The ‘Unaffordable Heat Act’ goes to Senate Appropriations

By Rob Roper

Despite serious unanswered concerns from the public regarding the ultimate cost and impact of S.5, described by critics as the “Unaffordable Heat Act,” Senate Natural Resources and Energy voted unanimously, 5-0, to advance the bill. The next step is a quick stop in the Senate Appropriations Committee before an anticipated vote by the full Senate sometime during the week of Feb. 27 to March 3.

Guy Page

EAI President Myers Mermel: “To meet GWSA deadlines we estimate that a yearly per gallon surcharge of $4.04 is necessary. If only $0.70 is passed through as a per gallon surcharge instead of $4.04 this will lengthen time to comply with GWSA to 28 years — which is 23 years past the deadline.”

Throughout the five weeks the Affordable Heat Act spent in the committee, which was stacked at the outset with five climate change zealots and no Republicans at all to challenge or raise basic questions about the bill, Chairman Chris Bray, D-Addison, did his best to avoid any discussion of what the bill’s ultimate cost or economic impact would be.

This wall of silence was breached a couple of times. Once by Secretary of Natural Resources Julie Moore, who provided a “back of the napkin” estimate that, should S.5 pass, it would mean Vermonters who heat their homes with fossil fuels (oil, propane, natural gas, and kerosene) would end up paying an extra 70 cents per gallon on top of what are already record high prices. This induced a panicked reaction by the chair to discredit the secretary’s rough numbers, charges willingly echoed by Vermont’s predominant media outlets.

The second major breach occurred when Myers Mermel, the new president of the Ethan Allen Institute (full disclosure, the author of this article held that position from December 2012 to March 2022), presented a highly detailed, deeply researched PowerPoint presentation featuring 10 solid pages of data indicating that Moore’s rough numbers were, indeed, wrong. Her estimates are low by a factor greater than five.

Mermel’s conclusion was that, “To meet GWSA deadlines we estimate that a yearly per gallon surcharge of $4.04 is necessary. If only $0.70 is passed through as a per gallon surcharge instead of $4.04 this will lengthen time to comply with GWSA to 28 years — which is 23 years past the deadline. So, legislators can’t pass through just 70 cents; they need to pass through as much as they can up to the $4.04 to accelerate the money funding improvements. While Democrat and Progressive lawmakers ponder on how much to charge the consumer each year, Vermonters will be suffering under high fuel surcharges with no ability to pay or borrow the $37,462 to fix up their houses. We call this trap the Carbon Doom Spiral.”

This testimony left the committee largely speechless. Sens. Bray and Becca White, D-Windsor, made attempts to refute or undermine Mermel’s testimony with no success.

The question now is whether or not the members of the Appropriations Committee — a money committee —will raise the critical questions about what financial impact this bill will do to people trying to survive Vermont winters.

Given that the Senate President Pro Tem, Philip Baruth, D-Burlington, made a special appearance in the Natural Resources and Energy Committee to celebrate its passage of S.5, it is clear that the pressure from party leadership on Democrats and Progressives to pass the bill no matter what, and to avoid any more uncomfortable questions about it, will be tremendous.

The only hope to stop S.5 from becoming law at this point is for enough voters to put enough pressure on enough senators to vote no, giving Gov. Phil Scott the 11 Senate votes he would need to sustain a veto. If all seven Republicans can be counted on to sustain a gubernatorial veto of the Affordable Heat Act, that means at least five Democrats will have to be persuaded by their constituents to join them.

Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee who will discuss and vote on S.5 this week (exact date/time still not posted as of this writing) are:

Sen. Jane Kitchel, Chair, D-Caledonia
Sen. Andrew Perchlik, Vice Chair, D/P-Washington
Sen. Richard Westman, Clerk, R-Lamoille
Sen. Robert Starr, D-Orleans
Sen. Dick Sears Jr., D-Bennington
Sen. Philip Baruth, D-Chittenden
Sen. Virginia “Ginny” Lyons, D-Chittenden

Rob Roper is a freelance writer who has been involved with Vermont politics and policy for over 20 years. © Copyright True North Reports 2023. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of Public domain and Guy Page

8 thoughts on “The ‘Unaffordable Heat Act’ goes to Senate Appropriations

  1. S.5 ? Heat Act: Present GHG facts with dates? Much has changed in the state in 3 years. EV, Solar, Geothermal, Income to costs for people.

    Can anyone in the Vermont Legislature, Governor or Lt Governor, (Airport, Burlington) present the people with the VT Air Guard GHG annual emissions as presented within the data they are using to burden broke Vermonters with costs to meet plans they have ignored since inception (GWSA). Make real change now, remove the military industrial complex, the worlds largest polluter, in one day with no cost to us. Please, before one crashes: displaced people to where? Financed by Burlington residents as the airport owners! ( Droning C-130 prop planes over Hiawatha Elem school, F-35, 22lb co2 per gal minimum, PFAS contamination, fuel xport, 120db noise pollution. )

  2. $4.04 a gallon additional cost per gallon of fuel is unconscionable, what the hell are they thinking. This fallacy of a blunder do nothing bill need only to go ONE place, down the toilet of progressive idealism’s. Why do these ijits think the rest of the progressive NE states dropped this GWSA bull crap like a hot potato? Because even as communist minded as they are they know their populaces can’t afford it with no proof of accomplishing anything which it don’t. I’m sick of paying so these idiots can feel like their doing something when in reality it’s nothing that won’t be overridden by China, India and the rest who don’t give a crap about CO2…

  3. Pretty much think politicians are the bottom of the barrel with this stupidity. What ever we do here means nothing…….hoping there are more people who want to move here to give away their money to this failed state. They need to support us that will leave.

  4. There are zero Republicans because there are enough people in this state who agree with this mandate!! And vote them into office! I feel like none of my votes even mattered!
    only the rich libs won in this last election! They do not care if the rest of us poor slobs can survive their policies!

    Our family has trimmed down hundreds of dollars trying to afford the crap getting thrown at us, but when your heating bill is double what it used to be, the most you have paid since living here for 25 years.., there is not much positive to look forward to living in Vermont!

    • “Comrade Willem”…you know better….these are all “Commissar Committee’s” – for the Party (cult) faithful 🙂

    • Richard Westman is the sole R on Senate Appropriations.
      Senate Natural Resources has no R member.
      This is professor baruth’s theatre, he dictates who get appointed where.
      The committee on committees should be zuckerman, as lt gov, baruth senate pro tem
      and Dick Mazza. Hard to say, as the webpage for this committee hasn’t been updated from the 2022 session.
      professor baruth believes he has a mandate to rule Vermont as he sees fit- and said so.
      You really didn’t think he wouldn’t stack the deck, did you?

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