must drop OUR living standards for THIS? And Ford just posted a $3 Billion loss on their E/V’s as they suck & nobody wants them when we have the most efficient gas engines and multi-speed transmissions ever developed, fools..

  12. I am surprised that S5 supporters feel that $0.70 is tax enough. It’s like school spending being all about the children. Carbon tax is all about the planet. Why wouldnt they want to raise as much money as possible for the planet?

  13. Perhaps the time has come to put S.5 to bed permanently. It appears that most ordinary citizens in Vermont are more articulate about and sensible to the grandiose shortcomings of this absurd piece of proposed legislation than any of those in our legislature who are supporting it. One often wonders who, outside of themselves,
    proposals of trash legislation like this will be of any value. Wouldn’t it be a happy surprise if some of these people who sit in the State House concentrated on offering some positive codification for a change? It’s very likely that quite a few of their more serious colleagues must be embarrassed when so much valuable time is wasted on rubbish like S.5 is being debated.

  14. Ms. Stebbins, like most of our current legislators need to “lighten up” on their arrogance. You are not God and you are not better than me, so stop acting like it !