Heating-oil customer surprised by ‘red tagging’ law in Vermont, says it’s a state-run scam

UNDERHILL, Vt. — When retired homeowners Doug and Pat Richmond were told by their home fuel-oil dealer that their basement fuel tank was being “red tagged,” they went nearly apoplectic.

The term means the equipment didn’t pass the state’s environmental inspection requirements, and that all fuel deliveries to the home were being suspended until the problems were fixed. The estimated cost of repair: $2,500.

“No oil leaks were found, and none were even suspected,” Doug Richmond told True North. “My basement oil tank dates back to 1973 — sure, it shows a little rust, but it’s in a heated, protected space and it looked to me to have a long lifespan ahead of it. Now I am being told it has to be replaced.”

Wikimedia Commons/Versageek

This oil furnace, similar to the one used by the Richmonds, was made in the 1970s. Many such models are still in use today in Vermont.

Patterson Fuels told the Richmonds numerous other things about their oil-burning system: The vent pipe has to be equal in size to the fill pipe, and the placement of the line in the foundation needed replacing, too.

With two-thirds of the tank still filled with heating oil, the Richmonds say they can keep warm until they get a new tank, now required by law. But they wonder about other Vermonters on a fixed income: What will they do and how will they pay for it?

“As Vermonters, we have other tedious ways to heat our home, and in our case we won’t have to take cold showers, or wash dishes in ice water. But that’s not the principle of it. We are being told, yet again, what to do by state government,” Doug Richmond said.

He said he called Gov. Phil Scott’s office in Montpelier to find out who was responsible for the red-tagging order.

“There’s a megaton of money all over the state changing hands over this — Gov. Scott’s office says former Gov. Shumlin signed off on this,” Richmond said. “[So they] spring on us now in 2019? If it became law in 2017, why am I finding about this now? It must have been one of those 500 bills the newbie progressive, global-warming legislators threw in the hopper.”

Richmond said he quickly got up to speed on the law, and now he wants to warn others so they don’t get caught with a “red tagging” surprise.

“Of course, it’s not illegal if the government wants, demands us, to replace our older fuel tanks,” he said. “I don’t know who sold this to the legislature and bureaucracy in the first place.”

He added that he doesn’t blame Patterson Fuels for doing their job, and he’s thankful the fuel dealer waited until spring to do the inspection and announce the cut-off of additional fuel.

“Many Vermonters get domestic hot water from an oil furnace. I wonder what happens to small businesses when they are red tagged?” he said.

But the Richmonds are clearly upset about the mandated expense inflicted on them.

To add salt to the wound of shelling out money for a new oil tank, Doug Richmond reported getting a surprise in the mail, too, that seemed not to be coincidental.

“On March 22, I received a fat envelope in the mail from the Vermont Forest Parks and Recreation people offering free money to help me convert to mechanized wood heat, pellets,” he said. “Seven sheets of sales literature, hand-addressed to me, with a personalized letter and with 75 cents postage (paid). The letter read: ‘I hope this finds you well … I noticed… that your oil tank had been red tagged so you are likely thinking about your next step.’

“Damn it, I knew this red tag stuff was a scam,” Richmond said of the letter.

The law should not come as a total surprise to Vermont residents. Red tagging was years in the making in Montpelier.

According to the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association website, “If a tank is unsafe to fill, it may be red tagged and placed out of service. Red tagging a tank will indicate that the tank is not in compliance and poses a risk of leaking or spilling. A fuel dealer is prohibited from filling a red-tagged tank. The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources maintains an online database of red-tagged tanks.”

Michael Bielawski/TNR

VFDA’s Matt Cota (left): “The law makes sense and has proven to reduce the occurrence of spills in the past two years. If a tank isn’t safe to fill, it should not be filled. Period.”

According to Matt Cota, executive director of the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association, red tagging has been the law since 2017 and serves a useful purpose.

