Is S.5, the carbon-taxing effort to replace fossil-fuel heat with electricity, just a ‘study bill’ as some supporters claim? Will the Legislature really be able to stop implementation two years from now, as promised in March by state senators in response to a groundswell of public opposition?
Gov. Phil Scott thinks not. House Speaker Jill Krowinski assures Vermonters it’s true. Both issued public statements on the subject. Read them and caveat emptor. – Editor
Gov. Phil Scott, Friday April 21:
“Today, the House of Representatives passed S.5, which I believe will have significant impacts on Vermonters by orchestrating a system that will give people two options: pay significantly more in fuel costs or spend thousands of dollars to install electrical heating systems, when most don’t have the financial means to do either.
“The Legislative Majority has directed the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to design a system that will require heating fuel companies to pay a penalty for every gallon of heating fuel they purchase, which will be passed on to customers.
“I am particularly concerned that the PUC plan will not be returning to the Legislature in normal bill form and go through the full legislative process and, if passed, go to the Governor for signature. An initiative with such far reaching financial impacts deserves to be fully debated in a transparent way, with the opportunity for everyday Vermonters to weigh in, and legislators being given the opportunity to improve the bill with amendments. As it is with every piece of legislation, the executive branch should be able to provide input, as well.
“Proponents of the bill have argued nothing will move forward without future legislative approval. They also say ‘this is essentially a study.’ Both of these statements are misleading.
- Effective on passage, the Clean Heat Standard is established and the Commission shall adopt rules and may issue orders to implement and enforce the Clean Heat Standard Program.
- The first registration deadline for fuel dealers is January 31, 2024, before this ever comes back to the Legislature.
- The Commission is given enforcement authority from day one. They can issue orders to implement the system and enforce those orders.
- Before this ever comes back to the Legislature, the Commission must designate the first default delivery agency on or before June 1, 2024. This contract may be as long as 12 years.
- The House version specifically provides that the requirement for rulemaking to come back to the Legislature will have no impact on the ability of the Commission to issue orders and take other actions to implement and enforce the Clean Heat Standard.
- Even assuming rulemaking is approved, this bill would allow the Commission to amend its rules by order, and not be subject to the public review of a rulemaking process. Orders can only be appealed to the Supreme Court.
“If the Legislature was serious about S.5 being a study, the language would be clear and there would be no debate about it. In case it’s not abundantly clear, my opposition to this bill has nothing to do with the overall goal to reduce emissions, it has everything to do with protecting Vermonters and legislative transparency.
“I appreciate the Republicans, Democrats and independents who made their voices heard on the floor and standing up for their constituents, not special interests. ”
House Speaker Krowinski, Tuesday April 25:
“Every session, a handful of bills seem to get caught up in the complexity of our legislative process, sending confusing messages to Vermonters about their purpose and potential impact. Unfortunately, in rare instances, misinformation is deliberately spread to create fear and uncertainty amongst Vermonters to sidetrack the conversation from the real issues. This year that bill is S.5, the Affordable Heat Act.
“We have seen interested parties with a financial stake in maintaining the status quo investing a significant amount of money to oppose this bill. Opponents of the bill have used misinformation as their central tool, resorting to tactics such as television ads and out-of-context statements on fuel bills to drum up fear among Vermonters that they would soon be unable to afford to heat their homes. But, of course, this is simply not true.
“Last week, the Governor released a statement in response to the passage of S.5. This statement contained inaccurate information regarding the impact of the bill and the legislature’s intent. Thankfully, Vermonters brought these inaccuracies to his attention, and as a result, he corrected some of his statements and released an updated version. However, the amended release still contained incorrect assertions that intentionally or unintentionally undermined the true intent of the legislation. So let’s correct the record.
“The Governor’s statement started by stating:
Today, the House of Representatives passed S.5, which I believe will have significant impacts on Vermonters by orchestrating a system that will give people two options: pay significantly more in fuel costs or spend thousands of dollars to install electrical heating systems, when most don’t have the financial means to do either.
“This bill is intended to do precisely the opposite of what the Governor states as his belief. This legislation intends to provide Vermonter’s relief from year-over-year increases in fuel costs. The dramatic surge in costs is already being felt by Vermonters’ with $2.00 per gallon fuel price increases leading many to wonder how they can afford to heat their homes. S.5 specifically provides for developing a system of incentives and options for low and moderate-income Vermonters to weatherize their homes and diversify how they heat them. The bill’s goal is to make us more resilient to the whims of the global market and the continued rise in fuel costs, as well as to take action to mitigate the impact of climate change.
“The statement goes on:
The Legislative Majority has directed the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to design a system that will require heating fuel companies to pay a penalty for every gallon of heating fuel they purchase, which will be passed on to customers.
“The bill requires the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to design a comprehensive system for ensuring all Vermonters are included in the ongoing energy transition, including our fuel sellers while prioritizing low and moderate-income Vermonters, households with the highest energy burdens, and renter households with tenant-paid energy bills. And again, this year’s bill contains a “check back provision” rather than standard adoption of the rules in order to meet one of Governor Scott’s main requests for the legislature to review and vote on the proposed rules in a future legislative session. We have listened to this request and the bill includes provisions to respond to the Governor’s specific request. The rulemaking process and future legislative debate will give Vermonters multiple venues and additional opportunities to share feedback, ask questions, and help shape the final product. This bill will not only help Vermont mitigate the impact of climate change in our state, but it will also lower costs and keep prices at a consistent level, allowing Vermonters to afford to heat their homes.
“We have already seen the damage and disruption that frequent, stronger storms can do to our communities. We are working on a wide variety of bills that will help our state be prepared for this new reality. This bill will help ensure all Vermonters are able to access more resilient heating sources and stop our dependence on a fossil fuel economy that continues to cause financial harm to Vermonters. We can pass legislation like the Affordable Heat Act, and ensure that our communities are prepared to adapt in the face of climate volatility and weather the storms ahead.”
Categories: Press Release