By Mary Daly and Guy Page
H.688, the Vermont Global Warming Solutions Act of 2020, a bill to create a legally enforceable system by which Vermont state government will reduce its statewide greenhouse gas emissions and establish strategies to mitigate climate risks and build resiliency will be the focus of the House Energy & Technology Committee this week.
The bill is co-sponsored by 87 lawmakers from among the Democratic, Progressive and independent caucuses. No Republicans co-sponsored the bill. Lead sponsor is Rep. Tim Briglin (D-Thetford), chair of the House Energy & Technology Committee.
House Energy has scheduled hearings every day this week on H.688. Individuals and organizations scheduled to testify include many representatives of Vermont’s environmental and climate change community, as well as academics from the University of Vermont and Vermont Law School. No explicitly-pro-business organizations are scheduled to testify. Rep. Briglin said today testimony will extend beyond this week and that he expects some invitees will speak against the bill.
The bill would seem to require and empower all of Vermont state government to play a part in climate change reduction: “All State agencies shall consider any increase or decrease in greenhouse gas emissions in their decision-making procedures with respect to the purchase and use of equipment and goods; the siting, construction, and maintenance of buildings; the assignment of personnel; and the planning, design and operation of programs, services, and infrastructure.”
The 24-page bill establishes a legally enforceable system, beginning with the 21-member Vermont Climate Council adopting the Vermont Climate Action Plan. This plan will set forth specific initiatives, programs, and strategies the state must pursue to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; achieve the state’s reduction requirements; and build resiliency to prepare the state’s communities, infrastructure, and economy to adapt to the current and anticipated effects of climate change.
As written in the bill, this council would appear to have license to write and implement this plan with minimal input outside their purview. If passed into law, state officials would be further empowered to create rules and requirements. While setting a regulatory framework, H.688 offers little discussion about funding to implement the Vermont Climate Action Plan. It does set a goal: for Vermont to be “net zero” by 2050.
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At least one former high-level state and federal energy official is on the record opposing GWSA. The following statement from Milton Eaton of Brattleboro was emailed yesterday to the Vermont Daily Chronicle:
“My experience, besides two years as Secretary of the Agency of Economic Development and Community Affairs in Montpelier, include Director of DOC US and Foreign Commercial Service and ten years as Department of Energy Representative to East Asia and Energy Attache to the Embassy in Tokyo. Way back in 1987, NOAA briefed me, as the new Director, on their studies and especially their new learnings about El Nino and La Nina, the cycle and world ramifications. They also noted that moisture in the air accounted for over 60 percent of long range weather. We call them clouds, and they still can reflect sun radiation or trap heat. This makes projections far into the future very unreliable and imprecise.
“I also have worked and followed developments studies by our national and world labs of developing technologies and alternatives and delivered administration projections that have proven as inaccurate as any others. Some projections to consider when setting goals are:
- World population 7.5 B-10 B (+42%)
- extreme poverty 0.8 B- 0.8 B
- 2 B vehicles to supply only China and India if saturation is equal to present in USA.
- Current petroleum consumption 112 mbd (increasing 1-1.5 mbd/year). ExxonMobil projects an increase of 112 mbd (doubling) by 2040.
- China in 2019 produced and imported record coal volumes and is building more coal plants than the rest of the world.
- Nuclear is proven safe but that in not sufficient for adoption.”
“Is it work if nothing happens? No, except for raising the cost of living and intruding on the lifestyle of Vermonters, these proposals are nothing but a crony tax and subsidy mirage. If Australia is 1/67 of world CO2 – what is Vermont’s share?”
See In Committee for these and other bills and reports and scheduled for House committee review this week:
- Forest carbon sequestration and commercial cannabis, in House Agriculture Thursday.
- H.705, tourism and marketing funding, in Commerce & Economic Development Wednesday. Tourism is the second largest industry in Vermont but marketing support has been declining steadily. That trend must be reversed to maintain Vermont’s market share, supporters say.
- Corrections officers’ issues, prison rape elimination, Wednesday in Corrections and Institutions.
- Resolution to prevent U.S. nuclear first strike (Wednesday) and H.492 homeless bill of rights (Friday) in House General.
- H.557 Livestock at large (Wednesday) and H.464 police use of force (Thursday) in Government Operations.
- Prescription drug imports, cost reduction Thursday and Friday in Health Care.
- Buprenorphine decrim (Wednesday), H.663 expanding access to contraceptives, including minors (Thursday), H.312 requiring movie caption alternatives in movie theaters (Friday).
- H.683 prohibiting incidental taking of migratory birds (Tuesday), Act 250 all week in Natural Resources.
- H.715 higher penalties for speeding in work and school zones Tuesday, weightbased registration and public transit budget (Thursday) in House Transportation.
Clarification: contrary to last week’s In Committee report, the bill sponsored by Rep. Jim McCullough (D-Williston) does not propose to raise the pay of all legislators — just the House and Senate leaders and committee chairs.
Read more of Guy Page’s reports at the Vermont Daily Chronicle.