Recently, after weeks of heated testimony the House Energy and Technology Committee approved a new “clean heat standard” program on a 7-2 vote. This bill, H.715, is the most consequential piece of climate legislation being debated in Vermont this session.
Heating accounts for over 30% of Vermont’s greenhouse gas emissions, and reforms in this sector are critical to addressing the state’s contribution to the climate crisis and transitioning Vermont to a low carbon economy.
Going into this session, we had three core principles we were pushing for as part of the Clean Heat Standard.
First, it must require fossil fuel companies to cut pollution enough to actually achieve Vermont’s climate pollution mandates in the thermal sector. The bill, as it passed the House Energy Committee, requires those significant, essential cuts to climate pollution.
Second, it must achieve those cuts on a transparent, lifecycle basis, taking into account the pollution created when options like biofuels are created. Simply put, a policy that merely made things look better on paper, or one that cut pollution in Vermont while increasing pollution elsewhere in the world by the same amount, would be wholly inadequate. The Clean Heat Standard bill now requires these pollution reductions to be achieved both in Vermont and on a lifecycle basis.
Third, any such program must be equitable, requiring significant clean heat benefits to go to low and moderate income Vermonters. The bill now lays out specific, unambiguous requirements for both low-income and moderate-income Vermonters to receive their fair share of the benefits of this policy.
But the fight is just beginning. Make no mistake – passing this bill out of committee is a big deal, but there is still work to be done. In the coming weeks, I’ll be working with our advocates and allies to improve on the foundations laid here – and ensure the bill ultimately becomes law. We simply can’t keep waiting to finally, comprehensively address the climate pollution in Vermont’s heating sector.
A clean heat standard would require fossil fuel companies to be a part of the transition to a low carbon economy, by requiring wholesalers and some retailers to fund clean heat and energy programs. It would get more efficient electric heat pumps installed, and more weatherization done – outcomes we’ll be pushing to maximize in the Senate, and as the program is implemented by regulators.
The thermal sector creates more climate pollution than any other in Vermont save transportation, and legislative action in absolutely essential if we are to meet the goals set out by the Climate Action Plan.