Assistant attorney general says compliance costs not a legal problem for clean heat standard

Michael Bielawski/TNR

COST GOING UP: Vermont lawmakers want to add costs to heating fuels so Vermonters will be incentivized to switch away from fossil-fuel-based heating and buy electric heat pumps.

On Wednesday, lawmakers of the House Energy Committee heard about compliance costs for out-of-state energy companies if Vermont were to pass S.5.

S.5 is an act relating to meeting the mandated greenhouse gas reductions for the thermal sector through efficiency, weatherization measures, electrification, and decarbonization. The bill aims to impose financial penalties on sellers of carbon-based energy within the state.

The Senate passed the bill earlier this session, but with an amendment that would delay its implementation until at least 2025. The delay will allow lawmakers and state officials to conduct additional research on its economic impacts.

Laura Murphy, assistant attorney general in the Environmental Protection Division of the Vermont Attorney General’s Office, spoke with the committee on Wednesday, and reminded members that carbon emissions reductions mandated under the Global Warming Solutions Act “aren’t goals anymore, these are things that you must do under this law.”

According to Murphy, a failure by the state to meet targets will have climate and legal consequences.

“First of all what happens is we don’t achieve the reductions, and we don’t have the associated benefits and the very important benefit of mitigating climate change here in Vermont, which is of course what the Global Warming Solutions Act is concerned with,” she said.

Murphy also noted that the state could end up being sued, which was a major concern by the governor and other critics when the GWSA was passed.

“There are a few mechanisms by which interested parties could sue the state if we don’t meet the reductions, but it really depends on the circumstances,” Murphy said.

Compliance costs

When the discussion turned to the bill’s relationship to the Dormant Commerce Clause of U.S. law, which says states can’t unduly burden or discriminate against interstate or out of state commerce, Murphy said she believed S.5 was legal, even though it could require out-of-state companies to pay compliance costs when selling fuel in Vermont.

When one lawmaker asked how high a compliance cost would have to be to constitute a violation of the Dormant Commerce Clause, Murphy was not sure.

“That is a good question and I don’t know the answer,” she said. ” … I don’t know if there is a point at which compliance costs would invalidate a law because sales into this state are voluntary.”

Is the AG too political?

One lawmaker in the committee noted that the state’s newly elected attorney general, Charity Clark, may be out of place by openly supporting S.5.

“Why doesn’t the attorney general remain neutral on something like this rather than show support for a bill that a good percentage of Vermonters don’t agree with,” Rep. Brian Smith, R-Derby, said.

Murphy responded, “I believe that’s a question that I can’t properly answer without having the attorney general provide her answer.”

Smith then responded, “Is it the attorney general’s position to remain neutral until something is presented in front of the attorney general in a court?”

Murphy again said she wasn’t able to answer on behalf of the attorney general “without having vetted these particular questions with her.”

The Climate Council says S.5 will save money

Richard Cowart, director of the Vermont Climate Council, suggested that S.5 will actually save Vermonters money in the long term.

“[The bill] would reduce the heating bills that Vermonters face over the long term due to the high and volatile cost of fossil fuels that we’ve been paying for years and years,” Cowart said. “And nobody needs reminding of how volatile those prices can be, how high those prices can be — and getting off of the fossil fuel roller coaster would be good economically as well as important and essential.”

Watch the March 22 meeting of the House Environment and Energy Committee online here.

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North. Send him news tips at and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Image courtesy of Michael Bielawski/TNR

7 thoughts on “Assistant attorney general says compliance costs not a legal problem for clean heat standard

  1. Of course compliance costs for suppliers are not an issue.
    It will be the consumer that must pay.
    Another deceit-filled assumption by the legislature is that suppliers will chose to “eat” 10-30% of the costs of this program- Of course they will. Suppliers will willingly bankrupt themselves for the legislatures greater cause.
    The lying continues.

  2. “First of all what happens is we don’t achieve the reductions, and we don’t have the associated benefits and the very important benefit of mitigating climate change here in Vermont.

    This idiot of mass proportion believes the climate in VT is different from the climate in the rest of the world???? Your measly minute savings will be sucked up by the ever expanding coal fired plants being built in China and India in a day you deranged mental derelict. Where in hell do these idiots come from that don’t have a lick of common sense. Lord help us we’re being led by brainless psychopaths

    • Must you engage in name calling? Do you really think that calling somebody a brainless psychopath is going to help anyone see your side of the issue? This sort of behavior is exactly what’s wrong with politics in the age of Trump. Let me give you a hint. You can catch more flies with honey then with vinegar.

      • Bob Wickberg: they are Brainless Psychopaths.
        The people have largely and strongly come out en masse and fought against this and they do not care. Then they cannot even explain it all. They are pushing something through that will put untold numbers of families into deep poverty, freeze the elderly, perhaps literally- and they cannot even explain how it all works… on top of the fact that most people are fully aware now of the scam that the Climate Change Agenda is- and yet these useful idiots march on- as paid to do, pushing the population over the cliff.

        If this is not the actions of brainless psychopaths then I don’t know what would be.

        Further, what makes these people show us they are brainless is that those of us that know and understand history know that this is the actions that got many rulers hung from lampposts- so that they repeat actions the public is so strongly against would not seem to me to be a sign of intelligence.
        Have you not seen what is going on today in France, in The Netherlands? .
        Mr.Wickford well armed fathers are not going to just sit here and allow their families to freeze to death as they are forced into despair- to push people there is not a wise move.

      • The days of using honey ended when the democrats stole the 2020 presidential election and put that criminal and clone of a human being in the white house. At this point I have nothing but the upmost contempt for the liberal/progressive/socialists and the hypocritical democrats. They are blind lemmings who are aiding in the destruction of our economy in the name of “global warming”, and are leading our Nation into world war III by propping up that criminal Zelensky. There was time in our history when both sides of the isle worked together to make America a better country. Ever since the obama administration, the democrats have been doing nothing but drive our country into the ground and force their immorality on the rest of us.

        Nothing Vermont does to mitigate climate change will make a measurable difference. That fact makes everything the legislature is doing a waste of time, money, and resources. It will destroy Vermont’s economy. But thanks to Mr. Magoo we will probably be engaged in global thermal nuclear war by then. I remember a time when the democrats were the anti-war party. Now they are in bed with the military industrial complex.

  3. She said, “the very important benefit of mitigating climate change here in Vermont”. There is nothing Vermont can do to, ever, to change the climate in Vermont. — These people are so nutty, its beyond comprehension how they ever got a government job.

    • I can’t imagine how we could have an ‘Assistant Attorney General’ who’s so clueless and incompetent. She couldn’t even be bothered to anticipate obvious questions and have an answer ready. Why is this twit still receiving a taxpayer funded paycheck?

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