Potential Increases in Fossil Fuel Costs Fails in Close Veto Override Vote, But Issue Won’t Go Away

The House on Tuesday narrowly sustained the Governor’s veto of H.715, which would have directed the Public Utility Commission (PUC) to develop Clean Heat Standard rules.  Under the Clean Heat Standard, sellers of heating oil, propane, kerosene, natural gas, and coal would have to reduce greenhouse gas emissions attributable to the Vermont thermal sector by retiring required amounts of newly established “clean heat credits” to meet the thermal sector portion of the greenhouse gas emission reduction obligations of the recently enacted Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA). Credits would be based on the lifecycle carbon emission reductions that result from the delivery of eligible clean heat measures to end-use customers in Vermont. The system of tradeable credits earned from the delivery of clean heat measures would be established through rule by the Public Utility Commission.

There were several concerns with this proposal, particularly the uncertainty about how much the cost of heating fuels would increase and the fact that a new system with such impacts would be put in place without the legislature being accountable for the details.  AIV has also been concerned about the potential for increased costs to impact process fuels as well.  Although the Senate amended the bill to require the legislature to formally approve the PUC’s ultimate proposed rule, this did not fully address cost and efficacy concerns.

The GWSA allows stakeholders to sue the state if emission reduction goals are not met and certain measures to achieve them are not enacted, so the defeat of H.715 does bring the state closer to such suits being filed.  It is therefore certain that legislation will be developed again next year, and AIV will remain closely engaged on this issue going forward.  If you have any questions or would otherwise like to discuss this issue, including ways to engage in the ongoing debate, please do not hesitate to contact us at info@aivt.org.