Governor Scott and a Minority of Lawmakers Stymie Climate Progress – A Win for Big Oil and Keeping Vermonters Tethered to Polluting & Costly Heating Systems
Montpelier – After the Vermont House narrowly failed to override the Governor’s veto of the Clean Heat Standard (H.715) on a 99-51 vote, Vermont has once again delayed essential climate progress. The Clean Heat Standard – a performance-based approach that would require fossil fuel heating providers to annually, cost-effectively and equitably ratchet down climate pollution – is the biggest pollution-reduction plank of the state’s Climate Action Plan.
The Clean Heat Standard’s failure to advance after two years of work, combined with the absence of any clear policy or regulatory tool to achieve necessary pollution reductions in the transportation sector, makes clear Vermont is not on track to meet the state’s legal greenhouse gas reduction requirements for 2025 or 2030. The uncertainty around required progress could open Vermont up to a lawsuit to come into compliance or compel the Agency of Natural Resources to make rules to reduce pollution – likely a more blunt, less equitable, and less strategic approach to progress.
“Governor Scott’s veto of the Clean Heat Standard and the Legislature’s narrow failure to override is irresponsible and shortsighted. Vermont has a moral obligation and a tremendous economic opportunity to put Vermonters to work in well-paying jobs and gradually untether us from our costly reliance on imported, polluting and price-volatile fossil fuels,” said Johanna Miller, energy and climate program director at Vermont Natural Resources Council. “With numerous opportunities for public input built into the bill to help refine the policy, plus an affirmative legislative vote before the program would’ve been implemented, these actions call into question Vermont’s ability to do what we will need to do on climate before it’s too crushingly late and costly for people and the planet.”
After a solid foundation built in the House and important work by the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee to improve the bill in terms of equity and climate accountability, the Senate Appropriations Committee added an amendment that built in a check back vote after a two year program building and public input process concluded. Despite this late addition, which the Governor demanded in order to support the Clean Heat Standard, the bill was still vetoed.
“This vote in the House is not a reflection of the urgency and critical importance Vermonters feel about addressing our emissions in all sectors and meeting our state’s requirements on climate,” said Ben Edgerly Walsh, climate and energy program director at VPIRG. “It means that a core component of the Climate Action Plan was essentially set aside, despite years of built in public input and development of an emissions reduction solution by experts across numerous fields. Let’s be clear though – we will pass and enact legislation to move Vermont’s heating sector to clean options. It’s just such a waste that such a solution needs to wait another year; something we simply can’t afford.”
“Thank you to legislators who worked hard on advancing a solution for our thermal sector emissions in an equitable and accessible way,” said Lauren Hierl, executive director of Vermont Conservation Voters. “Unfortunately, the Governor and a minority of legislators chose to delay essential climate progress and have now left Vermont with no clear next step for meeting our legally binding requirements on climate, shackling our children and future generations of Vermonters with the unfathomably steep price of inaction.”