Senators quiz AHA architect on low-income cost concerns

By Guy Page

The architect of S.5, the Affordable Heating Act (AHA), tried Thursday, Feb. 23 to set Senate Appropriations at ease about the financial impact of his anti-fossil fuel heat bill on low-income Vermonters. 

Chair Jane Kitchel (D-Caledonia) announced that she, and other senators, have received many phone calls from Vermonters very concerned AHA will significantly boost their already high home heating bills. Kitchel appeared to share the concern but also seemed likely willing to be convinced that the financial impact will be gradual and not immediate. But Orleans County Sen. Bobby Starr remained skeptical.

Agency of Natural Resources Secretary Julie Moore said AHA, which assesses a surcharge on fuel dealers, will add 70 cents per gallon to heating oil costs. The Ethan Allen Institute estimates the cost at $4/gallon, while renewable power industry representatives on the Vermont Climate Council say Moore’s estimate is too high. 

Neither Senate Natural Resources and Energy Chair Chris Bray nor other senators on his committee could provide specific cost estimates.

Nevertheless, to hear Bray tell it, these Vermonters worrying about AHA are just plain misinformed. They’ve been playing the old game of Telephone. They just don’t understand the AHA will save them money. Anything you hear to the contrary is just ‘malarkey.’

“I don’t know if you want to attribute it to the telephone game, or something, but misinformation is getting passed along and I think that misinformation – my mother would have called malarkey – is worrying a lot of people.

“So the first thing is that customer participation is voluntary. No customers required to do anything – not switch fuels, not install heat pumps, nothing. People have had the impression that they must do things,” Bray continued. “As a matter of fact, almost immediately, too there are savings available for those who do participate….almost two billion dollars through 2050. But no one – just like Efficiency Vermont – is required to participate in the programs they offer there. If you burn oil today, you will be able to burn oil tomorrow and all the way through 2050.” 

Chairman Jane Kitchel interrupted Bray: “Some of the calls that we’re getting are from senior citizens, and people who are very low income, or you know, not wealthy. They are becoming very very fearful in terms of what is going to happen to them immediately. Immediately. I don’t know at that point how we dispel that even under the best of circumstances.”

“It’s unfortunate that we’ve created so much anxiety on the part of people who really are very vulnerable. ‘I can’t even afford a computer,”’one person told me. ‘How am I going to do all this?’”

Bray said the bill does contain affordability information. “ “It’s just disappointing to have people pronounce it unaffordable before we’ve ever even got that data. it feels like – “

Maybe we should change the title,” Kitchel interrupted again. Some in the room chuckled – perhaps nervously. 

“I’m serious,” Kitchel said. “Because affordability is going to be so contentious and people will have different definitions of what is Affordable or affordable…You must love that title, but I don’t love it at all, to be honest.”

Then Sen. Starr – easily the most vocally opposed senator in the room – took issue with a supposed exemption on non-imported oil. “Well we do not have any oil wells in Vermont, so every drop of oil has to be imported to here. So now the very first statement in that one is kind of misleading…Say it like it is, don’t swap lies, because it doesn’t make for clear statements. Say oil is going to have a surcharge on it, if it’s transported into the state.”

When Bray said the large fuel importers, not the small retail fuel dealers, will be charged, Starr (who operated a milk trucking business) said of course the charge will trickle down to the small dealers. 

In response to Bray’s concern that Vermonters now send thermal heating money to out-of-state dealers, Starr said the same goes for electricity – now. He recalled the 2011 Senate refusal to relicense Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant in Vernon, a generator of large amounts of low-cost, carbon-free electricity. 

“You’re talking about how much money is exported out of Vermont, because people are buying oil and gas or whatever,” Starr said. “If we all switch to electric, where do you think that money is going to go? We have the [Burlington woodchip-fueled] McNeil generating plant. In Vermont Yankee we had four cent [per kilowatt-hour] power. That’s history. Gone. We shut it down.”

After Bray said “they pulled the plug on their own,” Starr said “where do you think our electric money goes? Most of that gets exported out of here.”

Categories: Legislation

15 replies »

  1. Actually Mr Bray, we are informed and we know you are a liar a fake a phoney and a fraud. We know we are gonna get higher bills period. We also know Keat Pumps don’t work for Crap in cold climate. Anyone I know with one says they have to use another heat when the temperature gets 20 degrees or below. We also KNOW FOR A FACT, there isn’t enough electricity to supply it and your EVs. You are the misinformed one…..

    • Yes, he is misinformed if you believe that. It’s more like somehow, he is connected to the end payoff, either from lobbyists, investments, kickbacks or all three. I’m a senior widower, single with a mortgage, taxes, car payments and some debt and one small income that I have to supplement by working. I can’t afford this boondoggle. Why is this guy pushing so hard on t this UNAFFORDABLE law that will take money from people to buy credits to give to others and a bureaucracy to run it. Who is this guy that thinks he has the power to change the climate. For God’s sake people, wake up. Whatever this legislature does will not affect anything worldwide or even here. Are people this ignorant here? This Senator’s ego is too big for his own good, he can’t explain how this works, how much it will cost and shoves those problems off and onto an unelected council of 21 well connected frauds who will benefit from the misery of people hurt by this bill. Kill it now!

