Roll Call: Senate green lights clean heat standard with ‘check back’

Editor’s note: Roll Call is published by the Ethan Allen Institute.

H.715, an act relating to the clean heat standard — Bray Amendment — passed in the State Senate on April 28, 2022, by a vote of 23-7.

Purpose: H.715 as amended by the Senate, obligates the PUC to design the Clean Heat Standard program, and then check back with the Legislature in 2023 and 2024. The House and Senate must approve the PUC’s recommendations.

The Senate keeps all of the components in H.715 intact. It creates the Clean Heat Standard (CHS), one of the central components of the Climate Action Plan (CAP), drafted by unelected renewable energy advocates. The Clean Heat Standard authorizes Vermont’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to create a market for “clean heat credits,” set to go online in 2024. These credits can be generated by any Vermont company or individual weatherizing businesses and homes, or through replacing fossil fuel appliances with renewable-powered heating appliances, with the price set annually by the PUC each year. If heating fuel sellers do not create enough credits themselves through such installations, they must purchase credits generated by others on a marketplace to stay in business.

Example: Whenever a heating fuel supplier sells a gallon of heating oil to a customer in Year 1, that gallon generates an obligation for Year 2. In Year 2, the fuel seller can choose to fulfill their obligation by installing weatherization and renewable heating appliances. Or, by purchasing clean heat credits from installers on the CHS market.

Analysis: Those voting YES believe the Clean Heat Standard will greatly help Vermont achieve its GWSA 2025 & 2030 greenhouse gas reduction mandates, and give Vermont the moral authority to do its part fighting climate change, saving Vermonters from paying high heating fuel prices, while bolstering a renewable industry with more jobs. All of those voting YES trust the PUC to implement the Clean Heat Standard without needing further legislative approval, having voted down an amendment requiring legislative approval after design has been completed.

Those voting NO believe the Clean Heat Standard would lead to extreme hardship for many of the 200,000 households who use some form of fossil fuel to heat their home (about 3 in 4 of all Vermont households). For some, heating fuel would become more expensive, as heating fuel providers pass on some of the added cost of clean heat credits to their customers. For others, heating their homes would become impossible, because the only fossil fuel providers servicing their area will have gone out of business after not being able to afford clean heat credits.

A few ‘lucky’ households will have the privilege of paying top dollar to appliance installers so they aren’t left in the cold. However, committee testimony suggests there aren’t enough installers to cover government-manufactured demand for such appliances. Worse still, testimony also suggests many renewable heating appliances are do not provide adequate heating during the coldest winter months. There are about 100 fossil fuel providers in Vermont. A few large providers like Vermont Gas can capitalize on H.715, by earning credits through installations and by having the flexibility to charge higher prices once their competition succumbs to the CHS.

As Recorded in the Senate Journal, Thursday, April 28, 2022: “…Thereupon, the question, Shall the Senate propose to the House to amend the bill as recommended by the Committee on Natural Resources and Energy, as amended?, was decided in the affirmative on a roll call, Yeas 23, Nays 7. (Read the Journal, p. 945 – 963).

Watch the floor debate on YouTube.

HOW THEY VOTED

Becca Balint (D-Windham) – YES
Philip Baruth (D-Chittenden) – YES
Joe Benning (R-Caledonia) – NO
Christopher Bray (D-Addison) – YES
Randy Brock (R-Franklin) – NO
Brian Campion (D-Bennington) – YES
Thomas Chittenden (D-Chittenden) – YES
Alison Clarkson (D-Windsor) – YES
Brian Collamore (R-Rutland) – NO
Ann Cummings (D-Washington) – YES
Ruth Hardy (D-Addison) – YES
Cheryl Hooker (D-Rutland) – YES
Russ Ingalls (R-Essex-Orleans) – NO
M. Jane Kitchel (D-Caledonia) – YES
Virginia Lyons (D-Chittenden) – YES
Mark MacDonald (D-Orange) – YES
Richard Mazza (D-Chittenden-Grand Isle) – YES
Richard McCormack (D-Windsor) – YES
Alice Nitka (D-Windsor District) – YES
Corey Parent (R-Franklin) – NO
Chris Pearson (P-Chittenden) – YES
Andrew Perchlik (D-Washington) – YES
Anthony Pollina (P/D-Washington) – YES
Kesha Ram (D-Chittenden) – YES
Richard Sears (D-Bennington) – YES
Michael Sirotkin (D-Chittenden) – YES
Robert Starr (D-Essex-Orleans) – NO
Joshua Terenzini (R-Rutland) – NO
Richard Westman (R-Lamoille) – YES
Jeanette White (D-Windham) – YES

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