Editorial, Legislative Report

Veto Overrides on Renewable Energy and Act 250 Bills

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WORCESTER – In my previous report, I covered the Yield Bill, regarding school property taxes. In this report I discuss the two bills that the Environment & Energy Committee that I served on did a great deal of the work on.

The Renewable Energy Standard bill, H.829, began in our committee after a group of representatives of every Vermont electric utility, environmental organizations, housing agencies, legislators and others spent the summer and fall working on a proposal that will get Vermont’s electricity supply to 100% renewable by 2035, sooner and with greater emphasis on local sources than previous legislation passed in 2015. A great deal of compromise occurred both before our committee took the bill up in January, and throughout the session, as both the House and Senate made changes in response to suggestions and testimony. The bill recognizes that three Vermont utilities are already at 100% and that others are in differing stages, and it deals with all those issues fairly in getting to the end goals. Governor Scott’s administration presented flawed and incomplete estimates of what this would cost over time and did not note what cost benefits there might also be. It is a good bill and a great deal of effort went into passing a bill that was so broadly supported in the State House and outside.

H.687, “An act relating to community resilience and biodiversity protection through land use”, is a complex bill dealing with many aspects of land use planning in Act 250 and other statute. Among other things, it recognizes that as we are confronted with increased flooding and other effects of climate change, we must find ways to lessen such damage and make recovery easier, for example, by allowing our landscapes to divert and hold excess water during flood times in ways that lessen the impact on populated and built areas. It also allows for denser housing development in appropriate areas in our communities. Among the Governor’s reasons for vetoing H.687 was his statement that it did not go far enough to create new housing. It’s a bill about state and local environmental regulation, and from that perspective, it does make it easier for new and affordable housing to be built. But the biggest reason limiting new housing development is cost: materials, labor and other. That has been addressed to some degrees in the work of other committees and will continue to be, but it was not a valid reason for vetoing H.687.

This may be my last report From the State House as a representative for the Lamoille-Washington District. My term in office will continue until the new legislature convenes in early January, and I will continue to report if specific legislative matters come up before then. And I am happy to discuss questions and concerns that individual constituents may have.

Avram Patt represents the Lamoille-Washington District that includes Morristown, Elmore, Woodbury, Worcester and northern Stowe.

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