  2. There is hope. Thank you Senator Starr. My fuel cost is already to high, especially when compared to what I was paying for it during the last few months of the Trump administration in 2020. That was reasonable. What these climate activists see as a reasonable reaction to a questionable stimulus is crazy, especially on the scale that Vermont would/could contribute. Why don’t we just shoot ourselves in the other foot ?

  3. If Senator MacDonald had been asked about the effect this bill would have on the poor and elderly he could have reinstated his proclamation that he wants to change the world, and the poor could look out for themselves.

    EXAMPLE: an 800 square foot 2 bedroom apartment heated by oil. Cost will be $100 to $300 per month with the current estimates that I have heard of $0.70 to $8.00 added per gallon. That is $1,200 to $3,500/year. That is not a small amount when you are on a fixed or low income.

    For some reason the game “battleship” comes to mind. Could it be because they are just shooting and guessing blindly?

  5. Senator Chris Bray, the de facto architect of Vermont’s energy policies for the last decade, made this declaration at the Energy Committee on January 25, “The north star (his guiding light) is reducing greenhouse gases, because the physics of the problem we’re facing are that if we don’t reduce greenhouses we trifle. We can talk about Vermont’s role and all that stuff, but on this point we’re clear, both in law and – we have a moral obligation to address the problem.”

    The sinister reality is that the GWSA encourages anyone to sue Vermont if greenhouse gas reduction goals are not met. Self-proclaimed physicist Bray crafted the GWSA to encourage future lawsuits and now uses that provision to defend the Affordable Heat Act from criticism. Bray’s co-chair Ann Watson echoed that point yesterday near the end of the hearing when she warned, “I would encourage the committee to think about the obligations of the GWSA as a kind of unfunded liability as this point, and so we need to address it and get on top of it.” How much could Vermont be sued for? The sky is the limit.

    There is a macabre aspect to all this. Its as if Bray is committing Vermont to a sort of ritual self-sacrifice, in hopes that the Gods of the Climate will be appeased. The supermajority appears eager to join him.

    • I beg to differ with you Steve. The “Super Majority” appears eager for “We The People” to join him, (Bray) Of course he and the rest of these charlatans proposing this have already figured it out so they know they will not be in the same leaky boat as We The People.

    • bray is a climate zealot, and in the true definition of fascist, he is a climate fascist.
      To say he is disingenuous is glossing over the gaslighting he is forcing other committee members to believe, and Bob Starr is wise to challenge his fabrications and lies.
      mr. bray is lying to say that Efficiency Vermont is a voluntary program. Every electric ratepayer and every taxpayer is participating in Efficiency Vermont by virtue of the legislatively imposed fee paid on every electric bill. I challenge mr. bray to dispute this. Efficiency Vermont programs are voluntary, ie: a business or individual may request assistance or lamps or shower heads or rebates from this quasi-governmental agency- they will magnanimously return some of your “fee” to you in a rebate or box of LED lamps. But you will continue to pay their mandated percentage, in perpetuity. Likewise, participation in “AHA” is mandatory should you desire to use a form of fuel for heating other than the government mandated fuel. If passed every Vermont resident, business and visitor will participate in the “AHA”, by way of increased cost for every good or service purchased in Vermont. Again, mr. bray prove me wrong. Not all in Vermont can be lied to and believe your rhetoric.

  6. What happened to this lady in England due to skyrocketing fuel prices is going to happen to your mother, your grandmother, and your cheerful elderly neighbor if this is made law. I have never witnessed such a grotesque display of unmanliness as can be seen among these Prog/Dems, Bobby Starr excepted, of course.


    Woman, 87, who died of hypothermia ‘could not afford to heat her home’

    An elderly woman who said she could not afford to heat her home died after developing hypothermia, an inquest has heard. Barbara Bolton, 87, was admitted to Fairfield General Hospital in Bury on 11 December 2022 with the condition, as well as a chest infection. Her inquest was opened at Rochdale Coroners’ Court.

    Ms Bolton, who was from Bury, was taken to hospital by paramedics after an ambulance was called. It is understood that hospital notes indicate her illness was linked to the fact she could not afford to put her heating on. On 5 January, a decision was made at the hospital in conjunction with Ms Bolton’s family, to place her on end of life care. The inquest heard she was a mother and a widow and had previously worked as a pharmacy assistant.

  7. Everyone write and call your representatives and senators so they know how we feel.
    Then call the Governor, so he knows how much the state needs his leadership in addressing this terrible, criminal, bondoggle being perpetrated on the people of Vermont.

  8. The same people who trashed our nuclear power,
    Now !want to trash our heating fuel !?!
    Look out the window, and your outside thermometer!
    Do you see enough electric generation for this farce.
    We have brownouts in the summer, we DO NOT need them in February
    This from the same people who trashed our nuclear plant !

  9. When you hear these smooth explanations of the wonders of the UnAffordable Heat Act, ask ” Where does the money come from to finance all these benefits?” It comes from the great majority of fossil fuel heat users who don’t show up at Chris Bray’s smorgasbord table to get their (subsidized) heat pump.