Late yesterday, Gov. Phil Scott released his proposal for the over $1 billion in funds Vermont will receive from the American Rescue Plan Act. Included in his proposal is $200 million over the next four years in energy affordability and climate investments.
This is an important down payment on the strategic investments necessary for Vermont to address the overlapping economic, equity and climate crises we face as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic has put pre-existing inequalities into painfully stark relief while making clear that business as usual is not working for most Vermonters. And it has highlighted that the multiple crises we face are deeply interrelated – from systemic racism and inequity to economic and housing insecurity to lack of broadband access and the threats of the climate crisis. We must meet these challenges head on with solutions that address several issues at once.
The Governor’s proposal includes:
- $21 million in weatherization efforts.
- $29 million to move Vermonters off of fossil fuels, especially for heating, and to invest in energy storage to bolster Vermont’s disaster resilience and improve our electric grid.
- $25 million in EV charging infrastructure.
- A $100 million down payment towards implementation of the Climate Action Plan being developed by the Vermont Climate Council (created by the Global Warming Solutions Act).
- $25 million to reduce flood hazards, buy out properties at high risk of flooding, and improve landscape resilience.
- Big investments in affordable housing, broadband, and clean water as well.
These investments would be an important step towards Vermont modernizing its energy infrastructure to cut climate pollution and Vermonters’ energy costs, though to be clear, they would be just that – a step.
Far more must be done to confront this crisis, from creating sustainable, long-term funding sources for these investments to requiring more clean, renewable energy to be generated right here in Vermont. That’s why we’ll be pushing hard on the Scott Administration, the legislature, and the Vermont Climate Council to rapidly build on this proposal to meet the scale of the crises before us.
As federal rescue dollars arrive in Vermont, we must call on our leaders to make truly transformative and visionary investments in the future of our state. These funds present a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Vermont to rebuild in a way that works for all of us. We will continue to work with our elected leaders to ensure we are doing just that.
While we must remain vigilant as we work to turn the page on this crisis, there seems to be an end in sight and a genuine cause for hope. Thanks to President Joe Biden and congressional leaders – including Vermont’s delegation – help is on the way. Let’s make sure our elected leaders continue to make strategic investments that will have long-term economic, public health, and climate benefits for generations to come.
To be clear, there are many details within the Governor’s proposal that have yet to be released or fleshed out. There are also elements that we may disagree with. As always, we’ll be pushing every step of the way not just for the big, necessary investments, but for the details of those investments to be done right. For instance, it’s critical that while we’re cutting climate pollution we’re also advancing equity.
Right now though, the Governor needs to hear that Vermonters support the scale of his proposed climate infrastructure investments, which is why I hope you’ll take a moment to leave a message for him at his office (802-828-3333).