Statehouse Headliners: Act 250 report says developers must pay carbon offsets, town plans must conform, state super-agency to have climate oversight

By Guy Page

Recommendations in the Final Report to revise Act 250 would, if enacted, require developers to buy mandatory carbon offsets; restrict development near forests and on property adjacent to “conserved” land; require conformity by all town and regional plans and maps to Act 250’s climate reduction goals; and more.

Guy Page is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership, the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare, and Physicians, Families & Friends for a Better Vermont.

The report is the result of two years’ study by a Legislature-appointed committee of legislators: Rep. Amy Sheldon, Chair; Sen. Chris Pearson, Vice-Chair; Sen. Brian Campion, Rep. David Deen, Rep. Paul Lefebvre, and Sen. Richard McCormack. Recommendations include:

• Retooling the Vermont State Development Cabinet, created in 2012 to enhance economic development through inter-agency cooperation, to help state government achieve Act 250 “statutory goals,” including climate change reduction. In early 2017, current Act 250 Commission members Sens. Chris Pearson, Dick McCormack, and Brian Campion co-sponsored S. 51 to coordinate climate change reduction across state government. In particular S.51 suggested the creation of a ‘climate cabinet.’

• Required carbon emissions mitigation – including purchase of carbon offsets – of all development reviewed by Act 250:

“The climate change subcriterion would establish a hierarchy of avoiding, minimizing, and mitigating greenhouse gas emissions from the construction, use, operation, and maintenance of the development or subdivision and the vehicular traffic that it generates. The applicant would first seek to avoid greenhouse gas emissions from the project. To the extent avoiding them is not feasible, they would be minimized. If it is not feasible to avoid or minimize the greenhouse gas emissions, mitigation would be required. This standard would allow for the use of offsets, such as carbon sequestration in Vermont, if they are verifiable and enforceable.”

Offsets require the developer to pay a fixed amount per unit of pollution to the State of Vermont or designated agency, which then reinvests the funds in carbon-reduction. Offset supporters say they discourage emissions-heavy development while providing funding for carbon-reduction. Opponents compare offsets to a carbon tax on both job creation and new housing and industry, and as preferential government funding for Vermont’s politically-influential energy conservation and renewable power industry.

• Legislative committees invited to “upgrade” Act 250 for climate change action – “The standing legislative committees of jurisdiction review the Act 250 criteria to determine if any can be updated to address climate change.”

• Increase emphasis on transportation via bike paths and public transportation – “Amending the transportation criterion to: (a) include review of the safety and congestion impacts to bicycle, pedestrian, and other transit infrastructure and (b) better define when it is appropriate for Act 250 to require projects to incorporate transportation demand strategies and require connectivity to transit services other than single-occupancy vehicles.

• Restrict development on property adjacent to land conserved by state and local land trusts – “Amending the public investment criterion…. to specifically refer to investments made through the State designation program, the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, and similar programs.”

• Local and regional plans must conform to Act 250 goals – “Improving Act 250’s plan conformance criterion by requiring that local plans must be consistent with the statutory goals for municipal and regional planning.”

• Impose forest fragmentation restrictions from a bill that failed to pass Senate last year – “Criteria be added to protect forest blocks and connecting habitat from fragmentation by adopting the changes contained in H.233 of 2017.”

It is considered likely that some or all of the proposed Act 250 revisions will be introduced as a bill to be considered by the 2019 Legislature.

Statehouse Headliners is intended primarily to educate, not advocate. It is e-mailed to an ever-growing list of interested Vermonters, public officials and media. Guy Page is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership; the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare; and Physicians, Families and Friends for a Better Vermont.

Image courtesy of Bruce Parker/TNR
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15 thoughts on “Statehouse Headliners: Act 250 report says developers must pay carbon offsets, town plans must conform, state super-agency to have climate oversight

  1. Vermont!!! Are you kidding?? Clearly you’ve surpassed California in Stupidity!!! Be prepared to tax the hell out of tourists, because your breaking the backs of the native Vermonters who can only reminisce of the ( good old ) days ! I’m so disgusted in what youve done and are doing !!!

  2. First thing, wow, does anybody recall any candidate running on this platform? Any party? I never heard the conversation even brought up in debates, fascinating.

    Oh yeah, that’s right this is totally lobbyist controlled. Two of the strongest lobbyists, that spend more than both political parties combined every year, who are not elected to run the state by the people of Vermont are once again doing their dirty work behind the scenes.

    Any guesses? Could it be the VNRC? Could it be VPIRG? Wonder what other surprises our lobbyist friends have in store for us this session?