“The law makes sense and has proven to reduce the occurrence of spills in the past two years,” Cota told TNR. “If a tank isn’t safe to fill, it should not be filled. Period.”

Cota stressed that, to date, very few fuel-oil tanks have been ”red tagged’ in Vermont.

“Less than one-half of one percent of fuel tanks are being red tagged of the 125,000 heating oil tanks in Vermont. The rest are safe to fill,” he said.

According to Cota, Vermont fuel dealers are required to inspect a fuel-oil tank prior to the initial delivery of fuel to a new customer.

“Any problems identified during the inspection which indicate a significant risk of a spill must be corrected before the fuel is delivered,” he noted. “The owner of the oil tank is required to have the tank inspected at least once every three years by a certified tank inspector.”

Cota added that if a red-tagged consumer feels his or her fuel tank is safe to fill, and passes the five minimum safety criteria listed by the state, the individual can get a second opinion and have the red tag removed. Otherwise, heating oil dealers are prohibited by law from filling a tank.

According to law, a tank must be on a stable foundation and have a working vent alarm, such as a whistle. Both the fill pipe and the vent pipe must have a minimum diameter of 1-1.25 inches. Moreover, the fuel line between the tank and the burner, if below grade or buried in concrete, must be either plastic-coated copper or sleeved. The final requirement is that the oil tank must be free of leaks, pitting, rust, dents, cracks and corrosion.

By July 1, 2030, all tanks in Vermont — even those installed before 2017— are required to be on a solid concrete pad.

“Skid tanks cannot be located within 25 feet of a drinking water supply or within 25 feet of surface water,” Cota said. “If you don’t qualify for financial assistance from the state of Vermont, you may be eligible for a $250 rebate when replacing a non-compliant tank.”

To Doug Richmond, the code is just another example of the Vermont nanny state.

“Laws come from the gnomes in ‘Montpeculiar’ — there’s the one that if your car has a red (check engine) light on the dash, you may not drive it, regardless if it’s roadworthy and safe,” he said.

“Just junk your older car because you haven’t enough money just to get a red light turned off on the dash. If you haven’t enough money for that repair, just buy a newer car with the red light off. Well, there was instant outrage from Vermonters, and then the DMV backed off.”

Lou Varricchio is a freelance reporter for True North Reports. Send him news tips at lvinvt@gmx.com.

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Versageek and Michael Bielawski/TNR

30 thoughts on “Heating-oil customer surprised by ‘red tagging’ law in Vermont, says it’s a state-run scam

  1. Keep voting dumbocRat and you’ll keep getting screwed. You fools deserve what you get. I hope they tax you right out into the street. They’ll tax you for that too. A curb tax. Keep voting for socialist sanders you dummies.

  2. And they are at it other ways. https://www.wcax.com/content/news/House-to-vote-on-heating-oil-tax-hike-507672051.html

    Another tax increase. Make the rich pay for it. It will provide money for low income Vermonters to weatherize their home.

    What about the middle class? Home values are criminally out of sync to middle class incomes. A $200k home should not have a $6500 tax bill at the residential rate. Middle class families that rent are in even worse of a position with 99% of the rental units not including utilities or heat.

    $0.05/gallon and 3-4 250 gallon fills per year adds up to more than $15/year in taxes.

    The people that could use weatherization are middle class families with modest homes. They cannot afford massive projects on their home to reduce their heating, cooling, or electrical expenses. And yet their income is too high to qualify for any assistance.

    They used to be able to save up for home improvement by driving older cars. But now that’s not possible anymore either.

    Montpelier you need to leave the land of Oz and direct your efforts to the middle class. If the middle class is successful and able to live and thrive, I assure you that our taxes will be more than enough to support those less fortunate or able or willing to provide for themselves. But if you stifle our prosperity with excessive taxes we will become less fortunate and be forced to ask for handouts.

    • “What about the middle class? Home values are criminally out of sync to middle class incomes. A $200k home should not have a $6500 tax bill at the residential rate. ”

      The #1 reason I left Vermont right there. I save $5k a year ALONE in property taxes when I left. I get better schools and better services. Overall a better value. There is a reason VT is ranked at the bottom of just about every affordable metric out there.

