Energy Siting Bill Clears Senate

S.230 – the energy siting reform bill – passed the Senate late Thursday on a 22 – 3 vote, but not before several significant battles and revisions on the Senate floor.

The final result is a still-promising bill that contains some serious flaws. VPIRG, along with our supporters and allies, will need to work to improve S.230 in the House. If done right – this legislation could bring more Vermonters into the process of moving our state toward a clean energy future and actually give us a stronger path toward achieving our energy and climate goals. Here’s where we stand right now:

The good news:

The general purpose of this bill remains unchanged. At its heart, S.230 is a bill that aims to empower towns to take on a greater role in Vermont’s clean energy transition – and despite the political maneuverings last week, it still has the potential to do that.

Many of the best provisions of this bill are still there as well. S.230 will incentivize solar development on the built environment (e.g. landfills and parking lots). It will create a full-time staff position at the Public Service Board to assist the public in navigating the Board’s process and provide citizens with more information. These are solid reforms, and VPIRG is glad to see them included in the bill that passed the Senate.

Finally, some of the most serious anti-clean energy amendments to S.230 were defeated. An amendment that would have required costly 24-7 sound monitoring on all wind turbines in Vermont – large and small, new and old – was first scaled back, and then soundly defeated 8 to 18 (see how your senators voted here).

Another amendment – if passed – would have allowed utilities to charge customers a new, monthly fee for the right to go renewable, and increase costs for net metering customers. That one was pulled from the floor after the Natural Resources and Finance committees failed to support it. The defeat of these amendments would not have been possible without the countless calls VPIRG supporters made to their senators last week.

The bad news:

Unfortunately, some amendments that will slow clean energy were hastily included before the final vote on the bill. Of particular concern is a change that would give town plans more immediate power to block renewable projects before they develop plans that are geared toward reaching our state energy goals.

This last-minute change undermines the potential of S.230 as a bill that would encourage communities to come together to say “yes, we believe more clean energy is good for Vermont – this is how and where we should build it to accomplish our goals.”

Where do we go from here:

The bill now moves to the House. We will need to urge our representatives to make the improvements necessary to ensure that S.230:

  • Helps move Vermont off of fossil fuels and get to 90% renewable energy by 2050
  • Brings more Vermonters into that process — so that we not only achieve the energy future the vast majority of Vermonters want, but we do it together.