Another Opinion, Editorial

Interest and Misinformation

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by Rep. Chip Troiano, District Caledonia-2

STANNARD – There seems to be a good deal of interest, and misinformation about the Affordable Heat Standard. This week when I went to my mailbox at the State House I found a letter from 13 constituents asking me to vote no on S.5 Affordable Heat Standard. Each letter was exactly the same and was signed onto by some from our communities. This comes the same week when hundreds of high and junior high school students rallied on the State House lawn urging us to take action on Climate Change.

As I walked through the crowd and engaged these young people I found them to be knowledgeable and well informed on the status of our climate situation. They all had this urgency, because they will be the ones who will be most affected by climate change and they know it.

I would like to start by saying that your fuel oil prices WILL NOT go up by $.70 a gallon. Secretary Moore of Agency of Natural Resources, while giving early testimony on this bill admitted that it was a “Back of the Envelope” guesstimate. Since then experts have estimated this figure could be 20 to 30% too high and any increase could be pennies.

I would also like to make my position clear. I had spoken about this at two of my three town meetings and I have made it known to committees working on this bill, stakeholders and my colleagues in the Climate Solutions caucus that I can not support a bill that will impose a major increase in the cost of fuel oil to working and low income Vermonters. I understand your concerns, but based on information I have, sorry to say it is the letter you all signed onto that is ladened with misinformation.

When the Senate was about to pass this bill out, they found that there were too many unanswered questions. In response to that the Senate did a few things. They assigned a two-year study which will include six public hearings and at least three opportunities for submission of written comments.

Nothing will happen for two years, this two-year study will include members from all stakeholders, the PUC and all fuel dealers. There will be a report to the Legislature in 2024, and a final report by January 15, 2025. Thanks to our Senator Jane Kitchel there will be what is called a check-back, meaning nothing will happen without approval and vote by the Vermont General Assembly. At that time we will be able to review the recommendations of the committee who is now focused on a way not to raise fuel prices for working Vermonters.

Those who drafted the letter that the concerned Vermonters signed on to and sent to me knew very well that the cost of fuel oil WILL NOT go up by $.70. They still chose to spend thousands of dollars to instill fear in our citizens in an effort to mount opposition to this bill. Why did they do this? Because they oppose any change: think about it for a moment. Heating fuel prices have gone up $2 per gallon in the past two years. This past week OPEC oil producers announced a cut in production of millions of gallons of crude. Within a week the price of gas went up by 10 cents. At this point, fuel oil prices could be $8-plus in the next five years.

Fossil fuel prices have been volatile for a few years now. Any major increase in fuel prices will come as a result of OPEC and major oil companies, who owe their allegiance to shareholders, to continue to make huge profits at the expense of the American people.

S.5 will put millions of federal dollars in weatherization, expanding income eligibility to open up free weatherization to more older and working Vermonters, making their homes more comfortable while saving carbon emissions and fuel and at the same time developing good paying jobs to do this work. NO ONE will be mandated to make any changes to the way they heat their homes. Chunk wood, wood pellets, and wood chips are all considered to be renewable resources, and keep our forestry industry healthy and are all acceptable. If you heat your home with wood you can continue to do so. Natural gas and Biofuel are also okay in this bill.

If you are approaching the need to make a change in the way you heat your home, as I was, you may consider a heat pump, especially if, by then, fuel prices are still skyrocketing as they might be. This bill will not REQUIRE you to install a heat pump, but will incentivise non-fossil fuel alternatives such as heat pumps.

I had the good fortune to install solar power to my home last year. My power bill went from $80 to $120 a month to $28 a month last summer. This winter I installed the latest technology heat pump and I received a credit for excess power I made. When that credit was applied to my power bill I had no electric bill for the months of December and January, I heated and powered my home in the dead of winter for free!

The Renewable Energy Standard Act of 2020 is the law of our state, we must determine a way to cut our carbon emissions by 2030 or action will be taken, it will be imposed and not the result of a deliberative process. I have read the bill, I know what is in it and what is not. I will restate my former statement from above. I will not support legislation that will make the lives of low income and working Vermonters more difficult through higher fuel prices. I have confidence that this bill ultimately will not do that, and I am confident that S.5 will be the way forward by saving an estimated 2 billion dollars by 2030, which comes to $7,600 per household.

I will post this on my Facebook page, Front Porch Forum, and hopefully the Hardwick Gazette in hopes I will reach all the concerned citizens who have contacted me. If there are any further questions, you can contact me at 802 424-6991, or [email protected]

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