Deb Billado: Wrong time for the Global Warming Solutions Act

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Deb Billado, chairwoman of the Vermont GOP.

Vermont Republicans stand opposed to the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA), not because we are opposed to a clean and resilient environment, but because this is a bad bill being proposed at the worst possible time. As Governor Scott said at his September 8th press conference, “There is a path forward,” but allowing “any person” to sue the state and put Vermont taxpayers on the hook for both sides’ attorneys’ fees is not the way to go.

In case the Democrats and Progressives pushing for this bill haven’t noticed, since its first iteration passed the House last February our state and our citizens have experienced a massive financial blow due to Covid-19. Tax revenues are down for fiscal year 2021 and look to be substantially down for FY2022.

Deborah Billado, chair of the Vermont GOP

However, the GWSA will require immediate new spending over these next two year of nearly $1 million. This money will go to fund three new bureaucrats, each getting six-figure compensation packages, the per-diem travel and meal costs for a new 23 person, unelected “Climate Council,” and other expenses associated with merely setting up the program. Is this really how we want to prioritize scarce resources at the same time we are cutting other critical programs?

Once the GWSA moves into full gear there is no telling what the program will cost taxpayers, directly and indirectly, but it will be a whole lot of money.

The Agency of Natural Resources (ANR), which will be charged with implementing the plan to substantially reduce Vermont’s greenhouse gas emissions, meeting specific, mandatory targets by 2025, 2030, and 2050, says it does not currently have the resources or personnel to carry out the mission. This means more money for more bureaucrats, and/or the likelihood of failure to meet those new mandatory goals.

Such failure creates even more financial liability for taxpayers as the GWSA allows “any person,” be they a Vermonter or not, to sue the state if the emission reduction goals are not met or it looks like ANR is not on a path to do so. Even advocates of the bill admit that meeting these goals is unlikely, and therefore getting sued is very likely. In the event of such lawsuits, Vermont taxpayers will have to shoulder the legal costs of defending the state, and, adding insult to injury, potentially the cost of the suing party’s attorney’s fees as well. This could run into multiples of millions of dollars of expense for which Vermont taxpayers receive absolutely nothing of benefit whatsoever.

Finally, what will be the indirect costs to Vermonters pocketbooks and our economy in general when we are forced to comply with the countless inevitable regulations necessary to meet the greenhouse gas reduction mandates in the law? Supporters of the GWSA refuse to tell what these regulations might be or how much they might cost, which really should tell you all you need to know.

The only way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to limit or eliminate activities that produce those emissions: such things as driving cars, trucks and tractors that use gasoline and diesel, or heating homes and businesses with oil, propane and natural gas. So, imagine everything you do over a year that currently creates greenhouse gas emissions, from driving to work, to mowing your lawn, to roasting a marshmallow over a campfire. Now, imagine some bureaucrat telling you that you are no longer allowed to do these things, and you must either replace those activities with a non-carbon emitting alternative or give them up altogether. And now, work out on the back of a napkin what that would personally cost you in terms of both money and quality of life. Do that, and you have some understanding of what the GWSA is and what it will do.

Passing the GWSA into law today, with all of the costs associated with it and at time when Vermonter’s are struggling to make ends meet, our state coffers need time to rebuild, and our economy needs more freedom to grow not less, is the height of foolishness. The Democrats and Progressives who insist on moving forward with this bill are putting their pre-Covid, ideological agenda above common sense and our post-Covid reality. Vermont Republicans are ready to take the lead on real solutions to the challenges Vermonters are facing today.

Image courtesy of Bruce Parker/TNR

18 thoughts on “Deb Billado: Wrong time for the Global Warming Solutions Act

  1. GWSA envisions battery-powered buses, which may not be ready for prime time for at least 5 years, based on Massachusetts experience.
    There is no reason for Vermont to also waste millions of dollars for inadequate “feel-good” electric buses, based on MBTA experience.

    Massachusetts Battery-Powered Buses not Ready for Primetime
    https://commonwealthmagazine.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Mohl__-__Bruce__-__CROP.ashx____imgx1-128×128.jpg BRUCE MOHL

    MBTA OFFICIALS said on Monday, battery-powered buses are a promising technology that is still several years away from being ready for prime time, largely because a test of five vehicles indicated

    1) They take too long to charge
    2) Don’t live up to their mileage specifications, particularly during the winter.

    The MBTA purchased five battery-power, 60-foot buses with Volkswagen Settlement Money, in 2019, and ran them on Silver Line routes over the past year.