  3. Every body HATES THE FUEL OIL MAN TODAY!! when you have 50 yr old tanks, 40 yr old furnces and boilers, just trouble waiting to happen. And fuel man gets blame no matter WHAT!!

    • I don’t know that anyone hates the oil man, for the most part it’s management or big government that pushes this stuff onto the workers. They suffer enough in zero degs and it’s clear and still (clear up to your butt and still snowing). The home owner is hit both ways, management and Government, but understandably, the feelings trickle down to a person they get to see and hopefully the “anger” gets back to management, then management (customer concerns) back to government.

      40 and 50 year old equipment (1969) is very rare if at all. There aren’t many MA & PA Kettles around anymore in their 1700’s house.

  4. I appreciate this support thank you all, The fuel oil dealer did offer a contract, but a lot of add-on’ $$$
    $300 to take the old tank away. Couldn’t put ‘old fuel into the new tank – unless we bought the more expensive tank, etc. Burner service and furnace installer made a far more agreeable offer – that could be just business, or it could be “opportunity?”
    One man in our lunch group of 10 also got tagged, and threw fuel oil out – installed LP gas. That is 2 of us out of 10!

    This makes it all sound too cozy;

    “Cota stressed that, to date, very few fuel-oil tanks have been ”red tagged’ in Vermont.

    “Less than one-half of one percent of fuel tanks are being red tagged of the 125,000 heating oil tanks in Vermont. The rest are safe to fill,” he said.

    I wish we could treat each other with respect, but sometimes things just get in the way, especially Guvmint,

  5. Rick,

    I started buying my own 125 gallon propane tanks – nobody can take them, the price of propane is cheaper than ‘renting’ one of theirs and anybody can fill it up.

    • Frank, 125g or 100lb? I used to fill both up at my home when I lived in VT. I didn’t use enough and the propane pricing scheme is horrible. The less you use the MORE you pay per gallon. So I filled my own tanks up. I had a tractor so I could lift the 100g (420# empty) tanks. I got tired of it and switched to two 100lb tanks. I would fill them up at the local LP station. Cost MUCH less then having it delivered.

      That’s the nice thing about diesel is it’s has a much higher energy content per gallon and just about every gas station has diesel in a pinch. If your’re lucky they have off road.

      The LEFT will take care of that soon enough though. Especially with the doubling of the heating fuel tax that being pushed though to redistribute to other folks as the state sees fit.

      Enjoy that.

      • LP tank rentals is a phenomenon pretty much exclusive to the NE. It’s unheard or pretty much everywhere else. Call an LP place in PA and they will think your on drugs. I kid you not, I did that by mistake, A LP dealer had the same name as a dealer I was working with in Maine at a camp I own. Tanks are also much cheaper down there. The dealers inflate the prices up here to keep folks on the rental train and by doing that make it much harder to switch providers and shop around.

  6. We will have to educate all of the uninformed voters about what is happening to us.
    Education is the best answer against these progressive/liberal fools.

  7. I received a letter from my oil company regarding the new law right after it was passed and was told that they would be contacting their customers to schedule inspections at times that were convenient for us… it was about a year later that I had the inspection and was glad that I did… my tank was in my basement on a concrete floor and had legs.. But, my basement due to living close to a river got water once in a while which discolored parts of the floor.. What I didn’t know was that part of the discoloration on that side of the basement was from a small leak in my tank… When it was removed I saw where it was getting much worse and could have caused a bigger issue…
    There are programs through the state that can help pay for the replacement and removal of the tanks.. And there are rebates to help offset the costs also…
    I myself ended up switching to VT Gas.. (which was recommended to me by one of the gentleman that inspected my tank from the oil company) VT Gas had just run lines by my house the summer before so I was lucky there..
    The installation was free… And I saved quite a bit a year on my heating bill.
    The salesman that I spoke with was not pushy and explained everything in detail…

