By John McClaughry
Six weeks from now the Global Warming Solutions Act will likely be on Gov. Phil Scott’s desk. There are five compelling reasons for him to veto it.
The bill declares that to deal with a “climate emergency” Vermont must observe the carbon dioxide emissions limits prescribed by the UN’s Paris Agreement of 2016. In particular, Vermonters must somehow be made to cut their yearly CO2 emissions from the present about 9 million metric tons of CO2, down to 7.5 MMt (-16%) by 2025, and down to 1.73 MMt (-80%) by 2050.
First reason to veto: The bill sets up a 23-member climate council within state government. The governor would have eight appointees; the House and Senate leadership will appoint the other 15. The council will spend a year creating a sweeping plan to instruct state agencies to adopt whatever rules (regulations) that they find necessary to get Vermonters to stop using gasoline, diesel fuel, home heating oil, natural gas and propane to achieve the meaningless CO2 emission reductions. (Vermont emits approximately one-seventh of 1 percent of U.S.CO2 emissions.)
This is clearly intended to put Gov. Scott on the sidelines. The climate change lobby groups are clearly fed up with the governor dragging his feet on supporting its lengthy list of “climate solutions,” notably a carbon tax that Scott has resolutely said he would veto. No governor worth his salt, of any party, would stand still for this hijacking of his or her responsibilities as head of the executive branch of state government.
Second reason to veto: Under the plan the bureaucrats could require all new homes to use electric heat with superinsulation, ban the sale of low mpg internal combustion vehicles, prohibit fuel-intensive entertainment events (such as Thunder Road), prohibit the sale and use of snowmobiles, ATVs and pleasure boats, decree zoning changes to keep people from building homes in rural areas, limit cattle populations to reduce methane emissions, license home contractors and prohibit them from doing anything that fails to comply with LEED standards, restrict new natural gas connections, and force manufacturing plants (such as craft breweries) to reduce their CO2 emissions.
There will be few limits on what the agencies can require by rule, except that they can’t impose a carbon tax, and they can‘t magically come up with enough subsidy money to persuade 86,000 more Vermonters to buy pricey electric vehicles.
Third reason to veto: No legislator will ever vote on these sweeping, invasive and costly rules. This is a shocking abdication of our legislators’ accountability to the people. House Republicans moved to require a record vote to approve these bureaucratic rules. The backers of this bill crushed it 99-44.
Fourth reason to veto: The bill literally invites “any person” to go to court to sue the state of Vermont for not moving fast enough or far enough to drive down “carbon pollution.” This is a gift to the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), which in 2016 won a suit against the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection for not pushing hard enough to implement that state’s GWSA.
Not only does the bill open wide the courtroom door to CLF, but it also specifies that if that organization “substantially prevails” in its lawsuit, the taxpayers will pay its legal costs and attorney’s fees. The same taxpayers will pay the attorney general to defend the state against the lawsuits, which could well go on for years.
Fifth reason to veto: The House version of the bill appropriated $972,000 to launch this Climate Action Plan adventure. The Senate Appropriations Committee, confronted with a projected $400 million all-funds deficit for the fiscal year that began two weeks ago, struck out the appropriation altogether.
This ponderous enterprise can’t get under way without funding. Getting our economy up and running again after the pandemic, and helping Vermonters who were crippled by it, are far, far more pressing needs than throwing away a million dollars to support this counterfeit government instructing unaccountable bureaucrats to hatch sweeping, costly and invasive rules to achieve no detectable effect on the global climate.
Late in August the House will likely accept the zero-funded Global Warming Solutions Act (H.688) and send it to the governor. If he fails to veto it, or lets it become law without his signature, watch for this sly move: The legislative leadership will slip the $972,000 into the billion-dollar appropriations bill coming out in early September to fund state government for the nine remaining months of this fiscal year.
Those five reasons make a powerful case for a Scott veto, notwithstanding the outraged protests of the climate warrior lobby. He can take his stand on the liberties and economic well-being of Vermonters, accountable democracy, constitutional separation of powers, far more important spending priorities, and protecting the state from costly virtue-signaling nuisance suits, all in a misbegotten bill that will produce no detectable effect on climate.
John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.