Sen. Anne Watson, D-Chittenden, appeared on the “Morning Drive” radio show with host Kurt Wright on to discuss the Affordable Heat Act — and struggled to explain how the legislation would help Vermonters.
The Senate Natural Resources Committee recently approved S.5 with unanimous support, and on Tuesday the Senate Appropriations Committee sent the bill on to the full Senate by a narrow 4-3 vote.
During the interview, Wright, a former Republican state lawmaker and Burlington city councilor, said the Committee on Natural Resources and Energy has gained a reputation for being hostile to opposing viewpoints.
“Vermonters always want to feel that we get a balanced approach on a bill that is this important. I’d like to have you respond to this — can we feel like we are getting a balanced approach out of the Senate Natural Resources Committee? We saw some video of someone from the Sierra Club that came in who had concerns about the bill, was critical, [and] the committee did not seem eager to hear that,” Wright said.
He added: “The committee chair has talked about misinformation coming from people critical of the bill rather than addressing their concerns, and not one Republican was on the committee. How can we feel that this was a balanced approach to this bill?”
Watson, the vice chair of the Senate Energy Committee, replied that members of the committee were able to “incorporate at least some of those suggestions from all sides.”
The first caller on the show challenged Watson’s assertion that the bill has bipartisan support. The caller at about 5 minutes into the show says,
“I don’t think the bill has bi-partisan support, and the Unaffordable Heat Act requires a lot of installations and upgrades and conversions made by skilled building tradespeople. How can this be done when most of these workers are close to retirement age or leaving the state for greener pastures?” the caller said about 5 minutes into the program.
Watson’s answer to this question was that the fuel industry is going to be paying more to deliver and ultimately phase out their products, and will aid their industry’s state-mandated transition.
“Which is great because it gives those fuel importers a more diversified business platform,” she said.
Wright questioned the notion that truck drivers, even after training, would be able to install new heating technology such as electric heat pumps that have complex refrigeration and plumbing components.
The host later asked Watson to explain how the bill works, and she made an attempt.
“We require that fuel importers buy credits … it’s basically a vehicle for subsidizing or giving money to the kinds of installations that will ultimately lower people’s carbon emissions and fuel bills,” Watson said.
The full 20-minute interview can be heard online.