  8. In Texas they did it with air conditioning. After a certain date if your A/C breaks down you “have” to replace it with a new, more efficient (not so says my husband and two sons who work in A/C) at a huge cost. While I believe in the trades, the trade unions have a lot to do with why regular folks can’t make ends meet. In Vermont if you can’t afford to replace your heating unit, you risk freezing in the winter. Here in Texas if you can’t replace your A/C you risk heat stroke in your own home in the summer. Don’t count on government on any level to help out, they couldn’t care less as long as they get their pound of flesh and union support for their campaigns.

  9. Time to start filling up your tank with with off road diesel fuel . Just wait till the doubling of the heating fuel tax (err carbon tax) goes into effect. When I lived in VT I had a friend in an old farm house that did just that, weekly he would put 25 gallons or so in.

    It’s what you have to do to live in a state controlled by the LEFT

  10. This is absolutely disgusting. Fascist government; corporations and politicians in bed, plotting against US!
    If the tank had started leaking in the basement, it would be a pinhole, it would smell, and there would be an oil spot on the floor. Easy to know if it was happening, and no homeowner would let that go unfixed.
    They make it sound like a giant hole is about to open, gushing 200 gallons on the floor.
    As for sharing this information with the wood pellet dealers, if it isn’t a crime, it should be. Certainly it is a violation of any privacy rights a homeowner should have.
    There ought to be a lawsuit in there somewhere…boycott Mr. Cota’s oil co!
    In the meantime, buy some off-road diesel. It is the same product as heating oil.

  11. I’m very familiar with this unknown law. It took $3,000 to satisfy the state’s questionable requirement. I’ve always been a firm believer in the sage saying, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!!!! “? The folks in Montpelier know so much more than any one on planet earth.

  12. This red tagging of heating systems in the home is bogus. If no leaks leave it alone. It was mentioned: “the fuel line between the tank and the burner, if below grade or buried in concrete, must be either plastic-coated copper or sleeved”. How does anyone know where that line runs, can be in the ground under a cement floor which is usually only 3-4 inches thick I’ve installed such lines.

    Furthermore, if a home was purchased with the system installed, how does the new owner know where a line runs? If the tank isn’t leaking in the basement, the owner has the intelligence to replaced, don’t need an outside biased person. Socialists make a simple matter difficult and in-your -face situation. The real fix needs to be stupidity.

    All places I’ve seen the fill pipe is outside the home, easily seen for size conformance. Oil dealers don’t need to enter the home with their greasy, oil smelling clothes and footwear. They won’t shovel a bulkhead off to enter the basement which would let cold air enter the house. Good reason to burn wood, but the carbon tax people would love that.

    This is a scam and is similar to vehicle inspections. A garage or a oil dealer can say “it needs to be fixed” and wallah, more work for them. I suspect there’s an Oil Dealer Lobby in Montpelier, payola. Follow the money. Perhaps the legislator homes should be inspected and if they don’t have adequate insulation, move out until it’s corrected to the new standards. Karma.

  13. Contrary to popular belief this law protects the oil dealer ,home owner and the water table by avoiding a spill that will cost some one many thousands of dollars .it doesn’t say to replace tank just repair deficiency.

    • If there’s a rust hole in the tank, most are at the bottom due to condensation or water in the several fill-ups. If there’s one hole, there will be others. Fixing the one hole is a waste of time, Can’t fiberglass the whole tank as a fix. The home owner has to protect themselves, the dealer, oil associations, legislators, et al should let the owner accomplish their duties and not outside people telling them what to do. Neighbors help neighbors often, if the owner can’t. Don’t need government dictation and force people out of their homes because the tank isn’t filled. I don’t repair, I replace and have done so a few times.