    According to MBTA, the vehicle manufacturer promised the buses would run 100 to 120 miles on a single charge, but the actual mileage ranged from 60 to 110 miles, with the lesser amounts coming on colder weather days.

    Erik Stoothoff, the MBTA’s chief engineer, said the buses would run out of juice in the afternoons, unable to complete some of their runs. He said it took eight hours to recharge the batteries.

    “They don’t have enough battery power to deliver a full day’s service,” he said.

    Stoothoff said the performance may actually be worse than MBTA testing indicates, because the past winter was so mild.
    He said mileage dropped to 60 miles when the temperature was 20 degrees, but likely would have dropped even more with colder temperatures.
    “We have not stressed these buses the way the Boston climate can stress these buses,” he said.

    Lawmakers and transportation “advocates” (those are people who likely do not ride any bus), are pressing MBTA to get rid of all the traditional buses and switch to electric buses.
    These people advocate this, despite poor test results.
    That conversion would cost several hundred million dollars.

    Stoothoff, A LEVEL-HEADED ENGINEER, said the battery technology is rapidly improving, but he predicted it would be several years before the technology reaches a level that would justify a major procurement.

    MBTA is currently preparing to build a new bus garage in Quincy, to be completed about 2025.

    Stoothoff said the facility would be capable of supporting an electric bus fleet with fast chargers
    He said a number of challenges lie ahead, including securing enough electricity to provide charging services at the facility.
    A grid extension/augmentation would be needed.

  2. In Vermont, the only thing that makes any sense is to stop “emulating” California, immediately scrap GWSA, and concentrate on:

    1) Energy conservation
    2) Energy efficiency
    3) Building net-zero-energy, and energy-surplus houses and other buildings, by the thousands, each year
    4) Using high-mpg vehicles

    The above 4 items would save money for Vermonters, and make the state economy more competitive

    All of the rest is just expensively subsidized hogwash that would not make one iota of difference regarding climate change.

  3. I have written extensively on the CO2 released just after clearcutting.

    In northern climates, it takes about 35 years for the CO2 to get back to neutral
    The initial CO2 release, due to belowground biomass decay, is very high, and the decay is on-going for about 80 to 100 years.
    The released CO2 far exceeds any CO2 absorbed by the regrowth on the HARVESTED AREA.
    That negative condition continues for about 17 years.
    But to offset that negative condition, and get back to neutral, regrowth on the HARVESTED AREA needs to take place for another 17 to 18 years

    The decay CO2 is entirely independent from combustion CO2 and harvesting CO2.
    Combustion CO2 of year 1 would have to wait for 35 years to start being absorbed, which takes about 80 – 100 years.

    The harvesting CO2, due to 1) logging, 2) chipping, 3) transport, 3) in-plant processing, and 5) plant operations other than combustion, etc., is like all other CO2.

    However, in the real world, a logger would come along, sees 40-y-old trees, and cuts them down; veni, vidi, vici; i.e., the CO2 absorption process is CUT SHORT.

    The logging industry continues to claim, without blushing: “Burning wood is renewable”.

    http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/burning-wood-is-not-renewable
    http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/vermont-forests-and-co2-absorption
    http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/dartmouth-biomass-boiler-emissions-equivalent-to-351-wood-fired

  4. GWSA requires a lot of ADDITIONAL wood burning to meet CEP targets.

    Where would that wood come from?

    Presently, Vermont obtains all of its annual harvest from a total of 2.2 million AVAILABLE acres, even though VT has 4.5 million acres of timberland. The rest is unavailable for many reasons.

    The ANNUAL biomass growth on the 2.2 million acres is about equal to Vermont’s ANNUAL harvests; i.e., VT harvesting is maxed out!!!

    However, Vermont’s national and state forests, heretofore mostly OFF LIMITS, are now going to be harvested big time, according to plans on file withe the US Forest Service. Here are some websites for your information.

    Government bureaucrats often claim there is little clearcutting in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.
    That is not true, based on-site inspections, and satellite and drone surveillance.
    Just Google and you will find plenty of clearcutting all over the place, including national and state forests.

