S.5, Affordable Heating Act, goes to Senate money committee this afternoon

By Guy Page

S.5, the Affordable Clean Heating Act, will be reviewed by the Senate Appropriations Committee this afternoon Thursday, February 23. 

The job of the Appropriations Committee is to budget state spending recommendations for the entire Senate. In big-ticket, big-change bills like S.5 – a proposal to transition heating homes and buildings from fossil fuels to electricity via a hefty carbon surcharge on fuel dealers – the ‘what’ is usually decided by policy committees. Senate Natural Resources and Energy last week voted out the bill unanimously, although admitting important details – such as cost – were unclear. 

The ‘how much’ is often left to the Appropriations Committee.

If Appropriations stays true to its traditional role, it will put a pricetag of state spending for S.5, at least for the coming fiscal year. Whether it will take a deeper dive into the overall cost of implementation – estimated at $1.2 billion over several years by the Agency of Natural Resources, far less by renewable power advocates on the Climate Council, and far more by the free-market Ethan Allen Institute – remains to be seen. 

The Appropriations hearing begins at 2:30 PM and can be seen via livestream on YouTube. Scheduled to give testimony are June Tierney, Commissioner, Department of Public Service, Sens. Christopher Bray and Anne Watson of Natural Resources and Energy, and Ellen Czajkowski, Office of Legislative Counsel.

S.5 has seen hard lobbying on both sides. VPIRG, a lobby group led by leaders and founders of the Vermont renewable power industry, wrote this week to its supporters: “The closer this bill gets to passage, the harder we’ve seen opposing fossil fuel companies and right-wing lobbyists push back, and we’re expecting a fight.”

In fact, S.5 is supported by the state’s biggest fossil fuel dealers: Vermont Gas Systems, the largest natural gas provider in Vermont, and Irving Oil, a large national oil dealer. It is also true that the smaller dealers are opposed. 

Many critics are also politically right-leaning – such as the Ethan Allen Institute and its president and former GOP congressional candidate Myers Mermel. However, some of the most vocal opponents are left-leaning environmental advocates like Annette Smith and James Ehlers of Vermonters for Clean Energy (VCE), who assert that the aims of the renewable power industry are often destructive of the Vermont environment, and that Vermont’s poor are the first and most likely people to suffer as S.5 raises the cost of fossil-fuel energy – as it is designed to do.

Categories: Legislation

8 replies »

  1. Oil dealers are running radio spots and email blasts against this bill and urging everyone to call their legislators. What a shame that they have to beg for their survival so they can keep us from freezing. (802) 828-2228

    Governor Scott should join them in opposing S.5 and likewise rally his voters, which includes half of the Democrats in his 70% election victory. His leadership during Covid shows that most Vermonters embrace his advice. If he waits until the veto override vote is looming it might be too late. Let him know how you feel. Office of Governor Phil Scott (802) 828-3333

  2. It isn’t just misnamed, it is a lie. It isn’t ” a hefty carbon surcharge on Fuel Dealers.” It is Step 1 to force Vermonters to choose either heating their homes or feed their families. The people pushing and voting for this in the Legislature are blind in their rage to force their agenda on Vermonters.
    They want to crush the Middle Class Citizens with ever more oppressive restrictions and costs to heat their homes and provide for their families.
    Their rage against the fuel and oil distributors is that they want to see companies fail. All to support their agenda to electrify VT which can’t possibly handle the load.
    As I wrote a few weeks ago, If any one of them truly wants to see the Electric Revolution then prove it.
    You go First, immediately stop using any Gas or Diesel powered vehicles. Including Public transportation.
    Immediately stop using Fuel Oil or Natural Gas to heat your home.
    Immediately stop using any Natural Gas or Propane stove. Refuse to eat at any Restaurant that uses either of these to prepare food.

    Completely, even when the Power goes out.
    You want to force electricity only on us, prove it.

    But you won’t, because you are hypocritical frauds. You want people to think you are sanctimonious. You aren’t, you are on a power trip because you think you can’t be held to account.
    Maybe most of the people that voted for you don’t understand how you have sold us out.
    But some do, I hope they step up and call you out.
    I just did.

  3. Vermont Republicans should be proud of the bills their legislators are advancing, which they indirectly voted for by running candidates that stood for something. Instead of being resentful, they should happily accept the new taxes, the new gun laws, and the further deterioration of their schools. At least we stood for something and now we stand on the steps of the Capitol peering in through the windows.

  4. Regardless of the dangerous realities of this legislation, it will become law in some form- this session. The stop in Appropriations is theatre. All of the debating by the legislature is theatre, the dollars contributed to the players in this drama is too great to overcome. This bill is yet another step toward the socialist/totalitarian government desired by some. S.5 is not about climate, CO2 nor saving the world as mr. mcdonald would like you to believe. S.5 is about government control over Vermont’s economy and citizens. S.5 coupled with scores of other bills introduced this session affirms the desire for total control by the bureaucratic machine that Vermont government has become. bray, macdonald, white and others are but the nomenklatura of the system they worship. Look hard at California and north to Canada to see what we have become, because it’s here.

  5. You shall not pass !
    Where is Gandalf when we need him ?

    To think that they consider electricity as a source of energy which it is NOT ! Yes, it is a form of energy, but it is sourced from other forms of energy:” Nuclear, Hydro, Solar, Wind, Oil, Gas, etc. ALL of which have significant problems that have yet to be solved.

    What these clowns in the leg do not understand is that the Vermont people will FIGHT this ! I will not permit them to harm my family by forcing me to convert to this magic new fuel. It will prove deadly. Civil disobedience will become a movement against this if it passes the inevitable veto.

  6. Make those phone calls and speak to your representatives at Town Meeting. At a minimum, the EAI numbers are so different from the utopian assumptions presented by the supporters that it calls for a complete review of the cost before the bill is enacted.
    What benefits could accrue to Vermont with 5,000 million available over the next five years.
    Remember, your and my pain from this needless inflationary expense, will have no effect on the world climate.

  7. The Appropriations Committee should be renamed the Couch Cushion Committee. They’ll have to figure out how many couch cushions (or vehicle consoles) will need to be raided to pay for their idiotic fairy tales. Meanwhile, banks are figuring out a way to pull the rug out from under them and depositors. Insolvency is globally universal at this juncture – there is nothing they can do to stop it – the debt market and debt asset game is over. Hyperinflation is around the corner and it will be ugly.