      I see a conflict of interest, Matt Cota, of Cota Oil, of VFDA in Montpelier pushing this. If as he said, “Less than one-half of one percent of fuel tanks are being red tagged of the 125,000 heating oil tanks in Vermont. The rest are safe to fill.” Why is this a major concern, other than this is more control from Montpelier.

      It’s like gun control in VT recently passed, one incident and there’s legislation to control all. 1/2 of 1% of 125,000 is 62.5 homes, the state population of about 640,000. I consider it a waste of time for a person to fill a tank and look at the fuel systems.

  14. These comments from Matt Cota of the Vermont fuel Dealers Association regarding safety made me laugh out loud…

    I’m just wondering how Matt can tell how many tanks would have tipped over had homeowners had not been forced to spend a fortune to pour a concrete pad under an oil tank.

    Let’s be honest here this was nothing but a money maker for the members of Vermont fuel dealers.

    I have two questions how concerned Mr Cota is with safety…

    While I was vacationing in Florida I suspected I had a problem with my gas tank based on usage when it was filled… I called AmeriGas and voiced concerns that I had a tank that was leaking and even though I called them a few times to please get out and check it for safety reasons after 2 weeks they never showed up.

    I had a friend come down who smells gas so she turned off the gas tanks what you are supposed to do when you suspect there is a leak.

    I called the manager at AmeriGas and told him the auction that I took for safety reasons and he went completely ballistic.

    Manager threatened to remove my gas tank and I pleaded with him not to do that because I needed the fuel to heat my house as well as the other appliances that used

    When I got home the gas thank was gone so I checked the cameras on my house to see what had happened.

    AmeriGas took a 300 gallon gas tank at 80% full dragged it my yard put it on a truck and shipped it down the highway..

    All of these violations of the gas laws in the state of Vermont..

    The manager also lied about getting permission from the local authority to move the tank with more fuel in it then is allowed by law..

    These are just a few of the violations…

    Of course I was very upset and the first people I thought of that would be very upset as well about the violations was Vermont fuel dealers..

    I spoke to Matt Cota and asked him if I could file a complaint with him and he said it was completely out of his authority yet he refused to direct me to a place to file my complaint… I truly have to laugh at his concerns for safety and for the organization the teachers the CTEP certification program in the state of Vermont as well as handles fingerprinting for the Hazmat portion…

    This is all about the money and protecting your buddies.

    I am hoping that a news company will pick up this video and show it so people can see just how safe we are in the state of Vermont…

    I still have not been paid for the gas that was pumped out of that tank and this happened several years ago..

  15. This is just one more reason for retired people to move out of Vermont.

    The rule is unnecessary. It evolved after Irene, when some homes that were flooded or washed away had spilled heating oil. The reality is this, the storm was just a reason to impose costs that would force people to use heat pumps and electric hot water heaters, instead of oil heat and hot water.

    If given time, these same people will outlaw burning wood.

  16. Wow!! Another Big Brother law in Vermont . What I find strange is the letter the home owner received saying we see you received a Red Tag!! Someone is selling or giving heads up to Pellet company’s and money must be changing hands!! SCAM

  17. Government oversite on what goes on around your personal property and within your own
    domicile ??

    Then they give your ” fuel delivery supplier ” the authority at there discretion to” Red Tag ”
    everything they feel needs to be replaced, These are the same people that will be selling
    you what ” they ” stated you need to replace, along with an hourly install rate, pretty convenient process…. I do say my self !!.

    I guess legislators don’t believe as a homeowner and paying for your house your entire life and
    you noticed a leak that wouldn’t you call someone ?? , You call to get your tank refueled and they notice a little rust on the exterior, so your told need all these upgrades to be in compliance sounds like a scam to me ….. who’s lining who’s pockets !!

  18. But if you ask, or listen to liberals, they will confidently tell you that it is Republicans/Conservatives who want to control your life and everything about it. These people would fit in very well in Communist China!!!! Don’t bother moving to New Hampshire as it will soon fall right in line behind Vermont with the newly elected liberal transplants in state government who have no clue what the term “live free or die” even means.

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