Global Warming Solutions Act passes out of Energy Committee

By Rob Roper

The Global Warming Solutions Act bill passed out of the House Energy and Technology Committee on a 7-2 vote and moved to the House Appropriations Committee.

Here’s how the bill is shaping up as it moves through the system. In some respects, the bill has been watered down significantly, but it still retains many undesirable and impractical provisions.

The greenhouse gas emission goals that would be put into statute as mandates for the state to achieve would be by:

2025 – reduce by 26% relative to 2005 (based on the Paris Climate Agreement)

2030 – 40% reduction relative to 1990 (based on the Comprehensive Energy Plan)

2050 – 80% below 1990 (based on the Comprehensive Energy Plan)

Rob Roper is the president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

The GWSA would establish a 22-member board that would establish the strategy by which the state will meet these mandates and make recommendations to the Agency of Natural Resources (ANR), which would be responsible for making and implementing the rules by which the state will reach these mandates. However, if the board fails to agree on a plan or doesn’t come up with one at all, ANR is still responsible for meeting the mandates. This last dynamic seems pretty odd. How is ANR supposed to meet the mandates without a plan to do so?

New taxes? The Legislature would have to be involved if the board or ANR recommends new taxes to meet the mandates. Any new taxes, such as a carbon tax, would have to pass through the normal legislative process. (So, good luck with that!) Additionally, if ANR or any other agency requires expanded rule-making authority to meet the mandates, the Legislature would have to officially grant that authority. There was some disagreement between the committee and legislative counsel about how broad the authority ANR currently has to achieve these mandates. The committee asserted that ANR already had broad authority to implement rules; legislative counsel believed the current scope of authority was much more limited.

Cause of action: The right of citizens to sue if the mandates are not met, and the ramifications of such actions, is arguably the most controversial part of this bill. A big change from last year’s GWSA proposal and this one is that lawsuits can now only be directed at the state. Unlike the first proposal, a citizen (or more likely a special interest group such as VPIRG or CLF) could not sue a fuel dealer or any other private business under this law. This version of the bill also prohibits the court from awarding the plaintiff any damages, financial or punitive, if they prevail. However, the bill still does provide the possibility for the winner of any lawsuit to recover legal costs from the losing party. No inquiry was made as to how much this could potentially cost the taxpayers. (Lawyers ain’t cheap!)

Another crucial point: judges would be prohibited from proscribing policy as the result of a lawsuit. If a plaintiff brings a case and wins, all the judge would be able to do is affirm that the state has not met its mandate and issue a stern statement to “work harder.” This is a good provision that ensures elected legislators remain responsible for making policy, not judges. (Also good!)

However, one has to wonder from the advocates’ perspective, if through this new legal process there will be no punishment for failing to meet the mandates leading up tp the lawsuit and no means to enforce the mandates following the lawsuit, what’s the point of this bill at all? It’s essentially where we are now, except for the fact that the taxpayers would be on the hook for paying the salaries of VPIRG’s, CLF’s, etc. legal teams. (Is this the real point of the GWSA? A way for politicians to funnel taxpayer dollars to preferred special interest groups?)

Costs: The appropriations request over the next two years, the planning phase, is just under $1 million. The money would go to hire three new full time employees at ANR — staff director, data analyst, legal role for $336,000 per year, $50,000 for per diem expenses per year, and $200,000 one time money for outreach and consultants. Because that’s what Vermont needs is more taxpayer funded bureaucrats making over $100K per year and a slush fund to feather the nests of special interest “consultants.” But, the real question is what it would cost and what the rules might be for achieving these proposed mandates. On that score we hear only crickets.

Conclusions: While at this point the GWSA could aptly be re-named the Greatly Watered Senseless Act, it is still a highly flawed concept. Legislators are being asked to put the state in the position of having to meet specific greenhouse reduction goals, based on an unknown set of rules to be determined by ANR, without any idea of what those rules might be or how much implementing them will cost, or what their impact might be on the broader economy — and putting the state and taxpayers in some legal jeopardy if the goals are not met. Under any circumstances, this is an insanely irresponsible way to govern.

At its core, the GWSA is stupid idea and should be swiftly scrapped. But, if there are political considerations that need to be taken into account, perhaps a prudent measure would be to replace the existing bill with a study examining what the rules and the costs of meeting these GHG goals would look like first, before the Legislature commits to make meeting them mandatory. Vermonters deserve this level of transparency from their elected officials regarding a policy that its proponents admit will turn our economy and way of life on its head.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute. Reprinted with permission from the Ethan Allen Institute Blog.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Tony Webster

11 thoughts on “Global Warming Solutions Act passes out of Energy Committee

  1. The ambitious “Global Warming Solutions Act” bill passed out of the Vermont House Energy and Technology Committee on a 7-2 vote and moved to the Vermont House Appropriations Committee.

