Banned in Burlington
The City of Burlington is allowed to ban oil and gas heat in new construction and to tax those in the city that continue to use oil and gas for heat, hot water, and cooking.
How can they do this? On March 2, 2021, 64% of Burlington voters approved a charter change resolution that set all of this in motion. The Vermont Legislature approved this charter change in 2022, so now the Burlington City Council is free to design a ban or a tax on heat. The City Council will have to put it on the ballot and let the voters decide before it could go into effect.
Don't they already have a partial ban on new construction? Yes. In September 2021 the City Council passed an ordinance which requires the installation of a "renewable" primary heating system in all new construction. This means all new buildings must have either electric heat, wood pellets, renewable gas, or biodiesel. A fossil natural gas, propane, or fuel oil system can still be installed as a back-up heating system, but the “renewable” system must cover 85% of the heating load. A waiver may also be granted if it is determined that this heating system would be "uneconomical."
So what is next?
In May 2022, Burlington passed a resolution to “decarbonize” all buildings by the end of the decade. The City Council received a proposal in July 2022 that outlines how they can build on the current burner ban by adding a fee for homeowners that refuse to switch to electric heat. Wood, biodiesel, and renewable gas are allowed but only under certain condiitions.
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.
Doesn't the McNeil Generating Station emit greenhouse gas emissions?
Yes. The Burlington wood burning plant is the largest emitter of CO2 emissions in Vermont according to the U.S Environmental Protection Agency and the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources. 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 read a recent Wall Street Journal report about consumer resistance to the "all electric" home.