Climate Dispatch: May 12: Progress! (and What’s Next)

Today’s Episode

After a long week and long session, we wanted to provide a brief update – and then will be back next week with a Climate Dispatch video to break down where everything landed! On the eve of the 2023 legislative session adjournment, here’s a brief recap on climate action this session:

With a strong 107-42 vote, the House followed on the Senate’s heels and overrode the Governor’s veto of the Affordable Heat Act (S.5), thereby enacting the bill. The bill aims to help Vermonters reduce their dependence on expensive and polluting fossil fuels by requiring importers of fossil heating fuels to provide cleaner heating options like weatherization, heat pumps, or advanced wood heat, particularly for lower- and middle-income Vermonters. The bill’s enactment kicks off a multi-year technical and stakeholder process to develop this program, before it comes back to the Legislature for further consideration and affirmative action before it could be implemented. We will be following that process closely and keep you abreast of what’s happening as we continue our work to deliver the cleanest, most affordable heat for all Vermonters and move beyond the dirty, deeply inequitable status quo.

Other important climate and clean energy priorities have also advanced, including a biodiversity bill aimed at durably conserving 30% of our land by 2030 and 50% by 2050 (H.126) and the creation of a legislative working group to examine how to modernize our Renewable Energy Standard (S.112).

In the Transportation Bill and via the soon-to-pass Budget, other important priorities advanced. That includes strengthening our Complete Streets policy, providing bridge funding for Green Mountain Transit to continue fare-free transit, climate workforce funding, a study that will advance our discussion around divesting state pension funds from fossil fuels, and sustainable funding for environmental justice program implementation. 

And, just today, the Senate gave final approval on the housing bill (S.100) that contains a number of provisions that will help  encourage more thoughtfully planned development – concentrated in Vermont’s downtowns and village centers, while allowing us to maintain the integrity of our natural and working lands. We hope the Governor will sign this bill into law.

Call to Action

The Affordable Heat Act in particular was a hard-fought win, made possible with your help and a broad coalition of partners. It was also a hard vote for many policymakers. Please take a few minutes this weekend to thank the Representatives and Senators who voted “YES” to override Gov. Scott’s veto of the Affordable Heat Act.

There is much more work to do, but we sincerely thank you for all you’ve done to support this much-needed progress. We will look forward to making much more with you all in the coming months and years ahead.