Vermont Fuel Legislative Report      

The 2021-2022 Legislative session is over. Lawmakers have left the statehouse in Montpelier. When they reconvene in January, there will be many new faces. Nearly a third of the House is not running for re-election and nearly half of the Senate is calling it quits. Governor Phil Scott is running it back, seeking his fourth term in office.

Below is VFDA’s report on what happened in Montpelier this year and what may come next.

Money Matters  The Vermont Legislature passed a record  $8.3 BILLION budget that was augmented by an influx of unprecedented federal funding. The spending bill includes $80 million for weatherization, $45 million in energy efficiency grants for towns, and over $60 million for electrification initiatives. $12 million will go to the fund that pays Vermonters up to $4000 to buy an electric vehicle (meanwhile, there is nearly $600k in unused incentives from the $2.7 million set aside last year). $6.2 million was allocated for a grant program to encourage businesses within one mile of interstate exits to install electric vehicle fast chargers. Another $10 million will go to install vehicle chargers at multi unit rental housing, state parks, workplaces, and other public venues. There are nearly 600,000 registered vehicles in Vermont, but less than 4000 are plug-in electric vehicles. Sales will need to increase by 519% over the next three years to meet the 2025 emissions reduction mandate in the Global Warming Solutions Act. The number of electric cars on the road will have to increase by nearly 3000% to meet the 2030 requirement.

CHS Fails The most talked about Climate Change Legislation in 2022, the Clean Heat Standard (H.715), will not become law. The Clean Heat Standard would have required every seller of oilheat, propane, kerosene, natural gas, and coal to register with the Public Utility Commission (PUC) and show much fuel they bought and sold, where it came from and where it was delivered. A carbon intensity score would have been assigned to every fossil fuel, renewable fuel, and energy saving product and service. These scores would have been used as currency in a new “credit marketplace”for fuel dealers and energy service providers to buy and sell “clean heat credits” based on the fuel they sold and/or equipment installed the prior year. Meanwhile, PUC would have also had to figure out who sells energy products in Vermont and how to ensure that every drop of heating fuel sold in the state is counted. But none of this will happen in 2022. Governor Phil Scott’s veto was sustained by a single vote.  Click here to watch news coverage about the veto from WCAX-TV,  including video taken at the Vermont Fuel Conference in Stowe. The Vermont Climate Council will meet again in June. Late last year, the group urged the legislature to pass the Transportation Climate Initiative and the Clean Heat Standard. Neither happened.

PCF Payments (H.482  There is more money to help administer the Vermont Petroleum Cleanup Fund (PCF). The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) can now draw up to 10% of the PCF. The PCF Advisory Committee supported this legislation as did VPA and VFDA. It is our hope that this modest increase (an additional $200k from $5 million annual budget) will ensure that the DEC can address the backlog of hazardous sites.

Fuel Assistance  Nearly $30 million in fuel assistance funds were distributed this past winter. Funding levels are at $21 million for next winter.  Fuel Assistance Chief Richard Giddings is interested in figuring out how to design a better discount program and change how the MOR is calculated.

VERAP  VFDA continues to work with the Public Service Department on a way to spend more of the federal ARPA funds faster on fuel assistance for renters. There is more than $300 million that will need to be obligated to the VERAP recipients over the next year or will be sent back to the U.S. Treasury.

Burner Ban and Tax   A Burlington charter change was signed into law that will allow Vermont’s largest city to enact a ban oil and gas heating in new construction and a tax on anyone that refuses switch over to the city owned electric utility.

Tank Recycle Fees  At the request of VFDA, the House agreed to exempt all propane tanks that are re-fillable from new hazardous waste regulations. The bill (H.115) died in committee.

Tank Rules  The Department of Environmental Conservation has begun a revision of the Aboveground Storage Tank regulations.

Workforce Development (S.11) There is $3 million available through the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation (VSAC) for students who want to earn a skilled trade and demonstrate financial need. The money will pay for licensing and exam fees, as well as tuition payments on behalf of eligible individuals.

Housing and 250 Changes  (S.226)  Legislation that updates Act 250, Vermont 50 year old land use law, spending more than $20 million to encourage more housing construction. The bill makes many changes to existing programs and introduces new programs with the goal of increasing access to housing, primarily by increasing the housing stock and making existing homes more affordable to homebuyers.