By Guy Page
Three Progressive-sponsored bills taking a hard line against carbon and climate change have been introduced into the Vermont House of Representatives this week.
Their introduction comes in the wake of national calls for a Green New Deal. Last week in the Vermont State House, signs taped to walls promoted a meeting for a “Vermont Green New Deal.” At a Feb. 20 press conference members of a pro-renewable power business group called for carbon pricing. Two of the companies – Seventh Generation and Ben & Jerry’s – are owned by multinational conglomerate Unilever, which produces of “sustainable products” and is a corporate leader in climate change initiatives.
None of these bills are likely to meet the March 15 crossover date necessary to be passed into law this year. They could get more attention next year, in the second half of the 2019-20 biennium.
According to a formula in a Vermont Legislative Council tonne/dollar conversion chart, the tax on heating oil and diesel starts at a nickel/gallon and increases to 51 cents/gallon over the next decade. Gasoline would start at 4.5 cents per gallon and eventually get to 44-cents per gallon. Propane would start at 3 cents/gallon and end up at 29 cents/gallon.
H.463, sponsored by Reps. Colburn and Gonzalez, would add up to 40-cents a gallon in carbon charges. According to its introductory statement, H.463 would adopt a charge on the carbon content of fossil fuels to address climate change and facilitate meeting greenhouse gas reduction goals and to return all of the revenues from that charge to customers on their electric bills.
H.462, sponsored by Colburn and others, mandates the state of Vermont eliminate fossil fuel consumption by 2050. The state of Vermont could be sued if it fails to meet the goal in 2050 or key benchmarks in 2025 and 2035 (25% and 50% of the 1990 baseline). Joining a regional fossil fuel reduction compact would eliminate the need to follow the plan set forth by H462.
Despite its aggressive goals, H.462 – like the national Green New Deal — does not endorse nuclear power, New England’s largest carbon-free source of electricity. Just two nuclear facilities — Seabrook in New Hampshire and Millstone in Connecticut — produce more electricity than all New England wind and solar power combined. Green Mountain Power, the state’s largest utility, in July 2018 received about 27 percent of its electricity from nuclear power and between 2-6 percent from solar.
Other energy-related House bills scheduled to be introduced are H.475, electric vehicle incentives; H.471, electric vehicle fees and price supports; H.468, tax rebate for solar panels; H.467, sponsored by Rep. Paul Lefebvre, would place wind turbine siting jurisdiction under Act 250. At present wind farms must undergo Act 248 (energy generation) review.
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.