Climate Dispatch: March 18, 2022: Mid-Session Update on Climate Priorities

Today’s Episode

This has been a huge, busy week for climate progress in the Legislature! Whew! In this week’s Climate Dispatch, VNRC’s Johanna Miller and VCV’s Lauren Hierl are joined by Ben Edgerly Walsh, Climate & Energy Program Director at Vermont Public Interest Research Group, for a brief, mid-session update on many exciting priorities – as well as opportunities in the weeks ahead to strengthen and ensure equitable, significant, and pollution-reduction progress. It’s been a tremendously busy week for lawmakers especially, as today marks the crossover deadline for money or policy bills with attached funding components to move into the next Chamber. And there’s been a ton of movement, with last-minute progress likely even later today. Check out the Dispatch for a deeper dive, but here’s the gist: 

  • The House of Representatives took an important step forward on pollution-reduction when it advanced H.715, the Clean Heat Standard, with an incredibly strong vote of 96-44. See who voted to support or oppose H.715 here. The following day, by voice vote, a majority of House members voted in support of H.715 and the bill now moves to the Senate. The Clean Heat Standard is the single largest pollution-reduction plank of the Climate Action Plan – it would move Vermonters off of imported fossil fuels by incentivizing a clean energy transition for fossil fuel companies.
  • There were significant victories in the transportation sector as the House Transportation Committee unanimously passed the FY23 Transportation Bill (T-bill) with a suite of clean transportation investments, including funding to help lower- and moderate-income Vermonters purchase electric or highly efficient cars, EV charging equipment, zero-fare transit, and more programs to build out a more robust clean transportation system. We’ll be continuing the fight to maintain the scope and scale of funding as the T-bill moves to the Senate. Read more here.
  • The Senate Appropriations Committee advanced S.148, the Environmental Justice Bill. This important bill will take steps to help ensure that no segment of the population should suffer disproportionate environmental harm or lack access to environmental benefits. The bill will head to the Senate floor for a full vote next week, so stay tuned for further updates! 
  • H.518, the Municipal Energy Resilience Initiatives Bill, passed a third reading on the House floor and now moves on to the Senate, where we will continue the work to improve and strengthen it. The bill has a $40 million commitment for direct grants to municipalities for weatherization, thermal efficiency, and to supplement or replace less efficient heating systems. 
  • And, last but certainly not least, the House Appropriations Committee is anticipated to pass out the budget imminently, and it appears that much of what we prioritized is included in the House version. VNRC, VCV and many partners called for significant investments in low- moderate-income weatherization, investments in transportation electrification, vehicle efficiency and bike, walk, transit and microtransit investments, substantive commitments to help ready the grid and people’s homes for cleaner heat and transportation and building a clean energy workforce and far more. 

We will let you know where the budget bill lands in next week’s Climate Dispatch – and give you an update on these and other key bills too – when we are joined next week by Climate Solutions Caucus Co-Chairs, Senator Chris Pearson and Representative Sarah Copeland Hanzas – for an even deeper dive on climate progress. Be sure to stay tuned for that, but in the meantime…

Call to Action

Now is a great time to reach out and thank your Representatives for all of the hard work they’ve done and will do to prioritize climate progress so far this session! Reach out to Speaker Jill Krowinski, and those in the House Transportation, the House Energy & Technology, and the House Appropriations committees in particular and thank them for supporting climate action.

There is much to celebrate this week and still much more work to do in the weeks ahead!