Banned in Burlington

The City of Burlington may soon ban oil and gas heat in new construction. The City Council is also considering taxing homeowners and businesses that currently rely on boilers and furnaces for heat. On March 2, 2021, voters will decide whether to pass a charter change resolution (download here) that would set all of this in motion. If voters approve a charter change, the Vermont Legislature still must give their stamp of approval. If they do, the Burlington City Council will be free to design a ban or a tax on heat.

Is this even legal?

Unclear. VFDA has conducted a legal analysis that suggests a charter change is required in order to enact such an ordinance, but even then it is tenuous.

How much would you pay if you want to stick with oil or go with gas?

Under one proposal, new construction in Burlington could use oil or gas heat if the owner of the building pays a hefty fee.  According to this memo from the city of Burlington, a new hotel that wants to heat with utility gas will pay an estimated $200,000.  And that’s just for the first decade of operation. If the hotel decides to keep the heat on for more than ten years, the owner will have to pay again.

How do you figure out what the heating permit will cost if you want to use oil or gas?

The fee to install an oilheat or gas burner is based on anticipated consumption over a ten year period multiplied by a carbon price of $100 per ton. Using the chart below, you can see the carbon cost per unit. For instance, if a new building wanted to use oilheat and was anticipated to use 1000 gallons a year, the cost of the carbon permit to install an oilheat burner would be $10,200 (1000 gallons x 10 years x $1.02 per gallon = $10,200). Similarly, if a new building that wanted to use propane, the cost of a propane burner permit would be $5700 (1000 gallons x 10 years x $0.57 = $5700).

What happens to the permit fees?

The fees will go to Burlington’s Green Revolving Fund which pays for weatherization and renewable energy projects in city owned buildings.

Aren't most buildings in Burlington heated with fossil fuels?

Yes. According to the 2015 American Community Survey, 85% are heated with fossil fuels, mostly natural gas.

Who sells electricity in the city of Burlington?

The Burlington Electric Department.

Who owns Burlington Electric Department?

The City of Burlington.

How is Burlington’s electricity produced?

Mostly wind, water and wood, with the largest slice coming from the biomass burning McNeil Generating Station.

Who owns the McNeil Generating Station?

The City of Burlington is the majority owner.

Does the McNeil Generating Station emit greenhouse Gas emissions?

Yes! In fact the Burlington wood burning plat is the largest producer of CO2 emissions in Vermont. According to the U.S Environmental Protection Agency and the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, the plant is the largest emitter of CO2 in the state. The McNeil plant releases more 350 thousand metric tons of emissions into the atmosphere every year. The McNeil plant operates at just 24 percent efficiency, which means three out of every four trees thrown into the fire goes up in smoke without producing any electricity while releasing more heat, smoke and particulate matter into the air.

Click here to learn more about electric "heat."