Director of racial equity says Clean Heat Act ‘doesn’t meet the mark’

By Rob Roper

The very last witness brought into the Senate Natural Resources & Energy Committee, just minutes before a vote on S.5, the Un-Affordable Heat Act, was Xusana Davis, Vermont’s director of Racial Equity. Given how much high-minded rhetoric has been dedicated to “a just transition” away from fossil fuels, the committee’s failure to even consider reaching out to Davis except as an afterthought was revealing.

Over a month ago, Behind the Lines broke a story (eventually — and tepidly — picked up by Vermont Digger) highlighting accusations of “racial tokensim” by the Vermont Climate Council and an unwillingness to respect the concerns of marginalized communities. (See Video.) That should have sent a strong signal Chairman Chris Bray to at least have a robust discussion about equity issues and how S.5 might address them. It didn’t.

Xusana Davis, Vermont director of racial equity

Davis went through the bill point by point, highlighting positive and negative aspects from her perspective. At the end of her testimony, Senator Dick McCormack (D-Windsor) asked, “Are you prepared to sign off on the bill in terms of its equity?”

Davis responded, “I don’t think the bill in its current version quite meets the mark on equity.”

“Simple things can be done to bring it closer, but at the end of the day I think that the implementation is really going to be – we’ll see what the commitment really is.”

She recapped her list of problems with the bill that need to be addressed, including:

  • Rethink the credit system.
  • Rethink the timing and the funding necessary to roll out the program.
  • Incorporating language (translation) access in public outreach efforts.
  • Address the privacy and data concerns for low-income Vermonters.
  • Define more specifically what constitutes low income and what constitutes moderate income.
  • Provide some analysis about who is not just bearing the benefits and burdens not just from a regional or geographic perspective but also from a demographic perspective.
  • Understand and explain how frontloading versus backloading costs impacts households.

Some of these things are simple, as Davis says, but some are definitely not. “Rethink the credit system” means fundamentally change the central concept of the proposed law.

“Address the privacy and data concerns for low-income Vermonters” is also a sticky topic, as much of the “equity” promised in the bill requires that low-income Vermonters be first identified as low-income via private data collected about their income status. The problem is you have private fuel dealers and a private “Default Delivery Agent” collecting private data on private citizens for public purposes. It is a fundamental, and perhaps unresolvable, flaw in the bill.

Providing analysis about the “demographics of who is bearing the benefits and burdens” is precisely what this committee has assiduously avoided throughout this entire process because the answer would certainly reveal that the “Affordable” Heat Act is painfully unaffordable and severely regressive. As Davis pointed out, it may be true that low-income and marginalized communities are hardest hit by a changing climate, but S.5 won’t change that. The hurricanes and floods will still come. The question is, will low-income and marginalized communities also be hardest hit by this supposed solution that doesn’t actually solve anything. The end result is a double-whammy hitting squarely on the heads of the poor.

Also in this categories-of-questions-that-may-not-be-asked is Davis’ request to understand how the costs associated with this program will impact individual households. The answer is like a wrecking ball, but we’re not allowed to explore that eventuality.

Senators Bray and White argued with Davis that there are opportunities to fix these social justice and equity shortcomings later in the legislative and rule making process.

Davis was having none of it, “I appreciate the point about there being more opportunities to perfect, and I just need to express a real concern or perhaps a warning about that. It’s now my third or fourth session in the state and one of the things I often hear from legislators is, oh yeah sorry the equity piece isn’t quite there but we’ll fix it in January. We’ll fix it later. And what that says to me is there is something that motivates us to do this that is more important to us than justice. So the justice will have to wait…. I want to caution against the expectation that it will get resolved at some point.”

Davis is right to be concerned. Equity and social justice are just window dressing for S.5. As Richard Cowart, the architect of the Clean Heat Standard for the Climate Council testified, addressing social justice concerns and reducing greenhouse gas emissions are mutually exclusive propositions. And, as Senator Mark MacDonald put it so succinctly, “”We don’t do things based on helping poor people. We do things to save the world.”

After Davis left the committee room, Senator Bray urged his colleagues to, regardless Davis’ testimony, “advance the bill as is,” insisting it can be fixed it later.

The committee voted the bill out unanimously in favor, 5-0 (Senator McCormack who just days ago said he couldn’t vote for a bill he couldn’t explain to his constituents voted “yes”), and the expectation is for a floor vote the week of February 27-March 3 following a stop in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Rob Roper is a freelance writer who has been involved with Vermont politics and policy for over 20 years. This article reprinted with permission from Behind the Lines: Rob Roper on Vermont Politics,

Image courtesy of Vote for Vermont

14 thoughts on “Director of racial equity says Clean Heat Act ‘doesn’t meet the mark’

  1. If the proponents truly believe that fossil fuel use is killing the planet (as I do to some extent), why should they endorse ANY credit program, regardless of one’s status as “marginalized” or “historically disadvantaged”? Formerly-sequestered carbon going into the atmosphere functions as a greenhouse gas no matter the socioeconomic or racial background of the person who burned it. These idealistic legislators truly believe that if Vermont sets the example, then China and India are sure to follow. We voted for this.

  2. This doesn’t surprise me one bit. The white racists in charge of the legislature talk the talk but can’t walk the walk. While I don’t know the full background of Ms. Xusana Davis, I can imagine where she stands. I will give her credit for questioning the economic consequences of this ridiculous piece of legislation. The Vermont legislatures answer will be to give everyone who ISN’T WHITE, some kind of credit, and sweep the poor white people under the carpet….they probably voted for Trump anyway.

