On May 18, 2023

Bill spells out accountability, sets Vt. on path to success


By Rep. Gabrielle Stebbins & Sen. Rebecca White

Despite overwhelming Senate and House support and the addition of a “check-back” mechanism per his request, Governor Scott vetoed S.5, the Affordable Heat Act. 

Recently, in just over a year, the price of fuel oil rose by $2 per gallon, and for the first time in Vermont’s official tracking history, the thermal sector, which includes residential, commercial, and industrial fuel use, produced the highest amount of climate pollution of any sector tracked in Vermont’s official greenhouse gas inventory. 

The reality is: for both people and the planet, business as usual doesn’t work. Unpredictable and volatile fossil-fuel prices have been and will continue to negatively impact Vermonters until a better path is forged. S.5 offers that path. 

Clean heat alternatives like heat pumps, weatherization, and advanced wood heating are cheaper and more sustainable. According to an expert independent analysis, by 2030, the clean heat services that could result from the Affordable Heat Act are estimated to reduce the overall heating costs of Vermonters by $2 billion, or an average of $7,500 per household that install clean heat alternatives.

Beyond the tremendous economic benefits, when it comes to climate action, the Agency of Natural Resources projects that a business-as-usual trajectory will bring Vermont only halfway to the 2025 legal obligations and a little more than one third of the way to the 2030 legal obligations. Without additional policy action, as recommended by the Vermont Climate Council and embodied in S.5, it will be impossible to meet the requirements of the Global Warming Solutions Act. In fact, the Affordable Heat Act is the single largest pollution reduction strategy recommended by the Vermont Climate Council. 

At the Governor’s request, the Legislature inserted a “check-back” provision before the new, needed program outlined in S.5 could ever be implemented. The bill requires the Public Utility Commission to spend the next two years undertaking an economic analysis, stakeholder engagement and “writing the rules” to regulate the program. In January 2025, the studies and proposed rules will return to the Legislature for review. A bill will then be introduced and discussed based on the new information provided at that time. The program cannot begin without support from the House, Senate, and Governor in 2025.  

Should the bill advance to law, the new program will:   

Engage more Vermonters — with a core focus on serving low- to moderate-income Vermonters — to choose to make the switch to clean heat, saving money on their fuel bills over time,  

Assist fuel dealers during a time of rapid industry change, and   

Help Vermont meet the carbon pollution requirements of 2030 and 2050.  

“There has been a tremendous amount of misinformation about this policy, which develops a clean heat credit program — but does not implement it. The bill very clearly states that the PUC cannot file final proposed rules ‘until specific authorization is enacted by the General Assembly,’” said Representative Gabrielle Stebbins. “This misrepresentation is a deep disservice to Vermonters. Not only is it scaring them; it runs counter to what voters expect and want from their elected officials.” 

“The Affordable Heat Act is an essential step forward to plan for and fully understand what it will take, what it will cost and how Vermonters can benefit from more local, cleaner, and more affordable heat,” said Senator Rebecca White. “It is the Climate Solutions Caucus leadership’s hope and expectation — as the two recent and decisive House and Senate votes have demonstrated — that the majority of policy makers will continue to support taking the next hard, important step forward toward a more equitable, affordable, cleaner heat future.”

Do you want to submit feedback to the editor?

Send Us An Email!

Related Posts

Harrison announces candidacy forre-election

May 29, 2024
Jim Harrison of Chittenden announced his candidacy for a new term as state representative for the Rutland-11 district (Chittenden, Killington, Mendon, and Pittsfield). He was first appointed to the legislature in 2017 by Governor Phil Scott and has been re-elected to new terms since then. Harrison is a member of the House Appropriations Committee, the…

Why Act 127 is vital for Vermont’s rural education

May 29, 2024
Dear Editor, In Vermont’s quest for equitable education funding, Act 127 represents a beacon of hope, especially for our rural communities. This legislation, informed by thorough research from Rutgers and the University of Vermont, revises the state’s school funding formulas to reflect the actual costs of educating students in diverse socio-economic settings, with a significant focus…

Act 127 balance ed resources; aims for equity

May 29, 2024
Dear Editor, The debate over educational equity in Vermont, particularly around the implementation of Act 127 and the Pupil Weighting Factors Report, touches deeply on the state’s social and economic disparities. This conflict is starkly illustrated by the historical and current attitudes of certain towns towards neighboring communities, especially in the context of educational funding…


May 29, 2024
Dear Editor, We have an urgent call to action: to protect 3SquaresVT/SNAP benefits nationwide for millions of families, including nearly 70,000 people in our state. In early May, the U.S. Congress began to progress on Farm Bill negotiations again. Just a day apart, the chairs of the House and Senate Agriculture committees released their respective Farm…