By Don Keelan
With the Vermont Legislature’s override of Gov. Phil Scott’s veto of H.688, the Global Warming Solutions Act, Vermonters will now have two governments.
H.688 creates one of the most powerful councils ever conceived in Vermont history. The goals of the Vermont Climate Council (made up of 23 members appointed by the governor, the House, and the Senate, with the Secretary of Administration serving as chair) is to have in place, on specific dates, rules that will enable Vermont to be free of the impacts from fossil fuels.
One aspect of the legislation, rarely if ever seen before, strips the state of its sovereign immunity. Meaning, if the state fails to act on the rules established by the VCC, citizens may bring lawsuits to enforce the state to comply.
To comprehend the legislation personally, I took stock of how much fossil fuel my wife and I annually consume. For transportation, our two SUVs draw down about 660 gallons of gasoline. For warming our home, we consume approximately 1,400 gallons of oil for a new heating system.
We also use about 150 or so gallons of propane to operate the kitchen stove and a small stove in my den as well as our generator when necessary. It is immaterial what our barbecue grill uses — say a few gallons.
We consume a fair amount of gasoline: 260 or so gallons operate our two ATVs, lawnmower, hedge trimmer, weed-whacker (two), chain saw, and, of course, two leaf-blowers. We sold our two snowmobiles some time ago.
It is not a waste of time to have prepared this analysis of fuel consumption. It will eventually be required to provide such information to a future subcommittee of the VCC, the Fossil Fuel Consumption Committee.
The subcommittee will be charged with finding out exactly how much fossil fuel every Vermonter over the age of 16 consumes in the base year; in this case, it is 2020. This accounting will be accomplished by filing with the subcommittee a signed, sworn application.
In turn, the committee’s staff will provide the consumer with a plastic-coated card, known as a Fossil Fuel Consumption Card (FFCC), about the size of a credit card. This card will enable the cardholder to buy their previously approved quantity of fossil fuel for the year. No gas station, fuel delivery firm, or any fossil fuel outlet will be allowed to dispense fuel without imprinting the consumer’s
At the beginning of each year, a new, coated card will be issued, and on it will be the quantity of fuel authorized for the upcoming year — which will be about 10% less than the previous year. The more aggressive members of the VCC may look to go as high as a 15% reduction each year. The obvious goal is to have Vermonters discard all fossil fuel devices or equipment by the year 2030. I can’t imagine what boat owners will have to do.
Visitors to Vermont will have had to apply in advance for their temporary FFCC, so they may be able to obtain fuel for their second home and vehicles.
Another oversight of the VCC will be to monitor the electric consumption in Vermont residences, a critical feature of the Council’s efforts because it depends on electric distribution as the main substitute for fossil fuel. And in doing so, there may be insufficient production/distribution to satisfy the expected demand.
Regional stations, tied into homes, will monitor consumption. If a home uses an inordinate amount of electricity, the home occupant will be immediately notified to cut-back. If utilization does not decrease, the regional station can limit the amount of electricity or, in egregious cases, cut it off entirely.
How this will impact commercial and nonprofit establishments is being sorted out. The best we can hope for is that Governor Scott will not fund the three VCC positions nor appoint his seven council members.
I hope that after the VCC has swallowed up my fossil fuel assets, I can keep my leaf-blower — I just don’t like raking leaves anymore.
Don Keelan writes a bi-weekly column and lives in Arlington, Vermont.