Statement from Governor Phil Scott on the passage of S.5

Vermont Business Magazine Governor Phil Scott today issued the following statement: “Today, the House of Representatives passed S.5, which I believe will have significant impacts on Vermonters by orchestrating a system that will give people two options: pay significantly more in fuel costs or spend thousands of dollars to install electrical heating systems, when most don’t have the financial means to do either.

“The Legislative Majority has directed the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to design a system that will require fuel oil companies, but not natural gas providers, to pay a penalty for every gallon of heating fuel they purchase, which will be passed on to customers.

“I am particularly concerned that the PUC plan will not be returning to the Legislature in normal bill form and go through the full legislative process and, if passed, go to the Governor for signature. An initiative with such far reaching financial impacts deserves to be fully debated in a transparent way, with the opportunity for everyday Vermonters to weigh in, and legislators being given the opportunity to improve the bill with amendments. As it is with every piece of legislation, the executive branch should be able to provide input, as well.

“Proponents of the bill have argued nothing will move forward without future legislative approval. They also say ‘this is essentially a study.’ Both of these statements are misleading.

“For example:

  • Effective on passage, the Clean Heat Standard is established and the Commission shall adopt rules and may issue orders to implement and enforce the Clean Heat Standard Program.
  • The first registration deadline for fuel dealers is January 31, 2024, before this ever comes back to the Legislature.
  • The Commission is given enforcement authority from day one. They can issue orders to implement the system and enforce those orders.
  • Before this ever comes back to the Legislature, the Commission must designate the first default delivery agency on or before June 1, 2024. This contract may be as long as 12 years.
  • The House version specifically provides that the requirement for rulemaking to come back to the Legislature will have no impact on the ability of the Commission to issue orders and take other actions to implement and enforce the Clean Heat Standard.
  • Even assuming rulemaking is approved, this bill would allow the Commission to amend its rules by order, and not be subject to the public review of a rulemaking process. Orders can only be appealed to the Supreme Court.

“If the Legislature was serious about S.5 being a study, the language would be clear and there would be no debate about it. In case it’s not abundantly clear, my opposition to this bill has nothing to do with the overall goal to reduce emissions, it has everything to do with protecting Vermonters and legislative transparency.

“I appreciate the Republicans, Democrats and independents who made their voices heard on the floor and standing up for their constituents, not special interests.”

Source: April 21, 2023. Montpelier, Vt. - Governor