    Vermont Clearcutting: Here are some random Google Earth images of clearcutting in Vermont, before the proposed logging and clearcutting of the Green Mountain National Forest, GMNF.
    http://www.maforests.org/VERMONTCLEARCUTTING.pdf

    New Hampshire Clearcutting: Here are some random Google Earth images of clearcutting in the White Mountain National Forest, in NH, similar to what is planned now for the GMNF, though the plans for GMNF appear got be even more aggressive.
    http://www.maforests.org/WMNF.pdf

    For a view of what the logging will look like, see the identical “vegetation treatments” in White Mountain National Forest in NH
    http://www.maforests.org/WMNF.pdf

    Massachusetts Clearcutting: Much of Maine has already been heavily cutover, and I don’t have any images of that, but in this report, the green areas show forests with greater biomass (i.e., larger trees), where much new logging is being targeted
    http://www.maforests.org/DFW.pdf

    Lots of Clearcutting Coming to GMNF

    15,000 acres, 12,000 acres of it is clearcutting
    https://www.fs.usda.gov/nfs/11558/www/nepa/108891_FSPLT3_4658907.pdf

    About 6700 acres more logging in GMNF
    https://www.fs.usda.gov/nfs/11558/www/nepa/97348_FSPLT3_2363593.pdf

    Thousands more acres here
    https://www.fs.usda.gov/nfs/11558/www/nepa/103699_FSPLT3_3987566.pdf

    Look at the logging on just this one “project”:
    https://www.fs.usda.gov/nfs/11558/www/nepa/97348_FSPLT3_3032534.pdf

    Burning Wood is NOT Clean: Regarding the “cleanliness” of wood…
    http://www.pfpi.net/air-pollution-2

  5. How do these people keep getting reelected? It has to be voter fraud on a grand scale. The VT legislature is an excellent example of collective stupidity that feeds itself. I applaud Mr. Posts excellent facts as always, but your legislature is blind to facts and rules VT on emotions.The moment this legislation becomes law, there will be flood of lawsuits.

  6. How admirable it is to see our representatives stepping up and addressing a significant problem facing our plane. However I have suspicions about the motivations and their intended impact here. Is this actually impacting the global problem …well, no. Is this a diversion so they don’t have to look more locally at problems they might be able to impact? …well yes. Is this disregarding the massive intrusiveness these measures would have on the lives of their constituents? …well, yes. Is this an exercise in “good guy” image management? …well, looks like it. Is this an effort to impose their version of an enlightened vision on the citizenry? …a vision for which they haven’t done the diligent consensus building such intrusive measures would require? …well, yes. And so after this diligent legislative quest for your vision of the common good, we once again have tp rely on our executive branch to rescue us from your unconvincing, intrusive folly? So it seems. Sorry you’re in this “our last hope” position again Gov.,but…please help us, kill it.

    • Vincent,

      GWSA is a MAJOR RE sector WELFARE act, that will financially benefit that sector for DECADES, at the expense of ALL OTHERS

      Its main purpose is to provide subsidies to owners of RE companies, who will implement the MANDATES of GWSA to “fight” climate changes.

      It will expensively create subsidized jobs in the RE sector, but will destroy at least that many jobs in almost all OTHER sectors. There is no free lunch, per Economics 101.

      The subsidies are the reason almost all the RE companies are making big “campaign” contributions to legislators.

      Always follow the money.
      All else is trivia.

  7. VERMONT’S GLOBAL WARMING SOLUTIONS ACT, A DISASTER IN THE MAKING
    https://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/vermont-s-global-warming-solutions-act-a-disaster-in-the-making

    Most legislators have not a clue regarding the reductions of CO2 and the turnkey capital cost to achieve them.
    Here are some background numbers regarding GWSA.
    This comment includes observations regarding the Energy Action Network CO2-reduction plan for the 2020 – 2025 period
    https://www.eanvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/EAN-report-2020-final.pdf

    In 2006, the Legislature passed a law that called for CO2 reductions:

    25% below 1990 by 2012, i.e., 8.59 – 2.15 = 6.44 million metric ton.
    50% below 1990 by 2028, i.e., 8.59 – 4.30 = 4.29 MMt
    75% below 1990 by 2050, i.e., 8.59 – 6.44 = 2.15 MMt

    Vermont Gross Emissions

    Actual emissions:

    9.00 MMt in 2012
    9.99 MMt in 2015
    9.76 MMt in 2016

    See fig. 1 of URL
    https://dec.vermont.gov/sites/dec/files/aqc/climate-change/documents/_Vermont_Greenhouse_Gas_Emissions_Inventory_Update_1990-2015.pdf

    Vermont Gross Emissions and Forecast

    Estimated emissions:

    9.41 MMt in 2017
    9.02 MMt in 2018

    See page 18 of URL
    https://dec.vermont.gov/sites/dec/files/aqc/climate-change/documents/_Vermont_Greenhouse_Gas_Emissions_Inventory_and_Forecast_1990-2016.pdf

    Artificial Emissions of Vermont Electrical Sector: The CO2 reduction from 9.99 MMt in 2015 to 9.02 MMt in 2018 was artificially “achieved” by basing the CO2 of the Vermont electrical sector on power purchase agreements, PPAs, utilities have with owners of in-state and out-of-state electricity generating plants.

