2024 Senate Natural Resources Committee Priorities

The Senate Natural Resources Committee convened their first meeting of the session on Thursday. Chairman Bray went around the room asking each member of the Committee what their top priorities were.

Senator Watson identified (in order) flood resilience, revising the Renewable Energy Standard (RES), Act 250 reform (focusing on “de-duplication”), network geothermal, and acceleration of renewable energy adoption (by limiting appeals).

Bray noted that the House is starting on flood resilience, and they will get it after crossover.

Watson pointed to come cities, such as Montpelier and Barre, that have to go through multiple processes to get permit approvals. She wanted to make the process more fair and simple.

Senator McCormack’s priorities were to finish work from last year (global warming, Act 250), address the “vociferous criticism” from environmentalists that S.5 did not go far enough, public relations (explaining what they are doing better), and clean water.

His issue with the Clean Heat Standard was specifically how the bill accounted for biofuels and hydropower.

NOTE: Apparently the criticisms of working Vermonters who can’t afford their heating bills did not resonate.

Bray wondered if McCormack had seen anyone communicate well on these types of issues. McCormack claimed that he had but wasn’t sure the public bought it. Bray commented that it’s “hard to have a conversation” on these topics because people are “voting with their wallet as opposed to we have this big thing to tackle as a nation.”

Senator White chose flood resilience, RES and making it easier to accelerate clean energy adoption, funding for ANR and the Climate Office (worried about federal funds going away), and network geothermal and district heating as her top issues.

She believes the barriers to building renewables have increased, and that the state is not building them fast enough.

Senator MacDonald wanted to focus on global warming and not get “sucked into adaptation priorities.” He also wanted to stop the sales of all vehicles and utilities that burn gas or oil. White noted that the industry has transformed to “vanity” size as opposed to working practicality.

Bray voiced support for a climate bill (focused on river corridors and dams), refining rules surrounding hunting and trapping, a constitutional amendment creating a right to clean air and water, and better enforcement residential building energy standards.

NOTE: Bray’s past iteration of this amendment would essentially end individual property rights, ceding control of all natural elements – water, soil, air, plants and animals, etc. – to the state.

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