By Dave Fidlin | The Center Square
With a deadline for a directive, a Vermont legislative committee on Thursday voted on a set of building energy standards and prescribed a proposed effective date.
Since late April, the Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules has been hashing over a revised rule on the state’s residential building energy standards.
The document, which commonly goes by the acronym RBES, is due for an update since the last one was implemented three years ago. Revisions include various protocols aimed at achieving greater energy efficiency on new developments.
The committee statutorily had a 45-day window to review the standards, which sunsets Friday. With the clock ticking, committee members voted favorably on the revisions but did so with a new implementation date.
Based on a preliminary timeline, the updated standards were initially expected to kick in by year’s end. But the committee, in its motion, pushed the proposed implementation date to July 1, 2024.
“My sense, based on testimony last time, and conversations before the last meeting and since the last meeting, is that the concerns around education, compliance, outreach, and regulation are part of what’s driving the building community’s concern,” said Sen. Christopher Bray, D-Bristol, of the committee.
During deliberations, Bray proposed extending implementation to the midway point of 2024 and received widespread support from other panelists.
“I’m interested in supporting the rule, but also addressing the building community’s need for seeing it paired to a meaningful system of education and compliance,” Bray said.
Sen. Virginia Lyons, D-Williston, had similar sentiments and supported the extension so long as it brings all parties together.
“There are significant glitches in this system,” Lyons said. “However, I think it’s critical we understand this is not a legislative problem alone. We’re all in this together. We’re a democracy; we’re not an army. I just want to put on the table that we need to work together.”
Keith Levenson, an energy program specialist with the Department of Public Service, gave a neutral response to the proposed extension.
“There’s a very specific enforcement mechanism that’s written in statute,” Levenson said. “We all know that’s a major issue, and you heard testimony to that effect. The Legislature has taken a step in the right direction, we believe, by establishing the builder registry.”
Through the review process in the past month-and-a-half, the committee has fielded testimony from several concerned architects and other professionals in the building and development trade.
Montpelier-based architect Sandra Vitzthum provided a letter included with the meeting documents. Vitzthum said she was concerned about ambiguity in training processes.
“We are thrilled to hear funding for more and better training is available,” Vitzthum wrote on behalf of the state’s professional architecture community. “Public Service needs to overhaul its education, whether it’s teaching 2020 or 2023/2024 RBES.”
Rep. Trevor Squirrell, D-Underhill Center, who chairs the committee, said he hopes the extension and adoption will bring meaningful results for all parties.
“This is a tension-filled conversation,” Squirrell said. “There are certainly a lot of challenges ahead. I look forward to seeing everyone collaborate and try to work through this to find a solution.”