    All utilities, which draw almost all of their electricity supply from the NE grid, must have such agreements, per ISO-NE requirements, as otherwise they would be stealing from the grid.

    EAN/VT-DPS concocted an artificial value of 34 g CO2/kWh, based on PPAs, about 8 times less than NE grid CO2/kWh, to “evaluate” the CO2 reduction of heat pumps and electric vehicles to make them look extra good!!! Sheer chicanery. See Appendix and URLs

    http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/vermont-co2-reduction-of-ashps-is-based-on-misrepresentations
    http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/vermont-co2-reduction-of-evs-is-based-on-a-misrepresentation

    US Gross Emissions

    About 6,700 MMt in 2018
    Vermont emissions are just a tiny fraction of US emissions.
    https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-greenhouse-gas-emissions

    Enforcement of CEP, courtesy of GWSA mandates

    2028; SHALL be 4.30 MMt, or 50% below 1990
    The 2028 goal is physically and financially impossible!!

    2050; SHALL be 2.15 MMt, or 75% below 1990
    2050; SHALL be 1.72 MMt, or 80% below 1990
    2050; SHALL be 0.43 MMt, or 95% below 1990

    See fig 16 of URL
    https://dec.vermont.gov/sites/dec/files/aqc/climate-change/documents/_Vermont_Greenhouse_Gas_Emissions_Inventory_Update_1990-2015.pdf

    ENERGY ACTION NETWORK CO2 REDUCTION PLAN FOR 2020 – 2025

    EAN made estimates of what it would take to reduce CO2 from 9.76 million metric ton, at end 2016, to 7.46 MMt, at end 2025, or 2.281 MMt.

    That would be 8.59, in 1990 – 7.46, in 2025 = 1.13 MMt below 1990, or 13% below 1990
    Vermont law MANDATES 50% below 1990, by 2028, just three years later; a physical and financial impossibility.
    https://www.eanvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/EAN-report-2020-final.pdf

    The turnkey capital cost would be EXCEEDING $15.046 billion during 2020 – 2025, about $3.010 billion/y.

    Amortizing the cost of the mostly short-life assets (EVs, ASHPs, battery storage systems, etc.), at 3.5% over 15 years, would require payments of $1.291 billion/y, more than offsetting the EAN ESTIMATED energy cost savings of 800/5 = $160 million/y, during the 2020 – 2025 period.

    Vermont’s existing RE spending is about $210 million/y, including Efficiency Vermont.
    The EAN spending during 2020 – 2025 would be about 15 times greater.

    HOWEVER, THERE IS A SMALL HITCH

    EAN, with help from VT-DPS:

    – Used fudged emission data for electricity, grams CO2/kWh
    – Did not consider upstream CO2 for heat pumps and electric vehicle analysis
    – Did not consider embodied CO2 of electric vehicles
    – Did not determine the amortizing cost of the short life assets.

    I made a detailed turnkey capital cost estimate of the EAN 2020 – 2025 plan, because EAN did not, but should have.

    That means:

    EAN CO2 reductions were GROSSLY OVERSTATED
    EAN Cost savings were GROSSLY OVERSTATED

    All that was done to bamboozle the legislators to get them to vote for GWSA, and to bamboozle/befuddle the rest of Vermonters, who will be suffering GWSA-induced headaches for decades to come, and see no discernable effect on the Vermont climate….

    All is explained in the following URLs

    http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/vermont-co2-reduction-of-ashps-is-based-on-misrepresentations
    http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/vermont-co2-reduction-of-evs-is-based-on-a-misrepresentation
    http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/response-to-energy-action-report-2019-to-reduce-co2-in-vermont

    NOTE: I sent these URLs to almost all legislators, and to VT-DPS, VT-PUC, and VT Media, who likely did not read them.
    I almost never receive a comment!!
    It is like talking to a wall.

