A coalition of business, environmental, and equity-focused organizations called on the Vermont Legislature to override Governor Phil Scott’s veto of S.5, the Affordable Heat Act.
This veto comes right on the heels of the Scott Administration’s release of the latest Vermont Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory and Forecast. This report projects Vermont will miss its legally required 2030 emissions reductions by nearly two thirds. The data shows the largest portion of that shortfall will be driven by a lack of action in the thermal sector — one of the central components of the Affordable Heat Act.
The Affordable Heat Act is designed to help Vermonters access lower cost, cleaner heat and move away from polluting, expensive, price-volatile fossil fuels. If enacted, this legislation will put Vermont on a path to reduce carbon pollution in Vermont’s heating sector in line with our legal requirements. As the number one pollution-reducing recommendation in Vermont’s Climate Action Plan, the policy has undergone several years of analysis, research, and public engagement before, during, and after the Climate Action Plan’s development and adoption.
In his veto message, Gov. Scott repeated false claims that the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), the energy regulatory body tasked with designing and analyzing the program, could implement the Clean Heat Standard program prior to the further legislative authorization S.5 requires. This is patently untrue. Under S.5, for the program to go into effect the legislature must enact a separate bill that cannot be considered prior to 2025, after the PUC has produced key environmental and economic analyses and program design to inform that future legislative process. The Legislature’s legal counsel has thoroughly debunked the Governor’s claim.
“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. “The Governor’s veto flies in the face of what his administration’s own analysis says is necessary to achieve Vermont’s climate pollution reduction requirements, is deeply irresponsible, and should be overridden.”
“Governor Scott’s veto is shameful in multiple ways – including how he is actively misleading Vermonters about the impacts of the bill, which in fact aims to help all Vermonters transition to more affordable heating options, instead of leaving too many people reliant on heating fuels like oil whose price has spiked $2 per gallon in the past year. His inaction on climate change would take us even farther off track from doing our part to help Vermonters prepare for this fast-moving crisis,” said Lauren Hierl, Executive Director of Vermont Conservation Voters. “We hope the Legislature swiftly overrides this veto and enacts this policy so the state can move forward with developing a program to help Vermonters access cheaper and cleaner heating sources.”
“The Legislature must override Governor Scott’s irresponsible veto,” said Elena Mihaly, VP and State Director at Conservation Law Foundation. “Enactment of the Affordable Heat Act is a critical step forward to help Vermonters wean ourselves off of dirty and expensive fossil fuels. The Governor’s veto deprives Vermonters of this opportunity to access more affordable and cleaner heating alternatives and goes against our legal and moral obligation to reduce climate damaging carbon emissions.”
“After almost two decades of grappling with how to help Vermonters move away from costly, price volatile and dirty fossil fuels, we are poised to finally do the deep dive work needed to stand up the best program possible and deliver cleaner, cheaper heat for all Vermonters,” said Johanna Miller, Energy and Climate Program Director at the Vermont Natural Resources Council. “The world – and Vermonters – are already moving in this direction, in large part because the climate crisis requires it. But the program envisioned by S.5 – and the reason it is so important to override the Governor’s veto – is to ensure that no Vermonters are left behind in this inevitable transition.”
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.
“By accelerating a resilient clean energy future, Vermont keeps more dollars local – reducing what leaves our state’s economy through purchasing imported fossil fuels. The Affordable Heat Act both boosts our local businesses and eases the economic hardships of our neighbors. VBSR has consistently called for the bold climate action that S.5 equates to, and we ask our legislators to join us in our support.” said Roxanne Vought, Executive Director, Businesses for Social Responsibility.
“The Affordable Heat Act is a necessary step forward in ensuring the transition off of fossil fuels is equitable and all Vermonters have access to needed weatherization and mitigation programs. The Governor’s veto follows his unwillingness to engage with the legislature to create programs that are best for Vermonters. Once again the Governor is happier to do the easy work of the veto rather than the hard work of governing,” said Dan Fingas, VT Movement Politics Director for Rights & Democracy.
“The Vermont Sierra Club is dismayed with Governor Scott’s political grandstanding on climate issues and his latest veto delaying meaningful climate action. Although the Governor had pledged to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Accords his Administration continues to put up roadblocks to substantive policies to help Vermonters with the necessary transition. 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’s legally binding climate requirements. 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.