House committee takes testimony on greenhouse gas reduction bill

By Dave Fidlin | The Center Square

A Vermont House panel on Thursday continued taking testimony from experts in the energy sector on legislation pertaining to the state’s short- and long-term climate goals.

The House Committee on Environment and Energy combed through Senate Bill 5, which outlines a series of steps toward meeting Vermont’s climate plan that aims at achieving net zero emissions by 2050 across all energy sectors.

Public domain

The Vermont Statehouse

The legislation touches on such topics within the thermal sector of efficiency, weatherization measures, electrification, and decarbonization.

In the coming years, Vermont residents will be encouraged — through credits — to undertake changes to meet the state’s climate goals, whether it is through wholesale changes in heating and cooling systems or sealing up homes to protect them from exterior elements to cut down on energy consumption.

As the House panel reviews the legislation from their counterparts in the General Assembly, a variety of energy experts across the state are being brought in to weigh in on SB 5.

Neale Lunderville, president and CEO of Vermont Gas Systems, was among the testifiers at Thursday’s committee meeting. Lunderville said VGS is in lockstep with the goals set out in the bill.

“We recognize that natural gas — despite the many benefits that we’ve been able to deliver to our customers — does contribute to climate change. It’s a significant driver,” Lunderville said. “We have a responsibility to address that.”

Lunderville said VGS — which serves about 55,000 customers in the northwest portion of the state — has a history of making innovations within the organization and is continuing that tradition with its own independent climate action plan that follows many of the same benchmarks in the state document.

VGS has been looking to alternative sources of energy for its customers, Lunderville said. Green hydrogen, which is generated from renewable energy or low-carbon power, is one example.

Several representatives from the Vermont Public Utility Commission also spoke to the committee and recommended several changes to the bill.

Kyle Landis-Marinello, general counsel with the PUC, said the agency is not taking a position on SB 5. But if it does move forward, Landis-Marinello and others within the organization are recommending additional language to the bill that would flesh out enforcement actions to achieve the objectives in the plan.

“We do have concerns — and we have from the beginning — with compliance,” Landis-Marinello said. “You want as close to 100% compliance as possible. Anyone who doesn’t comply increases the cost for everyone else.”

David Westman, director of regulatory and state agency affairs with Efficiency Vermont, also provided several proposed modifications to the bill. In particular, Westman said clearer timelines would be beneficial for all parties involved.

“There is a significant amount of regulatory activity — several years of work, actually,” Westman said. “What we would really like to see is a really clear timeline.”

SB 5 and the overall climate plan have a series of ambitious benchmarks that impact disparate areas of the state on various economic levels.

State Rep. Avram Patt, D-Worcester, said he has been fielding concerns from constituents about the bill, broader action plan, and what it means to property owners — particularly people living on fixed incomes.

“The messaging needs to be that no matter what, weatherize first,” Patt said, pointing to the lowest cost option.

“The message or the impression that a lot of people are getting is they need to change their heating system,” Patt said. “If that’s not going to work for them, or they’re not going to do it, we want to make sure the single most effective thing to do is weatherization, regardless.”

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Jared C. Benedict and Public domain

2 thoughts on “House committee takes testimony on greenhouse gas reduction bill

  1. Disheartening to see the head of VGS falling in “lockstep” with the climate change alarmists. When folks do things that defy common sense, follow the money. I suspect there’s something to the state and VGS’s relationship that has him lockstepping to the the bank.

  2. “The messaging needs to be that no matter what, weatherize first,”

    I agree with Representative Pratt, but ahhhh…..,hasn’t this been the message for the last 40+ years ?

    When I bought my first house in 1976, I added 9″ of insulation in my attic. A DUH move. The legislature has been pounding the table on this for decades. They haven’t succeeded here much, so what makes them think they can force us plebians to adopt their radical heating standards.

    Not going to happen bozos.

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