    THE GLOBAL WARMING SOLUTIONS ACT A DECADES-LONG BURDEN ON VERMONT
    https://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/the-global-warming-solutions-act-a-decades-long-burden-on-vermont

    The Vermont House passed the bill of the Global Warming “Solutions” Act, GWSA, and sent it to the Vermont Senate, which also passed it. The bill, if enacted, would convert the aspirational goals of the Vermont Comprehensive Energy Plan, CEP, into mandated goals, with penalties. GWSA has been called “must pass this Session”.

  8. From my column on GWSA of 9/8: “Meanwhile, China announced last November that it will construct 148 thousand megawatts of new coal-fired power plants. One 1600 MW Chinese coal plant running 80% of the time will emit more fossil-fuel carbon dioxide in a year than the entire state of Vermont. The Chinese program is building the equivalent of 92 such plants.
    Labelling GWSA a Fool’s Errand is an understatement.

  9. The enacting of the GWSA is equivalent of the state writing and signing a blank check, and giving it to the RE coalitions. Who is foolish enough to sign a blank check and give it to someone they don’t know?

  10. Social activism instead of good governance is never a good move but somehow the Vermont legislative dingbats have convinced the people of Vermont to chop off their own hand!!!

    If you are not working to rid the State of Vermont from this menace, you are part of the problem!

    Vote out the delusional activists and replace them with people who really care about real Vermonters and the original balanced real Vermont citizens!

  11. How many times do I have to say it??? Vermont’s warming footprint is so small that it’s impossible to measure. Time to MOVE ON!!! They’re far more pressing issue. How about high taxes? Then there is the business unfriendly climate in the state. That’s only for starters.

  12. Global warming is nothing but a money grabbing political game. If you people were even serious you would stop all the elitist air travel. And that is just the beginning. I’m pretty sure you probably won’t publish this.

    • Bring it – TNR does not censor and *I think* the only online comment platform here in VT that doesn’t except for certain types of bad language – its rare.

  13. This is about Priorities.
    Food and Jobs comes before solar panels and wind mills.
    Right at the moment, it’s more important to focus all energy on picking up the pieces of the peoples shattered lives..
    As we all know in life, you tend to your basic needs first before you move onto the extras.
    You don’t take a vacation when the wood ain’t even in yet.
    The states should be run the same way.
    It’s pretty stunning to need to say this.

    • I just spent a day working in Lowell, VT. I was on the mountain looking at the 20 monoliths. Across from them was the natural mountain range in all it’s majesty made by nature. I must admit that as a Vermonter born and raised, I felt disgusted with what I saw. I was more disgusted to realize that powerful financial and ideological forces had come to my state to lie, cheat and steel for their wealth and to destroy the natural beauty of our state. One day in the future those monoliths will stop turning, will rust and be a worse blight to look at. No one will tear them down because there will be no huge profits to make. Vermonters should fire and remove those people responsible and profiting from these travesties being forced on us. Go take a drive to Lowell, turn right on Irish Hill Road and drive to the top. Look to the right at the at man’s work then look to the left at nature’s work. You should understand that only one choice between the two mountain ranges is Vermont’s future. Vote as though your future depends on your decision, because it does!

      • Dano,
        Think of the people who live nearby, having to SEE, and FEEL (health-damaging infrasound travels long distances), the huge, 500-ft-tall monsters.

        There is almost no wind to turn the blades ALL SUMMER.

        The WEATHER-DEPENDENT, variable/intermittent electricity would be completely useless, without the TRADITIONAL generators making counteracting adjustments to THEIR outputs, 24/7/365.

        NOTE: Calizuela RE fanatics were stupid to shutdown their gas plants, which would have been useful during the various heat waves.

        That counteracting does not come for free
        That cost is not charged to wind turbine owners.
        Also the cost of expanding/augmenting the grid is not charged to wind turbine owners.

        Plus those wind turbine owners get huge subsidies, tax write-offs, etc., which are equivalent to about 45 to 50 percent of the levelized production cost, c/kWh

        As a result they can sell their ridgeline electricity at about 9 to 10 c/kWh, but would have to get about 17 c/kWh, without all those bennies to make wind LOOK less expensive, whereas in reality it is not.

        And all that comes out of the pockets of ordinary Vermonters, who get screwed over, time and time again, because they are told, over and over, they are “fighting global warming”, while 1) the wind turbine owners cool THEIR heels in various US pleasure places, and 2) a DANISH wind turbine company is collecting profits.
        http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/cost-shifting-is-the-name-of-the-game-regarding-wind-and-solar

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