By John McClaughry
Are you ready for the coming carbon tax on your home and business heating bill?
The Vermont House is working at flank speed to enact the “Clean Heat Standard” (CHS) concocted by the Climate Action Network, and adopted by the Vermont Climate Council.
Of course, none of the House backers will describe the CHS as a carbon tax, because most Vermonters want nothing to do with a carbon tax. Gov. Phil Scott, in particular, has opposed a carbon tax since his first campaign in 2016, saying recently “I feel good about the direction we’re going without having to raise taxes, and certainly not a regressive carbon tax.”
Well, a regressive carbon tax is exactly what the Democratic Legislature is soon going to send to him. The CHS is cleverly designed to siphon money out of your pocket to enable your fuel distributor to buy state-mandated “credits” from politically favored entities like Efficiency Vermont and Burlington Electric Department. These entities will use the money to shrink heating fuel consumption as demanded by the Climate Council.
The beauty of the CHS, from its backers’ point of view, is that you will not be able to figure out why your heating oil or gas bill suddenly jumped up, and keeps on climbing. The left will noisily blame your greedy fuel distributor, who the Climate Council is setting up as the fall guy. In fact, your fuel distributors can’t afford to do anything but pass the CHS carbon tax on to their customers.
Here’s how the CHS is supposed to work. The unaccountable Public Utility Commission will create and distribute CHS credits to entities (like Efficiency Vermont) that complete projects — like installing electric heat pumps — that reduce the consumption of heating fuels. The PUC will require Vermont’s wholesale fuel sellers (or the retailer, if it gets its fuel from an out-of-state seller) to acquire and deliver its credits. Homeowners, businesses, farms, local governments, schools, hospitals and anybody else who needs fuel oil or gas to stay warm will end up paying for the credits. The PUC will fine the obligated parties that fail to submit enough credits.
Why, you may ask, is this hidden carbon tax on heating fuel so all-fired necessary? It’s because the planet faces a climate crisis that can be averted only if the nations of the world drastically reduce their consumption of fossil fuels, and your state government is helpfully motivating you to use less of those fuels by making them more costly.
It’s bad enough that this scheme is an underhanded way of sucking money out of your pocket. It’s even worse when one realizes that a coalition of powerful environmental groups lobbied through the Global Warming Solutions Act, then put themselves on the resulting Climate Council, and are now arrogantly writing themselves by name — Vermont Natural Resources Council and VPIRG — into the PUC’s mandated process for implementing the legislation.
The CHS is required to “enhance social equity by minimizing adverse impacts to low-income consumers.” If you are not low-income, too bad. You will be taken for an expensive ride, and all you will get is the benefit of virtue signaling to non-Vermonters that you are righteously making this sacrifice to defeat the Menace of Climate Change.
And there’s another more mundane consideration here. This entire scheme, plus others like it, is deliberately designed to bypass Gov. Scott. Why? Because he won’t support a regressive carbon tax.
His Democratic opponents, goaded by the Climate Action Network, pushed through the Vermont Climate Council legislation over his veto, filled 14 of its 23 seats with tried-and-true climate crisis believers, and told them to instruct the governor’s appointees to issue regulations to make Vermonters do the Council‘s bidding — without a vote by legislators who the citizens can hold accountable.
Worse yet, they added a provision that if the results don’t achieve the required CO2 emissions reductions starting in 2025, anybody — notably the Conservation Law Foundation — has standing to sue the State of Vermont and demand that a judge tell its agencies to go further and more quickly down the regulatory road, whether the governor approves or not.
Democrats these days are clamoring to “protect our democracy.” But at the same time, here in Vermont, Democrats and their enviro allies are well along in implementing the scheme that I branded, two years ago, as “The Worst Democracy-Shredding Bill in 50 Years.”
If you’ve had it with being secretly taxed by unaccountable strangers to finance a raft of burdensome and largely futile left-wing nostrums, and if you’re committed to protecting our democracy by holding elected officials accountable for how they assault your life, liberty and property, it’s time to speak out — and remember in November.
John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.