March 16, 2022
Montpelier – Today, in an important step forward for long-overdue progress on the climate crisis, the Vermont House of Representatives advanced H.715, the Clean Heat Standard, with an incredibly strong vote of 96-44. 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 – the single largest pollution-reduction plank of the Climate Action Plan – would move Vermonters off of imported fossil fuels by incentivizing a clean energy transition for fossil fuel companies and helping Vermonters, particularly those with lower incomes, heat their homes and buildings with access to more cost-effective, efficient, local heating solutions.
Johanna Miller, Climate & Energy Program Director at the Vermont Natural Resources Council stated, “Today was a major and important step forward in Vermont’s commitment to transitioning away from polluting, price-volatile fossil fuels in our second biggest carbon-intensive sector – thermal – and do so in an equitable, gradual and climate-accountable way. Many steps remain in the legislative process, for sure, but today is a day to celebrate. Thank you to Speaker Krowinski and House members who voted to support more clean, affordable, local heating solutions for Vermonters. We look forward to ongoing collaboration to see a well-designed Clean Heat Standard enacted into law and more efforts undertaken to help Vermonters become more climate resilient and energy-independent.”
“It’s way past time we take the pollution from fossil fuels being sold into Vermont seriously,” said Ben Edgerly Walsh, Climate & Energy Program Director with the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. “This bill would finally require climate pollution cuts from thermal-sector fossil fuel companies, something we should have done years ago. Today’s vote is a big step. We deeply appreciate the hard work members of the House put into this bill, and we look forward to continuing to work on it as it moves to the Senate.”
“Fossil-fueled heating accounts for over a third of Vermont’s greenhouse gas emissions and is a significant drain on our state’s economy. The Clean Heat Standard represents a tremendous opportunity to move away from these fuels and in doing so reduce our climate pollution, keep more dollars in our local economies, and help Vermonters make the shift to more affordable, clean, and predictably priced energy sources,” said Jordan Giaconia, Public Policy Manager with Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility. “We applaud the House for today’s vote and for their continued efforts to move toward a greener, healthier, and more energy-independent Vermont.”
Three essential principles the bill must meet to maintain the support of VCV, VNRC, VPIRG, and VBSR are:
- Requiring fossil fuel companies to cut climate pollution in the heating sector in line with Vermont’s legal emissions reduction requirements, as outlined in the Global Warming Solutions Act.
- Achieving emissions reductions using a transparent, lifecycle approach; taking into account the full emissions created with options like biofuel.
- Centering equity and requiring that a significant portion of clean heat benefits go to low- and moderate-income Vermonters and those who have disproportionately borne the high cost of polluting fossil fuels.
Lauren Hierl, Executive Director of Vermont Conservation Voters added, “Thank you to Chair Briglin and the House Energy & Technology Committee’s hard work, and to all of the members of the Vermont House who voted to advance the Clean Heat Standard today. Achieving real progress on our state’s climate pollution reduction targets requires leadership from our elected officials, and today’s vote shows the commitment of the Vermont House to climate action. We will continue working to improve and advance the Clean Heat Standard, but celebrate today’s strong show of support for a cleaner and healthier future.”
With Russia’s recent unprovoked assault on Ukraine remaining a stark backdrop for today’s vote, this policy is even more important. Vermont imports every drop of the oil and gas we use to heat our homes and get where we need to go. That leaves Vermonters – especially Vermonters with lower incomes – exposed and extremely vulnerable to the high-prices and volatility of our reliance on an international fossil fuel commodity market. In the past year alone, the cost of Number 2 heating oil rose by $2.00 a gallon. The Clean Heat Standard will establish a more affordable, gradual, predictable approach to keeping Vermonters warm with cleaner heat.
For more context on why our organizations applaud the House’s overwhelming vote today to advance the Clean Heat Standard, read an op-ed our organizations recently penned on the importance of this policy.