    Here’s how the bill is shaping up as it moves through the system. In some respects, the bill has been watered down significantly, but it still retains many undesirable and impractical provisions.

    The greenhouse gas emission goals that would be put into statute as MANDATES for the state to achieve would be by:

    Stage 1: 2025 – 26% reduction relative to 2005 (based on the Paris Climate Agreement), i.e., from 10.214 million metric ton in 2005 to 7.758 million Mt in 2025.

    Notes Regarding Stage 1:

    – This CO2 reduction by 2025 is not just about the cost of adding scores of employees to various state and local governments for managing new/expanded government programs.
    – This CO2 reduction would be extremely disruptive to ongoing economic activities, i.e., impose significant additional costs on the already near-zero, real-growth, private sector, exactly the opposite of what has been needed for about 2 decades.
    – This CO2 reduction would require adding several hundred million dollars each year, to state and local government budgets, to implement the various new energy programs, distribute subsidies and mandate adjustments in lifestyles.
    – CO2 emissions have been increasing during recent years, due to existing government programs costing money, but not being effective at decreasing CO2, i.e., these programs, in toto, have proven to be dysfunctional.
    – Any new government programs, started in haste, would need to immediately reverse the increasing trend, plus bend the curve down to achieve a lower CO2 level; 26% less CO2 than the 10.24 million Mt in 2005 would be 7.78 million Mt in 2025.
    – The required very rapid increase in program functionality would happen with essentially the same career-bureaucrats and career-legislators?
    – CO2 was 10.24 million Mt in 2005, 10.19 million Mt in 2015, and likely would be about the same in 2020, i.e., the “26% reduction in 5 years” is nothing more than wishful dreaming by career-bureaucrats and career-legislators, who want to have a “second go at it”.
    See URL and Appendix.

    Stage 2: 2030 – 40% reduction relative to 1990 (based on the Comprehensive Energy Plan), i.e., from 8.588 million metric ton in 1990 to 5.153 million Mt in 2030.

    Stage 3: 2050 – 80% reduction relative to 1990 (based on the Comprehensive Energy Plan), i.e., from 8.588 million Mt in 1990 to 1.718 million Mt in 2050.
    See below three Items regarding GSWA and FORTRESS VERMONT not meeting CEP goals regarding space heating of buildings and electric vehicles.

  2. Rules fro radicals, on steroids. In the play book rules for radicals they talk about convicting people of process crimes. If one is watching the news this has been modus operandi since November of 2016.

    Vermont being the leader of socialist, Alinsky tactics, brings us this bill.

    If you know your enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles
    If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will suffer a defeat. If you knoe neither your enemy, nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.
    Sun Tzu, the Art of War

  3. GWSA? Moving it to House Appreations Committee? Wonder how it can move forward without imposing massive tax increases or fees on those least able to afford them? Not a problem, we’ll tax the pants off all of us. They could care less. Time for a massive turn over in Montpelier to elect smart, intelligent, common sense folks to straighten out the mess the incumbents have created.

  4. This is an obsession, fueled by the confiscation of property rights, with the intent of inflicting a socialist ideology, it’s not just about the money to the wizard behind the curtain. You can follow the money if you like, but that may only uncover greed by those taking advantage of an opportunity!

    Observe who is taking your property rights, they will lead you to where the wizard lives!

  5. We’re all fortunate that Vermont is not an island, and a majority of the population live within a short drive of one international and three state borders. None of them require an ID to purchase gas, diesel or propane.

  6. Let’s see now.

    Here are the mandates.

    The bureaucrats say we need this and that much money to implement whatever to satisfy the mandates

    The legislators authorize the money, no questions asked, because “it is mandated” that we save the world.

    The legislators tax the people, who finally will have become fed up, put on their yellow vests and start rioting, a la France.

    The only solution is to vote the nutcases out of office, and ban them from any government office for life.

  7. All this lunacy we must suffer because authoritarian democrats want all our money. The climate has been changing for millions of years, and nothing these tinfoil hat-wearing despots will do is going to change the weather.

  8. Sounds like the results will be a a lot like the Stamp Act that helped trigger the American Revolution.

  9. Rob, what we deserve and what we’re going to get are miles apart. We’re going to get what “They” think we deserve.

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