In a significant step towards climate action, the Vermont House of Representatives passed S.5, the Affordable Heat Act, on a 98-46 roll call vote on second reading and, on final reading, they advanced the bill back to the Senate. This is important and necessary progress.
Legislators on the House Committee on Environment and Energy worked hard to improve and advance this critical policy, which will help Vermonters access lower cost, cleaner heat and move away from polluting, expensive, price-volatile fossil fuels. The cost of fuel oil has increased by an additional $2 per gallon in Vermont over the past two years, and transitioning to better heating options will benefit all Vermonters.
The Affordable Heat Act will put Vermont on a path to gradually and equitably reducing carbon pollution in Vermont’s heating sector. As the number one pollution-reducing recommendation in Vermont’s Climate Action Plan, this policy has undergone years of analysis, research, and public engagement before, during, and after the Climate Action Plan’s development and adoption.
“We appreciate the House members that recognized the great deal of work put into this bill to create a policy that can equitably deliver more affordable and cleaner heat for Vermonters,” said Lauren Hierl, Executive Director of Vermont Conservation Voters.
“The fossil fuel industry has profited for too long on the backs of Vermonters,” said Elena Mihaly, VP and State Director at Conservation Law Foundation. “The Affordable Heat Act will help Vermonters save money by switching to more affordable and cleaner heating alternatives, like cold climate heat pumps and home weatherization projects. We applaud the hard work members of the House did to further improve this bill, and we look forward to supporting lawmakers to make sure the bill becomes law this year.”
“Today’s final House vote – on the eve of Earth Day – deserves celebration, and I want to thank the forward-looking legislators who voted to advance the Affordable Heat Act. This is an essential step to move Vermonters off the high-cost roller coaster of fossil fuels and start benefiting from cleaner, more affordable, local heat,” said Johanna Miller, Energy and Climate Program Director at the Vermont Natural Resources Council. “We have an obligation to do our part on the climate crisis – and an opportunity to ensure cleaner heat is accessible and affordable to all and a program like S.5 is required to make that happen.”
“The Affordable Heat Act finally puts Vermont on the path to equitably transition to cheaper, cleaner heat,” said Ben Edgerly Walsh, Climate & Energy Program Director for the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. “We deeply appreciate the hard work members of the House did to further improve this bill, and we look forward to continuing to support it through the remainder of the legislative process.”
In Vermont, 73% of the energy used in the thermal sector comes from fossil fuels, all of which is imported, and 75% of those dollars leave our local economy. Enacting the Affordable Heat Act provides Vermont an opportunity to do things differently. S.5 will create a blueprint for a sector-wide transition to a clean energy economy for current fossil fuel heating providers, requiring them to help their customers stay warm with cleaner, renewable energy sources and phase down the use of expensive fossil fuels over time.
By transitioning the business model of fossil fuel heating providers, we can reduce overall heating costs for Vermonters by a projected $2 billion, or an average of $7,500 per household, just from actions taken by 2030.
“We celebrate this momentous step and appreciate the hard work of the members of the House to advance a version of S.5 that thoughtfully considers how equity, affordability, accessibility, and representation for low-income Vermonters is centered within the bill’s language and throughout implementation. We look forward to the Legislature passing an Affordable Heat Act this year with the strongest possible provisions to move Vermont toward a full just transition to a clean energy future that leaves no one behind,” said Dan Fingas, VT Movement Politics Director for Rights & Democracy.
“The Vermont Sierra Club applauds the House of Representatives’ impressive vote of support for the Affordable Heat today and the House Committee on Environment and Energy’s diligence to strengthen S.5. We believe that regulating heating fuels, the second largest source of carbon emissions, is a critical step forward in reducing carbon emissions and meeting our state climate goals. We support prioritizing heat pumps and weatherization, as well as changes to reduce and eventually eliminate the usage of bioenergy fuels. We applaud the equity mandates in the law and will continue to advocate for an equitable clean energy transition as the program is implemented,” said Robb Kidd, Conservation Program Manager, Vermont Sierra Club.
“Thriving local economies determine the health of our broader business community. Our current reliance on fossil fuels to heat our homes depends on an energy source that is entirely imported, meaning every dollar generated from our collective fossil fuel purchases leaves our local economies and the state’s economy as a whole. VBSR supports keeping money local, which has the immense added benefit of accelerating a resilient clean energy future. As the number one pollution-reducing recommendation in Vermont’s Climate Action Plan, the Affordable Heat Act has been studied, analyzed, and debated for years. The time has come to put all that work into action. We applaud our lawmakers for their passage of S.5, “ said Roxanne Vought, Executive Director, Businesses for Social Responsibility.