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House Speaker says what many called the biggest climate bill of the year is dead for 2022

The gold rotunda of the Vermont Statehouse against a blue sky.
Abagael Giles
/
VPR File
In a roll call vote Tuesday, the Vermont House did not sustain enough votes to override Gov. Phil Scott's veto of the clean heat standard bill.

The legislative proposal that would have had the single-biggest impact on carbon emissions in Vermont is dead for 2022.

House Speaker Jill Krowinski said Wednesday afternoon the Legislature won’t attempt to resurrect the clean heat standard that was vetoed by Gov. Phil Scott last week.

The legislation would have created a new system of credits designed to reduce carbon emissions from heating systems for homes and businesses. House lawmakers failed Tuesday to override Scott’s veto of the bill by one vote.

Krowinski said lawmakers have abandoned any hope of negotiating a compromise with the governor.

“This bill, this clean heat standard, is done for this legislative session and we will be regrouping over the summer and fall to see what best climate policies we can work on for next year,” Krowinski said Wednesday.

The bill directed the Public Utility Commission to develop a clean heat standard for Vermont.

Scott said he’d only sign off on the legislation if it required lawmakers to explicitly approve that new standard before it could go into effect.

Lawmakers have disputed Scott’s objections, and said the bill would, in fact, have required that legislative approval.

Peter Hirschfeld

Veto override for clean heat measure fails in the Vermont House

An effort to override Gov. Phil Scott's veto of the clean heat standard bill failed by one vote Tuesday in the Vermont House, putting the future of the policy in doubt.

Some House Democrats and independents voted to sustain Gov. Scott's veto.

The bill would have directed the Public Utility Commission (PUC) to design a credit-based marketplace, where companies that import fossil fuels used for heat would have to buy or earn a certain number of credits every year, based on how much their products emit. Any person or business would be able to create credits by doing things that help people reduce emissions in their homes and businesses.

The goal is to push the market for home heat away from fossil fuels and towards options that produce fewer emissions.

In his veto letter, Gov. Phil Scott said he'd like to see a draft of that marketplace come back to the Legislature for final review. The governor also called for the PUC to study and report back on the cost and economic impact of a clean heat standard. But Democratic lawmakers say their revised bill meets the governor's request.

More from VPR: Gov. Phil Scott vetoes climate bill that would transform the way Vermonters heat their homes

Speaking on the House floor, Thetford Democratic Rep. Tim Briglin, chair of the House Energy and Technology Committee, said he found the governor's objections to the clean heat standard bill "puzzling," saying the bill does exactly what the governor calls for in his veto.

Briglin told his colleagues inaction on climate is not an option.

"If we do not move forward with a clean heat standard, we will be setting aside the policy with the greatest emissions reduction potential of any policy brought forth in Vermont's Climate Action Plan last December," he said. "That sets up a likely scenario, whereby these 'unelected officials' the governor is so concerned about, in fact, will be making these decisions he so fears."

Briglin says the Global Warming Solutions Act doesn't allow for inaction on climate — a commitment Vermont lawmakers made when they approved the law.

"When we passed the Global Warming Solutions Act two years ago, we did so anticipating that we might get to this very point where we find ourselves today in the policy making process, that there would be tough decisions to make, and that elected officials — whether the governor or Legislature — might be reluctant to make them," he said.

If Vermont inches too close to missing emissions reduction deadlines that the state requires by law, the Global Warming Solutions Act requires the Agency of Natural Resources to enact rules that will put Vermont in compliance.

More from VPR: How Vermont is — and isn’t — on track to reduce its share of climate-warming emissions

At his weekly press briefing following the House's vote Tuesday, Gov. Scott defended his veto, but said he would sign a bill if the Legislature requires that the PUC's recommendation for a clean heat standard come back to to the Legislature for approval as a separate bill.

"Whatever they come up with for the plan needs to come back to the Legislature in bill form, for it to be debated ... so that we can look and see who it impacts, how much it costs and what it does," Scott said.

The governor called this an “easy fix.” He said if the Legislature made this change, he'd support a clean heat standard.

"This bill could go through if it's clearly defined that it comes back, in bill form,” Scott said. “Pretty easy. Pretty simple."

If one of the House lawmakers who voted to sustain Scott's veto had said they would like to reconsider and called for a revote Wednesday, the bill could still have advanced.

Lawmakers could also have drafted language that attempted to address the governor's concerns.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or get in touch with reporter Abagael Giles @AbagaelGiles.

Updated: May 11, 2022 at 5:14 PM EDT
This story has been updated with the news that House lawmakers have decided not to pursue the clean heat standard further this session.
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