Senate Gives Preliminary Approval to Clean Heat Standard: Progress — but Uncertainty — Around Potentially Transformative Climate Action
Montpelier – Today, the Vermont Senate voted to advance the Clean Heat Standard bill (H.715) for further development by the Public Utility Commission, after adding a disappointing amendment that weakened the law by requiring it to be endorsed again in the 2024 Legislature.
The Clean Heat Standard is a core plank of the state’s new Climate Action Plan, designed to help Vermonters access more affordable, cleaner energy solutions. Implementing action in the heating sector at the scale of the Clean Heat Standard is essential to meeting the state’s legal obligation to reduce climate pollution.
“This bill takes an important step forward by finally regulating the fossil fuel heating sector and requiring them to participate in pollution reduction solutions. By kicking the can down the road on whether or not to implement the Clean Heat Standard program, however, the Legislature has made the outcome and impact less certain – sending mixed signals on the state’s commitment to climate action,” said Johanna Miller, energy and climate program director at the Vermont Natural Resources Council. “This move by the Senate injects a level of uncertainty at a moment when Vermont should be making clear to the fossil fuel industry – and Vermonters – that cleaner heating options are the future.”
This move comes on the heels of important work in the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee, which took steps to strengthen provisions of the Clean Heat Standard to ensure it will require climate pollution reduction in line with our state obligations and ensure a more equitable and affordable program.
“Getting this policy right will require serious watchdogging,” said VPIRG’s Climate and Energy Program Director Ben Edgerly Walsh. “We will work hard to ensure it truly cuts climate pollution in line with Vermont’s requirements, centers equity, and ensures all Vermonters can access clean heating options.”
This policy sets up a two-year process of public input and rulemaking. Unfortunately, the Senate Appropriations Committee added a requirement that the Legislature vote yet again before the program goes into effect, which Governor Scott had been demanding for him to consider supporting the bill. It remains unclear whether this change to the bill will, in fact, gain the Governor’s support.
“The biggest climate story this year will be the historic investments to help Vermonters access weatherization and clean transportation options, and to build a clean energy workforce,” said Lauren Hierl, executive director of Vermont Conservation Voters. “The Clean Heat program has become more of a case of wait-and-see – which is unfortunate at a time when we must definitively commit to addressing the climate crisis.”