Just before the Vermont Legislature left for Town Meeting Week break, the Senate passed the Affordable Heat Act (S.5) on a strong 19-10 vote.
This is a significant win for Vermonters.
In the face of a well-financed fossil fuel industry ad blitz, sowing fear and misinformation, the Senate stood up and advanced this critical climate legislation that will require the companies that import fossil fuels into Vermont to provide incentives and assistance to Vermonters so they can switch to cleaner, cheaper heating options.
Now this bill moves to the House. It will need to make its way through the committee process there – so we expect it to be at least a month before the entire House votes on it. But we know the fossil fuel industry is wasting no time spreading doubt and lobbying House members to kill this bill.
It’s important to be really clear about what the Affordable Heat Act will do. The fossil fuel industry has spent a lot of money to run ads, using unsubstantiated claims, trying to make Vermonters think this bill will raise their heating costs by some exorbitant amount. It’s nonsense.
If enacted, this bill would require Vermont’s Public Utility Commission to design a program that would require fossil fuel importers to offer Vermonters (particularly low- and middle-income Vermonters) incentives and upfront assistance to switch to cleaner, cheaper heating options, or to offer them discounts on cleaner heating fuels.
What’s more, an amendment added in the Senate requires the legislature to give full approval to the program again in 2025, after the PUC has fully designed it and provided additional details on the costs and benefits, before it could be implemented in 2026.
If fully realized, this legislation will be significant. It will start the process, over time, of getting Vermonters off of the dirty, expensive, fossil fuel status quo and onto cleaner, more affordable heating options – that’s why the fossil fuel industry doesn’t like it. And it does this process in a deliberate, thoughtful way, that prioritizes Vermonters who can least afford the status quo, and struggle most to move away from fossil fuels.
There’s a lot more work ahead of us, but let’s take a moment to celebrate this victory. Stay tuned for more updates and ways you can take action to get this bill across the finish line.