Roper: Sen. Dick Sears holds fate of clean heat standard in his hands

By Rob Roper

Following the Senate’s 20-10 vote to join the House in passing the Unaffordable Heat Act (S.5), Governor Phil Scott immediately informed the General Assembly and the public that he intends to veto the half-baked, hugely expensive, and admittedly ineffective legislation. (No, a Vermont Clean Heat Standard will not save the planet or anything else from climate change.)

In his pre-veto message, Scott explained, “I strongly believe the right approach is to help people make the transition [to more efficient home heating options], not financially punish those who cannot afford to do so. Unfortunately, the Super Majority in the Legislature decided to take a completely different approach by giving an unelected commission, the Public Utility Commission (PUC), the power to design and adopt a system — without guaranteeing the details and costs will be debated transparently through the normal legislative process, in full view of their constituents.

“For these reasons and more, I will veto S.5, and I’m asking Vermonters, even the many who have already contacted their legislators, to make their voices heard and ask their representatives and senators to sustain this veto.”

state of Vermont

State Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington

Call all of your senators, yes, but one in particular: Senator Dick Sears (D-Bennington).

Scott needs 11 senators to vote to sustain his veto. He can count on all seven Republicans and three Democrats: Bobby Starr (D-Orleans), Dick Mazza (D-Grand Isle), and Irene Wrenner (D-Chittenden North). That makes 10. He needs one more.

Of the twenty remaining Democrats in the senate who voted for S.5, Sears is the most likely to come around and join his more moderate colleagues, Starr, Mazza and Wrenner in ultimately opposing the bill.

Sears initially voted “no” on S.5 when it came before the Appropriations Committee last February but changed his vote to “yes” on the floor under pressure from party leadership. In casting that first “no’ vote, Sears cited several reasons, not the least of which was his having received “thousands” of calls and emails from his constituents begging him to oppose a law that would force them to pay significantly higher costs for home heating fuels. (An additional $0.70 to $4.00 per gallon are the estimates.)

Beyond just listening to the people who elected him, Sears also demonstrated a clearer understanding of the potential negative impacts S.5 would have on local businesses, especially those that along Vermont’s borders with New Hampshire and Massachusetts, than his colleagues have grasped, or will publicly admit.

When S.5 returned to the senate following its passage in the House, Sears once again expressed concern and reluctance about how confusing the bill is, about what would actually happen if it passed, and about what the consequences – intended and unintended – could be. Sears remained (correctly) suspicious that the so-called “check back” provision in the bill would not actually do what proponents of the bill are saying it will do. Sears concluded his comments on the floor, admitting, “This is a leap of faith more than I’m used to.”

The question is, will he ultimately make that leap with the fate of Vermont’s economy, the livelihoods of many small businesses, and the ability of thousands of his constituents to afford not freezing to death in winter at stake. Good governance and responsible stewardship say vote “no.” Partisan politics says vote “yes.” Which will Sears choose?

Dick Sears is one of the most respected members of the senate. First elected in 1993 he has served for thirty years. He is also 80 years old, and, unlike many of his colleagues pushing for the Unaffordable Heat Act, he doesn’t harbor ambitions for future higher office. He doesn’t need to impress the activists at VPIRG or do the bidding of the major leftwing donors at Vermont Gas, SunCommon, etc. Sears legacy will be determined by what he does from his Bennington County senate seat.

Dick Sears knows this is a bad bill. He knows that it will harm his constituents. He knows that his constituents overwhelmingly don’t want him to vote for it. He needs to decide if these factors are more important to him than kowtowing  to a bunch of misinformed activists and Chittenden County special interests in order to escape the no-doubt unpleasant bullying by other in his party to go along to get along.

Let him know how you think he should vote. Dick Sears’ contact information is:

Or leave a phone message with the State House Sgt. at Arms: 802-828-2228.

Rob Roper is a freelance writer who has been involved with Vermont politics and policy for over 20 years. This article reprinted with permission from Behind the Lines: Rob Roper on Vermont Politics,

Image courtesy of state of Vermont

12 thoughts on “Roper: Sen. Dick Sears holds fate of clean heat standard in his hands

  1. The government wants us to go all-electric so they will have the ability to totally control the grid and turn it on and off at their leisure to control us. Don’t think so? Wake up, folks. They are already in the initial legislative stages of heat tyranny. They are not listening to the people. They are plowing ahead with the agenda.

  2. Maybe, just maybe, in the name of this BS climate change hoax, they should just ban all the gasoline engine toys that people have such as ATV’s, snowmobiles, boats, private planes. Put an end to the car races, tractor pulls, etc. a waste of gas. Put an end to things that aren’t a necessity, the excesses of the elites, instead of hurting those who are just barely getting by as it is. Put restrictions on housing square footage, the average family did fine in a 2000 square foot home, they don’t need a 3-4000 square footer that uses much more energy to sustain. And in the name of water conservation, why does there need to be more than one shower head in a shower. How many gallons of water are wasted in these fancy showers. What a bunch of hypocrites!!!!

  3. If constituents greased their representatives wheels with a Give-Send-Go account, maybe they’d get some results. Taxpayer money is used for interest payments upon staggering increasing debt, no-see-um pensions, and bonds that no one understands, but approves them anyway. Please comprehend it is the inside trading tips, lobbyist gifts under the table, and a cut off the profits that gets things done under the Golden Dome. Fate is in Dick Sears hands? If people knew the Truth about Dick Sears, they’d hurl their lunch and dinner. God help us all.

