Two GWSA Pillars Down, One to Go.

The Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI-P), a stealth carbon tax on gasoline and diesel, died last December when the only three states that originally agreed to participate all backed out. That was one down. The Clean Heat Standard (CHS), a stealth carbon tax on propane, natural gas, kerosene, and heating oil was just successfully vetoed by Governor Scott. That’s two. The next piece of the Global Warming Solutions Act up for consideration is Vermont participation in the California Clean Car & Clean Truck Standards – an ultimate ban on internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.

Vermont participation in the California Clean Car & Clean Truck Standards – an ultimate ban on internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.

In a nutshell, what these California-driven policies do is mandate that one hundred percent of all cars and light trucks sold in the state be “zero emission vehicles” (ZEVs) by 2035 with the restrictions on imports beginning in 2026 and ratcheting up after that. For medium and heavy duty trucks, the mandated import percentages are 30 percent by 2030 and 40 percent or higher depending upon class by 2035.

At a May 16th meeting of the Climate Council, Meghan O’Toole of the Department of Environmental Conservation explained, “We adopt these rules pursuant to our authority under the Clean Air Act to have unique and more stringent standards that are reflective of the California program. And because of the provisions of the Clean Air Act that allow us to do that. We don’t really have any flexibility in amending the substantive provisions or the stringency of the provisions of these rules. They have to be identical to the State of California’s program.”

So, basically California’s governor, Gavin Newsome, via executive order is dictating what Vermont vehicle consumers can and cannot buy. If we go along. We don’t have to.

As Julie Moore, Secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources said, “[W]hen it comes to the Clean Car & Cleat Truck Standard. Our choices are really to adopt what California has proposed, or to adopt the federal level standards.” So thumbs up or thumbs down. 

The obvious choice from a practical, consumer conscious perspective here is thumbs down to California and go with the federal standards. The problems with the California standards are numerous. ZEVs are expensive, inefficient in Vermont’s climate, the infrastructure doesn’t exist to support them, and demand, though slightly increasing with the help of taxpayer subsidies, is relatively low. Moreover, although there are several other states that have signed onto the California emissions standards, New Hampshire isn’t one of them. All this will do is drive the sales of new ICE vehicles across the river. But, needless to say, option sticking Vermonters with this California policy is what the Climate Council is pushing for.

O’Toole went on, “We anticipate that if all of the vehicles that will be delivered to the state of Vermont pursuant to these rules are actually bought by Vermonters and fleet owners in Vermont and placed in service, then we’ll get about a third of the way to our GWSA goal just for the transportation sector…. That’s again assuming that people buy all these vehicles and place them in service on Vermont roads -- and retire their ICE vehicles.”  

These are gargantuanly unrealistic assumptions. A legislative mandate forcing car dealers to import only vehicles most Vermonters don’t want and/or can’t afford with the expectation that we are too stupid to cross the river or visit to find the practical and affordable vehicle we want is delusional, apart from being totally hostile to consumer freedom of choice. Prediction: this results in car lots full of unsold vehicles in Vermont and a run on showrooms in New Hampshire, damaging our economy and doing little to nothing for emissions.  

The rational policy choice is to break with California and switch back to the federal CAFÉ standards for Vermont vehicle sales. The Agency of Natural Resources is set to file these rules with the Interagency Committee on Administrative Rules (ICAR) on July 1 with hopes of having all these rules fully in place by the end of the year. Let’s hope the string of policy outcomes someone, ie Governor Scott, squashes this nonsense. That would be three strikes and you’re out for the Global Warming Solutions Act.


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