In another major win for climate action, the Vermont Senate advanced S.5, the Affordable Heat Act, on a 19-10 vote. The bill will now head to the House of Representatives.
In the face of unparalleled pressure from the deep-pocketed fossil fuel industry – which has ramped its opposition to the bill with over $35,000 in a media blitz – forward-looking legislators advanced this critical policy, which is intended to put Vermonters on a path toward accessing lower cost, less-polluting heat and help them move away from expensive, price-volatile fossil fuels like the oil that has seen a $2 per gallon price spike Vermonters over the past two years.
In Vermont, 73% of the energy in the thermal sector comes from fossil fuels, and every bit of that energy is imported, meaning those dollars are leaving our local economy. This policy would create a blueprint for a sector-wide transition for fossil fuel heating providers, requiring them to help their customers stay warm with cleaner, renewable energy sources and phase out the use of fossil fuels over time.
Vermont has an opportunity to build a clean energy economy, transitioning the business model of fossil fuel heating providers and projecting a reduction in the overall heating costs of Vermonters by $2 billion, or an average of $7,500 per household, just from actions taken by 2030.
Brian Shupe, Executive Director of the Vermont Natural Resources Council stated, “We owe tremendous gratitude to the Senators who crafted and voted in favor of S.5. It is past time that Vermont gets a handle on our largest source of carbon pollution – the thermal heating sector. We look forward to the work ahead in the House to ensure that the Affordable Heat Act becomes law, as it offers our greatest opportunity to transition away from fossil fuel dependence and provide Vermonters with equitable access to cheaper, cleaner heating options.”
“We’re grateful for the hard work senators put into the Affordable Heat Act these past months,” said Ben Edgerly Walsh, Climate & Energy Program Director with the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. “Vermont will be better off for it. With a status quo that is deeply inequitable, unaffordable, and unsustainable, it’s long past time for Vermont to get serious about helping Vermonters move away from fossil fuels. The Affordable Heat Act sets us on a path to do just that, and we look forward to continuing to work with the legislature to see this critical policy enacted.”
“We are grateful to the Vermont Senate for passing this critical environmental legislation. The Vermont we know and love is at risk due to our changing climate, and it’s our collective responsibility to curb the negative effects and to ensure all Vermonters have the means and access to do so,” said Lauren Hierl, Executive Director of Vermont Conservation Voters. “A record number of legislators ran and were elected on the promise of championing the climate and efforts to reduce our impact on the environment this last election. We applaud the legislators who worked in crafting and supporting this bill through the Senate, and we look forward to working with the House of Representatives in seeing this across the finish line.”
Dan Fingas, VT Movement Politics Director, Rights & Democracy commented, “We are happy to see S.5 pass the Senate with a strong majority, as a much-improved bill that includes specific targets to center equity and affordability, ensure that Vermont’s working families and most overburdened communities can benefit from measures that reduce energy use, and move our state away from heating sources that are expensive, polluting, and destructive. We look forward to continuing to work to make this the strongest bill that it can be to meet the call for a just transition and a thriving, clean energy future for all.”
“We recognize there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to decarbonizing our thermal sector. It will take a combination of different heating sources to effectively wean our state off fossil fuels – and that is the direction we support,” said Roxanne Vought, Executive Director of Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility (VBSR). “VBSR strongly advocates for the Affordable Heating Act as we feel a Clean Heat Standard represents a tremendous opportunity to move away from fossil fuels. In doing so we will reduce our climate pollution, keep more dollars in our local economies, and help Vermonters make the shift to more affordable, clean, and predictably priced energy sources – all of which will help maintain our state’s environmental integrity while showing a commitment to creating just, equitable communities.”
Robb Kidd, Conservation Program Manager at Vermont Sierra Club added, “After years of multiple climate councils and an extensive Climate Action Plan, we are glad to see Vermont State Senators take the next steps to help Vermonters kick their dependence on dirty and expensive fossil fuel heating fuels. We look forward to working with Vermonters to ensure that together as a state Vermont can act on climate, create jobs and assist low and moderate income Vermonters with this transition to a clean energy future.”
Chase Whiting, an Attorney at Conservation Law Foundation, said “today’s strong vote in the Senate is an important step forward in helping Vermonters transition to more affordable heating options that reduce climate pollution and clean up the air we breathe. The dirty fossil fuel industry has profited on the backs of Vermonters for far too long. It is time to help Vermonters save money by switching to more affordable and cleaner heating alternatives, like cold climate heat pumps and home weatherization projects. We look forward to working with members of the House of Representatives to ensure that all Vermonters have access to more affordable and cleaner heating options.”
We celebrate this important victory today, and look forward to continuing to work alongside House members on continued improvements to deliver climate-accountable, equitable and affordable cleaner heat options to all Vermonters.