  4. VT is already among the top three highest realty-taxed states! Please say NO to this unreasonable, draconian, burdensome, regressive measure. Many many Vermonters will thank you.

  5. Dick
    We need your vote to shut down this S.5 bill which is one of the worse bills for Vt. that has ever been proposed. Vermont needs your help with this.

    • Senator Sears,

      I have three heat pumps in my house, at a cost of $21500, after 10% GMP subsidies.

      My normal space heating is 850 gal of propane per year

      After heat pumps, that became 550 gal, for a reduction of 300 gal, for net a ENERGY savings of $200/y FOR EACH OF THE PAST THREE YEARS

      My reduction of fossil Btus was 35%

      This compared with 27.6% for the average house with one heat pump, as determined by the CADMUS study some years ago.

      EAN grossly over-estimates the CO2 reduction.
      EAN assumes 100% of fossil Btus are displaced
      EAN assumes a much lower turnkey capital cost than it realistic

      EAN energy engineers, just like I, know, displacing 100% is not possible, unless a house has an open floor plan and is highly insulated and highly sealed.
      We are talking a minimum of an r20 basement and r40 walls, and triple-pane windows, insulated doors, etc.
      Only about 2% of Vermont houses are suitable

      Based on the above, the only logical vote is NO

  6. Senator Sears you have shown yourself to be a person who cares about Vermonters. Please continue and do not support this horrible bill. The progressives could not care less about people and have no problem hurting them in the interest of their own gain. When some were told that this could cause some Vermonters to lose their homes and be very cold in the winter months one person said that she sympathizes with the people but has to vote for the bill anyway. Another “ caring individual “ said that we should buy heavier shirts and coats. These Senators and Representatives should be helping to improve citizens lives not cause them pain. It seems to me that they do not do much more than cause pain. Please do not fall in with them.

  7. Well maybe just maybe we can save the state from the liberal rot in Montpelier,
    the Governor should ” Veto ” S.5 ASAP this is a financial boondoggle for every
    working family.

    I hope Sen. Dick Sears who holds the fate of clean heat standards in his hands,
    come s to his senses, lately, it seems the Senator has been drinking the liberal
    cool-aide, not the Dick Sears I remember !!

    Senator, do the right thing for Vermont, and bury this bill !!

  8. It certainly is a privilege to have lived and served in Vermont for so long. It’s been my dream to be a poet and a proud Vermonter, and now the entire way of life that inspires my work is being threatened by this one “fractious and contentious bill.” I suppose I was super-hyper-privileged in Massachusetts (Dad was a TV news anchor, Mom a U.S. Senator’s cousin), but with privilege comes responsibility: “From those to whom much is given, much is expected.” This includes caring about those less fortunate, and with that in mind: I cannot understand how those who support S.5 are able to dehumanize their fellow Vermonters to such a degree: the church secretary who has no wood-heat option, the elderly lady living in a mobile home that cannot accommodate a heat pump, or families who will have to make ever-more-difficult choices.

    “When the Coltsfoot Bloomed”

    When the coltsfoot was in bloom
    On sunny banks, and on the hill
    Where Nature wove on April’s loom,
    They sat in peace, as white and still
    And stiff as any Dresden doll:
    A little family in their car —
    They will not answer when you call,
    However close you are.

    They rested there, through every storm,
    The bleak black night, the silver day —
    Had they been trying to get warm,
    Or just to get away?
    In unrelenting northern cold,
    With dead blue lips, a mother’s kiss
    Is pressed on Baby’s hair of gold —
    But nothing good, not even bliss
    As good as gold can stay.

    Or stay the hand of cruel intent
    And power open to misuse.
    Would pity’s warming heart relent,
    Or would the cold claw of abuse
    Unfold there on the sunny bank
    Where the unsullied violet curled:
    A little house, a propane tank
    Crumpled, to save the world.

    They tap upon the window — near
    The marble eye, the porcelain ear
    To ask forgiveness — now, they come,
    But find the father deaf and dumb,
    The child who only asked a crumb —
    The mother and her crystal tear —
    “Forgive us” — mocking or sincere,
    A prayer that only God will hear.

    • OMG that is heartbreaking and what beautiful verse you write.
      I cannot understand it either how people can vote for this bill when 70% or so of the states citizens are rural working class – they will not be able to afford this. Neither will I. I cannot afford to put heat pumps in my 3 story house.

      • Thank you! (Please visit my websites for more of my poetry, and some great books.) They are picking off the low-hanging fruit: people they perceive as being unable to defend themselves. I don’t get the “Affordable Heat” part of it. Vermont has fuel assistance, and town woodpiles (I don’t take advantage of either). No one’s frozen to death recently, as far as I know. It’s not pleasant; it nearly happened to me when I showed up early to a meeting in Boston (it may have been around zero) and my liberal “friend” would not let me into her house. You start to feel dizzy, and I assume you eventually pass out. If H.P. Lovecraft could “journal” his colon cancer, down to the last agonizing detail, I can certainly make an effort to blog my hypothermia death on these and other web pages.

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