House Progressive Caucus Releases Statement on H.715 Clean Heat Standards Veto Override

MAY 12, 2022

CONTACT Selene Colburn Progressive Caucus Chair SColburn@leg.state.vt.us

Emma Mulvaney-Stanak Assistant Caucus Chair emulvaneystanak@leg.state.vt.us

MONTPELIER, VT- On Thursday, May 11, 2022, the House Progressive Caucus released the following statement on the H.715, Clean Heat Standards Veto Override.

As many critics have pointed out, the Clean Heat Standard crafted by the legislature is far from a perfect bill. It was not easy for many members of our caucus to support the override of the Governor’s veto of H.715. The bill is flawed, but we are out of time with the climate crisis and the legislature must begin to take steps forward to address the largest contributors to emissions in our state - fossil fuels.

H.715 prioritizes weatherization and the installation of heat pumps as strategies to move the state’s heating systems away from fossil fuels, but it also leaves the door open for the possibility that some climate polluting biofuels may be used to meet the standard. As the bill moved through the legislature, important provisions were added to limit the use of biofuels and further incentivize cleaner, greener solutions. Ultimately, Vermont’s thermal sector needs a policy that doesn’t rely on these potentially damaging sources. We will continue fighting for this!

Rep. Heather Surprenant (P/D), a farmer and climate leader, said “working to ensure alternative fuel sources that are sustainable is critical to ensuring climate resilience. Reliance on biofuels, which are derived from corn and soy, is an extractive form of agriculture that depletes our top soil and reduces biodiversity.”

Even advocates who have been strong critics of the standard shared with us that they would rather have the opportunity to strengthen it as it moves through the process, rather than face another year of inaction and the need to start from scratch. In H.715, the final standard must come back to the legislature for a vote in two years–a check back. This allows the legislature to improve upon what is initially included in H.715. The Governor asked for the check back but failed to support once it landed on his desk.

Rep. Selene Colburn (P/D), House Progressive Caucus Leader, said “we are concerned about the approach of allowing the clean heat standard to fail and continuing without a climate policy this year that will help us to meet our emissions reductions goals. The most regressive thing we could do is to continue with business-as-usual reliance on fossil fuels.” Our understanding is that in March of 2021, the average cost of a gallon of number 2 heating oil in Vermont was $2.70. In March of 2022, the cost of an average gallon was $4.69. That's a substantial increase that hits working Vermonters hard. By contrast, a regulatory framework for our heating system that prioritizes the needs of low and moderate income Vermonters and moves us away from reliance on expensive, extractive fuels to approaches that will quickly save money for Vermonters is a far less regressive approach.

For this reason it was difficult that we were not able to override the Governor’s veto. However, we hope to move a stronger policy forward in future legislation.

The policy needs ongoing work, but moving it forward over nothing would have a form of harm reduction. In fact, doing nothing likely leaves solutions to the Scott administration, who will be far less likely to take into account the values around equity, just transitions, and the needs of working people that our caucus shares and that we were able to help improve in the clean heat bill.

We will keep fighting for the cleanest, greenest, most just environmental policies for Vermonters. We also know that the climate crisis can't wait for perfect solutions. We are committed to continuing to find the balance between necessary action and responsible policy.

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