The Costs of Going Green in the Green Mountain State

A Global Warming Solutions Act being debated in Vermont’s General Assembly could result in hardships for many Vermonters, says Matt Cota, executive director of the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association.

The legislation, H.688, has been passed by the Vermont House, and now is before the Senate’s Natural Resources Committee. Under the legislation, the state would be required to formulate a plan to reduce greenhouse gas pollution to 26% below 2005 levels by 2025. Emissions would need to be 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, and 80% below by 2050. Here is Cota’s testimony to the Senate Committee on May 29, edited for clarity and length:

We oppose H.688. The Climate Council the legislation creates will come up with a plan that on paper achieves the emission reduction goals. This plan will go through the rule making process, the Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules will hold a hearing and it will be enacted by the Agency of Natural Resources. No votes will ever occur on the floor of the Senate or House of Representatives.

This is a problem because there will be solutions in the plan that make sense in the laboratory of the Climate Council, but are not practical or desirable for other reasons.

For instance, the Climate Council could update the stretch codes to eliminate fossil fuel infrastructure and apply this standard to all buildings. There is no question this will reduce emissions but it will also make it more difficult to meet our affordable housing goals. It will also make commercial buildings much more expensive to build or retrofit.

The Climate Council could ban the sale of vehicles with combustion engines. This would limit the mobility of Vermonters that can’t afford an electric car, especially those living in rural areas and those in the trades that need an SUV, van or truck.

The Climate Council could ban the use of federal LIHEAP funds for oilheat, kerosene, propane and natural gas. Approximately 20,000 low-income Vermont families could be required to use only electric or wood heat to qualify for assistance. Thousands of Vermonters may go cold in the effort to prevent global warming.

While the Climate Council cannot propose a fee or a tax, they can enact emission reduction measures that will limit or restrict fossil fuel combustion. The Legislature provides the necessary guard rails to prevent the implementation of a plan that may comply with the law, but harm Vermonters in the process. The Legislature should not surrender their authority to block such measures they deem inappropriate.

We ask that you not pass H.688.

Note: An interview with Matt Cota appears in Fuel Oil News Editor Stephen Bennett’s blog here and in “Editor’s Note,” page 8, in the June 2020 issue of Fuel Oil News.

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