    • I wonder how the Vermont Conservation Voters, which is “run” by the VNRC will grade these legislators and others on their environmental legislative ideas?

      Can people see the connections?

      Oh, its just a coincidence that the VNRC and Vermont Conservation Voters are asking for the same things, grading on the same things? And PAC money has no idea what a candidate wants too…….

      If we want to heal our country, heal our state, we have to start right here in Vermont. Working together, loving our neighbor…..

  3. When you remove property rights you destroy incentive and the prosperity that Capitalism creates.
    When Socialism has consumed enough prosperity to kill the host of Capitalism it will die leaving behind an ugly parasite who will be doomed to the same fate, this is when the cannibalism begins.

  4. The end game of the left! Control / enslave and no part of being successful is allowed. They will confiscate any source and how much, by writing it in to law. Cradle to grave wasn’t just educational brainwashing, The communist liberals are monsters. Absolute monsters in human form. Their goal is to have their hands around your neck and every detail of your life. They want nothing less than total and complete control over everything you do (as long as you can stay in the state.) Money is power and they are grabbing all they can.

    Everything they are doing proves this.

    • And lack of money is approaching slavery. We’ll all be dependent upon the master….government.

  5. Two years ago I did an independent fact check analysis by the numbers of S. 51 from the aspect of land use. I will make this available to anyone who wants it (17 slides power point). The result was: S. 51 would require 128,000 acres (15% of all farm land) by 2050. The renewable energy deadlines of 25% by 2025, 40% by 2035 and 90% by 2050 will require the state’s seizure of land by eminent domain i.e. Act 250.

    Coincident with this, I attended an all hands Addison County Regional Planning Commission presentation as a planning commission member from our town. At the outset of the meeting we were told not to question what was being presented as revision to Act 250. We were instructed that geologic maps of out towns would be given to us for mark up by us to outline areas where solar RE could be developed. At the end of my appointment that year, after 7 years as a commissioner, I resigned, much in part to this new proposed legislation.

  6. This legislative foolishness never ends. They cannot see further than their hand in front of their face. The most frightening thing is looking a few years into the future and seeing the life the lib/prog majority is forcing on Vermonters. If you’re a lib/prog, I’m sure you can hardly wait, if your someone who cherishes personal freedoms, your screwed. Vermont is a sinking ship and it’s too late to save it. There are too many young people who have been brainwashed and there are too many wealthy liberal retirees moving in. Now that weed is legal, the government can keep everybody stoned so they don’t care what happens and will remain good wards of the State. You need to abandon ship!

  7. Vermont continues to placed road blocks in front of development and progress then wonders why business activity in the sate does not flourish and folks are in no rush to move here. It’s just us old retired folks who have to live with this insanity. Also, wonder how the tax dollars will be spent.

  8. If this is intended to save us and the planet it sounds like the cure is worse than the disease!

    No real Vermonter would impose this intentionally upon themselves or their state. Lets remind our legislators we send them to Montpelier to stop this kind of law, not promote it because lobbyists tell them they must save the world by destroying ours.

    What would make any sane law maker even contemplate agreeing with the arrogance of controlling power this would inflict on the free market system and property rights of individual Vermonters?

    Its hard to imagine anyone could support this and then return home and walk among their piers as if nothing had happened.

    • I’m sorry Lynn, in some ways your right. Many people wouldn’t vote for something like this. The problem is people don’t have a clue what / who there voting for. As for the legislature themselves they have been taught through our higher education system that capitalism doesn’t work and that Soviet style iron fisted socialism does. They know how to morph and pursuade so it’s all in the name off children/ edu/ health / safety/enviro and so on. The feuture is very bleak in Vermont. The country as a whole has the same problem but I have better hopes for Washington over Montpellier. I’m sorry but know one should be surprised there will be a lot worse things to come.

  9. This proposal is way too restrictive, and if put into place will be the prelude to other restrictive measures that may not have been thought of yet. There is too much disagreement as to the sources of climate change to jump on this proposal. It is a way to extract money from those that are the doers in Vermont, and I see that as the primary purpose here; money, control of more of our lives, never forgetting that we (the almighty ones in that puzzle palace in Montpelier) know what is best for you.
    I will not support this proposal or anything like it.

  10. So, if your neighbor sells development rights to a land trust, and pockets the money, your ability to develop your property is restricted?

    Sounds like confiscation without compensation to me. Can this be even the least bit legal?

    • They’ll just re-zone your property and you’ll have to hire an army of lawyers to fight it. Name one judge in this state that would side with you on this issue. I don’t believe there are any.

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