    The liberal legislature has been salivating at the mouth for years to pass legislation like this. This will be the economic straw that breaks the camel’s back. AND IT WILL DO ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO ALTER THE CLIMATE OF THE EARTH. This just goes to show totally idiotic they are.

  3. Xusana Davis’ grift job will be ending. Big corporations are now eliminating equity departments to cut operating costs. Big corporations are eliminating diversity hires as senior staff have the experience and knowledge to keep the corporation afloat. Non-profits are losing bigly as donors and funding is drying up along with credit lines. Acid rain and chemical spills don’t discriminate. All people will be suffering the consequences of towing the line to save our “democracy.” The time of the useful fools and grifters is ending. The “accidents” are not accidents. The real numbers don’t lie. The endgame is near and no amount of talking points will stop it from happening.

    • I’ve done my share of complaining about DEI so I would be thrilled if ‘big corporations are now eliminating equity departments to cut operating costs and are ‘eliminating diversity hires’…” but, I haven’t heard anything that supports that claim.

      Could you provide your source(s) please?

      • In a push to end “divisive concepts” in Virginia education, Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration is ending virtually all equity initiatives launched by the state’s Department of Education (Virginia Mercury 2/25/22)

        Big tech layoffs may further disrupt equity and diversity efforts (Reuters 1/5/23)

        “Corporate roles focused on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) may not hold the job security they used to.A recent study conducted by Revelio Labs shows the companies that laid off workers in 2022 slashed DEI positions at a higher rate than others, indicating those dedicated roles become lower-priority when times get tough”Amazon, Twitter, and Nike have shed between 5 and 16 DEI professionals each, and Twitter’s infamous diversity team layoffs are not far behind,” the company wrote in its analysis. “Bearing in mind the typically small size of DEI teams – the median DEI team size in this set of companies is 3 – these outflows likely amount to the exodus of entire diversity teams. However, Frederickson noted that DEI roles tend become more vulnerable when companies are looking at putting positions on the chopping block, adding, “One of the first things companies cut is HR, and within HR, unfortunately, for many businesses, DE&I is still considered nonessential.” (Fox Business 2/22/23)
        Keyword: NONESSENTIAL….Absolutley correct!

        • February 21, 2023 – Greg Mannarino Twitter:
          Dow closes nearly 700 points lower in broad selloff, as all indexes cap their worst day of 2023… and things could get a lot worse without some kind on intervention. Liquidity in this market is drying up.

          Gregory’s Newsletter: Stock Market CRATERS, MMRI Spikes, Liquidity Drying Up, Big Retail Slammed

          Fed. Overnight Repo Operation Breaks TWO TRILLION Every Day For The Last Month.

  4. bray and white kick the racist facet of the bill down the road being good little commie dems. ” there are opportunities to fix these social justice and equity shortcomings later in the legislative and rule making process”
    We just want it out of hair now… and of course ol susanna don’t cry for me or the poor whites, only the bipoc’s matter. .

  5. Vermont is nearly entirely a white state and this is what we are looking at today as a toxic cloud of poison acid rain floats over our heads?

    THIS- when most Vermonters are thinking about food, shelter, heat and putting gas in the car?
    Skin colors are not what is on the mind right now to average Vermonters struggling to actually survive- the drug addiction and suicide rates say that I am not exaggerating at all.

    Lets think about this for a minute.
    What do you think would happen if you took your lilly white butt down to New Orleans- as a stranger from Vermont- and then began telling them how you think they should run their city and their state.
    How do you think that would go for you?
    I dare say you’d be shipped back to Vermont promptly in a box.

    But yet look at what we have here..

  6. Xusana Davis, Vermont’s director of racial equity states ” Clean Heat Act ‘doesn’t meet the mark”
    and should know about ” missing the mark ” with her boondoggle program ” Racial Equity ” just
    another liberal program for a non-issue, where do we find these agenda crusaders !!

    Wake up people

  7. The “justice” Ms. X-U-Sana demands is not justice, it borders on evil. Her idea of DEI does nothing but destroy, segregate, split apart, and ruin. Here’s a quote that accurately portrays what DEI & Ms. X-U-Sana, is really doing…She is ignorant, with her false indoctrinated rage of “racism everywhere”, that she is blind to any truth. Dr. Martin Luther King would be disgusted…Judge a person by their character, not the color of their skin. Ms. X-U-Sana does exactly opposite of what Martin Luther King begged & died for – She got a six figure job soley for the color of her skin and gender, not for any competence, merit or character.

    ““Diversity is no longer a term to describe the breadth of our differences but a demand to flatter and grant privileges to purportedly oppressed identity groups. Equity assigns desirable positions based on race, sex and sexual orientation rather than character, competence and merit. Inclusion now means creating a social environment where identity groups are celebrated while those who disagree are maligned. ….“Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion”—the compound form of these modern concepts—is especially toxic. It divides us by social identity groups, ranks those groups on privilege and power, and excludes those who fail to honor the new orthodoxy.”

    • Perfectly stated and in all this chaos, where is the governor, where are the republicans? After decades in the Vermont legislature the governor hasn’t accumulated any nonpartisan support from the democrats that he has rubbed shoulders with all this time? There are lots of poor democrats that will suffer from this toxic mess of a progressive bill. The actual citizens of Vermont have no representation in the legislature. Only those trust fund invaders and those who made money elsewhere then moved here can afford this insult to sanity.

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