Burlington mayor proposes big carbon fee on new oil, gas heat

By Guy Page

The city of Burlington is moving aggressively to make fossil-fuel heat prohibitively expensive to install in new buildings.

A proposal by Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger “to dramatically reduce new fossil fuel infrastructure construction” would add about $7,000 to the cost of a traditional oil or gas furnace over the first 10 years of operation, Matt Cota, executive director of the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association, said Tuesday.

Wikimedia Commons/Dismas

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger

An Oct. 6 press release from Weinberger’s office describes the planned disincentive to install fossil-fuel heat in new buildings:

“The ‘Building Electrification and Carbon Price Ordinance’ proposal that the City presented on Monday night creates two pathways. In pathway one, a new building does not connect to fossil fuel infrastructure and, therefore, no further requirements apply during the permit process. In pathway two, the new building connects to fossil fuel infrastructure and, therefore, the owner would pay a ‘building carbon fee’ of $100 per ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent to the expected emissions for the first 10 years of building operation. This process would repeat every 10 years until the building no longer is using fossil fuels. The building also would be required to be constructed as ‘electric ready,’ so it can add electrification technologies [cold climate heat pumps and heat pump water heaters] in the future.”

In an email Tuesday, Cota estimated, “At $100 per metric ton, a gallon of oil heat would pay a carbon tax of $1.02 per gallon. Average home: 700 gallons per year. 10 year average: 7,000 gallons. Burlington Heat Tax = $7140 per home.”

“In other words, if you want to install oilheat in your home, you have to pay $7,140 for it to be legal,” Cota said.

The fee would continue in 10-year increments until the building is electrified. In the war on climate change, it’s a sacrifice Weinberger is willing for new building owners to make.

“Even as Burlington has sought to respond to a global pandemic and national uprising for racial justice, we’ve also kept focus on our other central emergency – the climate crisis,” said Weinberger. “It is increasingly clear that strategic electrification of buildings and vehicles is a critical way to both help save the planet and sustain our standard of living. Burlington is aggressively leading the country toward this essential and promising vision, and our building electrification proposal represents the City’s next big step forward.”

Electricity rates should stay level, Weinberger predicted. However, the press release does not discuss how adding thousands of dollars to the cost of new construction will impact the already high cost of new housing in Burlington. At present, Burlington’s average rents and home purchase costs are the highest of any major urban area in Vermont.

“The City asks all Burlingtonians to consider efficiency and electrification every time you make a decision about your homes, businesses, and transportation. In return, the City is working to make those choices as easy and affordable as possible,” Weinberger promised.

Read more of Guy Page’s reports. Vermont Daily is sponsored by True North Media.

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Beyond My Ken and Wikimedia Commons/Dismas

9 thoughts on “Burlington mayor proposes big carbon fee on new oil, gas heat

  1. Miro has had a tough year and next year will be tougher. Best to begin pandering to the seemingly majority D&P voters of Burlington early. He’s got an ugly hole to fix on Bank Street, Police problems,
    major tax problems and an underfunded pension system to patch. He’s easy fodder for a Prog to replace him in March. Then it will be really painful to watch what happens to the Queen City.
    Unfortunately, it will affect all Vt taxpayers, as we are forced to prop up their failed policies.

  2. That’s one way to get him out of office. What about those sugar makers who use fossil fuel to make maple syrup. He best ding them also, no exceptions.

  3. The article is incomplete without including the estimated cost of heating with electricity. Will oil still be cheaper but its users poorer? How much will the increased demand raise the cost of electricity? How much carbon dioxide will be added to the atmosphere in generating that electricity? Can this burden imposed on the unfortunate citizens of Burlington reliably be expected to have any measurable effect on the climate or temperature? Well, you get what you vote for…

  4. I’d like to know when the State is going to charge him and the City for the dumped pollution that he put in Lake Champlain along with the huge useless hole he has in the middle of downtown.
    Why is he getting a free pas while trying to tax and fees on everybody else? When is his City going to become accountable??

  5. If Mayor Weinberger wants to lower Burlington’s green house gas emissions he may want to consider closing the McNeil wood chip plant. The plant is a notorious polluter, a fact that has been known for years, yet it has been ignored. Closing McNeil would result in immediate CO2 reductions amounting to thousands of tons.

    Under Mayor Weinberger’s new program what would the “building carbon fee” of $100 per ton of carbon dioxide emitted amount to for McNeil? Perhaps, that carbon fee should be charged to McNeil starting today, if the mayor is indeed concerned about CO2 emissions.

    Closing McNeil is an option available to the Mayor that reduces CO2 starting today as opposed to adding a charge of $1.02 per gallon of heating oil for years……..Something the people of Burlington do not want and cannot afford.

    If Mayor Weinberger is at all interested in reducing CO2 levels and the economic welfare of Burlington’s citizens, he should scrap “building carbon fee” concept and close McNeil.

    • McNeal, an ancient, 24%-efficient, wood burning power plant emits about 450,000 to 500,000 ton of CO2 per year.

      A similar-size, 42%-efficient, coal power plant emits about 250,000 ton of CO2 per year, and only 50% of the particulate emissions of the wood-burning plant!!

      A similar size, 60%-efficient, combined-cycle, natural gas power plant emits about 125,000 ton of CO2 per year, and emits almost NO PARTICULATES

      Regarding protecting PUBLIC HEALTH, and minimizing the cost of maintaining good PUBLIC HEALTH, any gas-fired plan is vastly superior to wood and coal

  6. Be sure to include this in the slick advertising attempts to get new residents. It could go right after the paragraph discussing the area’s wonderfully antiquated sewage treatment plant.

    • Frank,……. You nailed it, but wait until the Big Dig in Burlington gets going,
      and they get the news……..

      Burlington’s Future Sand Lot for the kids…… !!

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