By Don Keelan
For years, Efficiency Vermont has extracted hundreds of millions of dollars from the state’s electric users. It does this by charging a fee per kilowatt-hour to an electric users’ bill.
The organization, through its hundreds of employees, takes on weatherization projects throughout Vermont. They do this for residential, business and nonprofit organizations by offering subsidies, credits and education. Contractors are engaged by the consumer to do the physical weatherization work.
However, notice what’s unusual here: The nonprofit organization collects the funds from Vermonters. The funds bypass the state’s treasury, and therefore, the administration has no say in how the funds are used.
Now comes along state Sen. Anthony Pollina, P/D-Washington, with proposed legislation for another entity to be created to carry out some of the exact functions being done by Efficiency Vermont. The senator has proposed that an entity (committee) consisting of four legislators and eight citizens (two of them youngsters from the climate control movement) be in charge of a new fund that his legislation would create.
The legislation, basically a tax on the wealthiest Vermonters, is expected to raise $30 million over five years. The entity created, not the administration, will determine how the funds are used. Initially, Pollina proposed that the funds be used to weatherize homes for poor people, allow less fortunate Vermonters to have the funds to acquire electric vehicles, and create new public transportation networks.
What I found telling in Sen. Pollina’s suggestion, aside from the creation of another agency outside of government spending our funds, was who are the wealthiest 15,000 Vermonters. According to the senator, anyone earning more than $200,000 in annual income falls within that category.
What Efficiency Vermont takes from us, and what Pollina wishes to extract, pales from what is known as the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI). If you have not heard about TCI, here is a description by John McClaughry, in his column from Jan. 1:
TCI is a multistate regional agreement to drive up the price of motor fuel (gasoline and on road diesel). It proposes to start at five, nine or seventeen cents per gallon, and escalate upward from that, with no declared maximum.
“Multistate” means the 12 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, along with the District of Columbia — with one exception: New Hampshire’s Gov. Chris Sununu feels the whole thing is a boondoggle and will not participate.
According to a draft memorandum of understanding (MOU) of the TCI, released in December 2019 by the Georgetown Climate Center, the makings of a bureaucratic monster are being set in place. This is from page six of the MOU:
“Enterers,” which shall mean owners of Affected Fuel delivered into a Participating Jurisdiction from a facility in another jurisdiction for final sale or consumption in the Participating Jurisdiction. Enterers may not be required to hold allowances to cover emissions from Affected Fuel where a Position Holder sells Affected Fuel destined for final sale or consumption in a Participating Jurisdiction and the Position Holder holds allowances to cover emissions from such Affected Fuel. Sufficient documentation must exist to demonstrate that the compliance obligations are being fulfilled by the Position Holder (on behalf of the “Enterer”).
The TCI will be run by a regional organization with an executive committee comprised of two representatives from the participating jurisdictions (the states). The regional organization will also have authority to acquire and dispose of assets. Keep in mind that the collections of fees from fuel dealers will run in the billions of dollars.
In Vermont, in 2017, approximately 400 million gallons of gasoline were consumed. At 9 cents a gallon, a TCI surcharge to fuel distributors would come close to $36 million, of course passed on to Vermont consumers. The regional organization will have a huge say on how the funds are to be spent in Vermont.
Tens of millions of dollars are and will continue to be extracted from Vermonters in the name of climate change. Regarding how the dollars are spent, Vermonters will have no say. This is a bad precedent and only getting worse.
Don Keelan writes a bi-weekly column and lives in Arlington, Vermont.