Since January, the House Energy & Technology Committee has been batting about a bill that would impose a “Clean Heat Standard” on consumers of fossil fuels used to heat our homes and businesses. In other words, pretty much all of us.
It’s clear that this policy is going to have disastrous repercussions. With inflation, federal energy policy and war in Ukraine already driving up the cost of oil, kerosene, natural gas, and propane, the “Clean Heat Standard” will – intentionally --- make this even worse. Vermonters will find it even more expensive to stay warm in winter.
Make no mistake, the majority of legislators very much want to do this to you. It is their objective in passing the bill because they don’t like fossil fuels. What they don’t want is for you to hold them accountable for the meteor-like impact they have directed at your wallet.
So, to that end, the way the Clean Heat Standard bill works is the legislature passes some very broad goals and outlines around the generically popular notions of reducing thermal greenhouse gas emissions while handing off the details – the real dirty work of crushing the consumer, wiping out small businesses, and taking the state economy -- to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC). To be clear about what’s happening here: the legislature is authorizing that an unelected body design and implement a program that will have major economic consequences while having no idea what it will cost, how (or even if) it can work.
This is by design, because they want plausible deniability that they knew what this law would do when they voted yes. But they do know. They just do not care.
Rep. Jim Harrison (R-Chittenden) put forward an amendment that would force the legislature to vote (for or against) the PUC plan after it is complete. This way the legislature would cast a vote knowing full well what the costs, mandates, bureaucratic overhead, and economic impact analysis predict.
That, argued the seven members of the Energy & Technology Committee who shot down the proposal, would be disrespectful to the PUC. What a load of horse manure!
They also said that if what the PUC came back with really had problems, the legislature was still free – though not obligated – to do something.
To this, Rep. Heidi Scheuermann (R-Stowe), one of the two committee members who supported the Harrison Amendment, noted that Act 46, the school district consolidation law passed in 2015, was created along the same lines. And, when it became clear that law was not being implemented as the legislature ostensibly intended, and the unelected State Board of Education was exerting authorities under the law no one – again ostensibly – thought they had, the legislature did absolutely NOTHING to correct the situation.
They just shrug their shoulders and say, we didn’t do this! But, yes they did.
Let’s not fall for this again.
- Rob Roper is on the Board of Directors of the Ethan Allen Institute.