Clean Heat Standard (S.5) - May 11, 2023

The House took up S.5 on Thursday to override the Governor’s veto of the bill.

Representative Galfetti spoke against overriding the Governor, saying that he “vetoed this bill for good reason. This bill is not a study. It will begin the implementation of policy that will set the stage for a carbon tax. Once the bill is enacted and the wheels are set in motion, it will be impossible to turn back. The bill favors those in Chittenden County who rely on natural gas lines, and penalizes those in rural communities who must use propane. It will set the stage for yet another regressive tax that will hurt low-income Vermonters, folks that need it the most. The savings predicted in the Cadmus pathways report are non-existent as the model is wrong and does not even take into account that heat pumps have a lifespan of ten to twelve years in their thirty-year savings model. We lack the workforce to install the pumps, and we will open up the state of Vermont to costly lawsuits when we inevitably fail to meet the timeline. We do not have a grid that can handle the demand for electricity that all of these technologies demand, and we are still gleaning much of that power from fossil fuels. Our increased demand for electricity will increase our demand for fossil fuels. We will push the state of Vermont to burn wood to heat their homes and buildings, increasing our carbon output not reducing it. It will accelerate climate change, damage our air quality and create health risks. And finally, most importantly, we will break the backs of Vermonters chasing an unrealistic goal.”

Representative Donahue echoed that this sentiment, pointing to a number of ways which the bill was not actually a study and in fact stands up the program upon passage. 

Representatives Sibilia and McCarthy repeated much of their previous floor testimony, lamenting the “misinformation” being disseminated surrounding the bill and insisting it will help Vermonter’s transition away from fossil fuels affordably.

Representative Andriano told a story or how one constituent urged him to vote for the bill arguing “don’t listen to people. Read the bill and tell people why you voted the way you did.” However, he noted that nearly all constituents had told him to vote no on the bill. He felt that this is what representative democracy meant and questioned who he was to “stand in the way” of how 90% of his constituents think.

Representative Sammis pointed to a “plethora of issues” the legislature needed to figure out, citing workforce, “anti-business climate”, and the housing shortage. “The Governor is telling us we need to hit the brakes before we go off the cliff. The majority is saying there is no cliff, let’s hit the gas,” he quipped.

Representative Campbell noted that he spent his career in the weatherization business. The reason for passing the Clean Heat Standard (CHS) is to “help low-income people afford to do this,” he claimed. “We are not acting too fast; we are moving too slow. Climate change is already affecting Vermont. This transition will take years or decades,” he argued.

Representative Williams shared that she represented “a lot of low-income Vermonters. They have a household income of less than $30k,” she said. “They dry their clothes on a line, grow their own vegetables. They cannot afford the upfront costs of this bill. This isn’t helping these people, it will hurt them,” she argued.

Representative Troiano claimed that the bill doesn’t require “any Vermonter to change their heating system.”

NOTE: Technically this is true, but it does require those who don’t or can’t change to pay higher energy costs.

The final vote was 107-42, overriding the Governor’s veto. The bill will now go into effect and the PUC will begin drafting the framework for the Clean Heat Standard.

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