Commentary: GWSA: The Worst Democracy-Shredding Bill in Fifty Years

The Global Warming solutions Act (H.688) purports to combat the Menace of Climate Change by authorizing unaccountable bureaucrats to regulate any and everything to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to impossible levels. The bill gives the Conservation Law Foundation standing to sue the bureaucrats for not oppressing people fat enough – at taxpayer’s expense if the plaintiff “substantially prevails.” It would shred democracy by exempting every legislator from ever having to vote on the results.

The battle lines have been drawn on the state’s political landscape, and they are somewhat different than in previous years.

Traditionally, Democratic legislators have favored taxing and spending to benefit members of their electoral coalition, such as unionized workers, enviromentalists, lower income families and disadvantaged groups.

In recent years, Democrats and Progs have become enthusiastic supporters of using government power to make some people bestow benefits on other people, at no cost to taxpayers. The perennial example of such issues is increasing the minimum wage, whereby employers are required to pay more money to entry-level workers. But the emerging story of the 2020 legislature is not just the familiar battle over such traditional Democratic issues, but a contest with Republican Gov. Phil Scott over three measures that our “climate change” activists believe are Vermont’s vital contributions to the continuation of human life on the planet.

Upon his election in 2016 Gov. Scott pledged to make Vermonters shoulder their share of the Paris Agreement that newly-elected President Trump vowed to pull the U.S. out of, and did.  In 2017 Scott named a Climate Action Commission to chart a path toward that goal. But Scott had also repeatedly declared he would veto a carbon tax. Thus his Commission’s November 2017 report, to the dismay of many of its members, stopped short of anything that momentous, and produced few if any sweeping recommendations.

Now the climate change movement is highly energized by its growing outrage over Trump’s unwillingness to even pay lip service to their great cause, and what they view as Scott’s accommodating verbiage but no meaningful action to drive down Vermont’s CO2 emissions to what some would see as utterly fantastic levels - 26% below the 2005 level by 2025, and 80% below by 2050.

The climate change movement sees a legislature overwhelmingly controlled by their political friends: the House 102-43 Democratic /Progressive (plus five independents) and the Senate 24-6. Its activists are tired of waiting for bold action. The governor hasn’t given them any, and they demand the legislature give them drastic action now.  Here’s their program:

First, put Vermont into the Transportation and Climate Initiative. This is a northeastern multistate coalition that will set region-wide CO2 emission caps. Then it will drive emissions below those caps by making motorists pay increasingly higher prices for gasoline and on-road diesel fuels at the pump. Some of the $56 billion in TCI revenues (from 11 states, over ten years) will be sent back to state governments to subsidize electric vehicles, public transportation, passenger rail, and bike paths, and to devise new land use controls to prevent people from living beyond cycling or walking distance from compact town centers.

Second, enact the Global Warming Solutions Act. This astonishing legislation would convert Vermont’s 2006 “goals” for reducing  CO2 emissions into the much stricter and mandated requirements noted above, create a “climate supergovernment” within state government, task state agencies to adopt all rules they find necessary to achieve the supergovernment’s (arbitrary) emission reductions - without a vote by elected legislators! - and authorize anybody to sue the state for not moving far enough and fast enough .

Third, and less visible, inject a “defeat climate change” permit criterion into the emerging rewrite of Act 250, the 50 year old planning and development act. This will likely require that every permit application will have to show that the development is “carbon neutral”, locates in a designated urban growth center (like Greater Burlington), makes maximum use of public transportation, and who knows what else.

Last week the “social justice” component of the state’s left-wing coalition jumped into the Act 250 issue, demanding that no permit be issued unless, in addition to meeting a host of CO2 emissions conditions, the applicant has made special provisions for the poor and minority groups that (supposedly) have suffered from previous development.

Our legislature has always faced and dealt with conventional issues like taxation, regulation, labor law, highways, criminal justice, and education, health and welfare programs. Some have found the results unsatisfactory, but rarely are the legislature and governor’s products life-threatening for the future of the state.

Now suppose the legislature enacts these three measures, conceived and promoted by people who are, whether sincerely or cynically, obsessed with the Menace of Climate Change. Suppose the people install a Progressive climate warrior as governor next year to carry out these measures.

What would Vermont’s economy look like in five years? Its attractiveness to small and large taxpaying businesses? Its employment opportunities? Its transportation system? Its ability to service its debt load, including its $4.5 billion pension fund liabilities?

True, in a Green Police State there will be more openings for climate regulators, lawyers, electric car servicers, bus drivers, insulation contractors, and solar panel installers. But beyond that ?

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute


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Enter Comment Here:

  • Thaddeus Cline
    commented 2023-05-08 17:57:46 -0400
    We the people of Vermont voted in our representatives to do exactly what we wanted them to do .
    In a democracy the lower amounts of votes means you lost and you did and will.
    Somehow you have taken a bill and made it look like it will harm the poor .
    When even a short check much less a thorough one shows it does the opposite.
    Under the bill ( witch obviously you hope no one will read ) the less you make the more help you get .
    Under the bill longer lasting heating systems ,longer lasting domestic hot water systems, and electric cars trucks and buses and tractor trailers all last longer and need less maintenance.
    There’s poor kids who have gone to schools sleepy because the heat cost to much and or the furness broke down and their parents couldn’t pay to have it fixed .
    Then on top of that you get training and help from the Koch brothers and even brag you did . So you’ve lied to the poor while feeding the rich .
    It’s seems Insulating a home is what we do to help the poor who get a larger discount then those more economically able . Is totally wrong for you .
    Let them move to Florida you say . Let them be born with a higher IQ so they can make more money you say .
    Really being conservative means saving heat and making your home or apartment last longer . Being conservative Really means having products that do not break and work more efficiently because they have less moving parts and have better quality materials in them .
    Being Really conservative means you preserve the parts of government that works and get rid of the ones that don’t . Not the other way around and use parts of old systems that always kept the rich ,rich . And harmed the poor so they would live just long enough to help the rich before they died .
    We know who you are . You’re the ones that get money from rich people and use that to lie to the public.
    White collar crime in America is going from 3 times more than blue collar crime .
    But you don’t have to commit crime . You use the legal gray areas and morally and ethically wrong rules and laws . To help the rich A. Get out of being watched by the IRS . And B. help the rich use your laws and gerrymandering to control the middle class and the poor to help the rich .