Burlington voters pass Carbon Pollution Impact Fee

Vermont Business Magazine Mayor Miro Weinberger, Burlington Electric Department General Manager, Darren Springer, and renewable energy advocates on Wednesday hailed the passage of the proposed Carbon Pollution Impact Fee and new thermal heating requirements in Burlington. Burlington is the first City to source 100 percent of its energy from renewable sources (in 2014) and to announce a plan to become a Net Zero Energy City by 2030 (in 2019); and the City continues to advance innovative climate policy. Once implemented, Burlington will join a short list of U.S. cities regulating the use of fossil fuels for thermal energy and heating and is the first Vermont municipality to solve for the future costs of carbon pollution by applying a science-based fee for some users.

On the Burlington Town Meeting Day ballot as Question #2, the measure passed with more than 67 percent support from voters. The policy requires new construction to be fully renewable, and for large existing buildings and City buildings to use renewable heating and water heating systems when replacing older systems, starting in 2024. For buildings unable to meet the requirements, a carbon pollution impact fee will be applied.

“This innovative new policy to regulate and de-incentivize Burlington’s greatest driver of carbon emissions, combined with the aggressive local electrification incentives we already have deployed, will accelerate our progress towards our ambitious climate goals,” said Mayor Weinberger. “I am grateful to voters for their clear support and enthusiasm for smart energy policy and for continuing Burlington’s decades of climate leadership. I look forward to working with the Council to expeditiously implement the carbon pollution impact fee and make further progress towards reducing fossil fuel use in buildings in Burlington. Together, we are showing communities across the state and the country how to achieve Net Zero Energy.”

“The vote to approve a carbon pollution impact fee in Burlington on Town Meeting Day 2023 builds on similarly strong votes of support for the Burlington Electric Net Zero Energy Revenue Bond and the Thermal Energy Charter Change in recent years, and we are grateful to Burlington voters for their continued and consistent support for climate action,” stated GM Springer. “The outcome of the vote means the City now can move forward with policy development to ensure new buildings and certain large existing buildings will move towards renewable energy for heating and thermal uses, and away from the fossil fuels that have caused the climate emergency. The carbon pollution impact fee gives Burlington a critical new tool in the effort to move towards Net Zero Energy by 2030, and an important new source of funds to expand access to clean heating technologies for low-income residents.”

Proceeds from the proposed carbon pollution impact fee would support converting the City vehicle fleet from fossil fuel to electric and a new City fund to provide access to clean heating technologies for low-income Burlington households and renters. Additionally, existing buildings assessed the impact fee could receive a portion of the fee to pursue emissions reduction projects at their facilities. Existing residential buildings (including single-family, multi-family, rental, affordable housing, and condominiums), existing small business buildings, and all existing buildings less than 50,000 square feet would not be affected by the new policies.

The new policy builds on Burlington’s recently enacted rental weatherization standards and requirements for renewable heating in new construction, and relies upon new authority granted by Burlington’s Thermal Energy Charter Change (passed by voters on Town Meeting Day 2021 and approved by the Vermont Legislature and Governor in 2022).

“Yesterday marks a big win for climate policy and building electrification in Burlington! The voter-approved carbon pollution impact fee is an innovative solution which will incentivize electrification and drive down emissions in large commercial buildings,” said Cristina Garcia, Deputy Director, Building Electrification Institute. “The passage of this policy puts Burlington in a position to lead on building electrification, supporting a transition that will create new economic opportunities for Burlingtonians and improve air quality for all. BEI looks forward to working with Burlington as they implement this fee and look to develop more innovative policies and programs to achieve their climate goals.”

"Burlington voters delivered a victory for climate action yesterday - and by a huge margin," said VPIRG Climate & Energy Program Director, Ben Edgerly Walsh. "New construction in Burlington will be held to a higher climate standard going forward, moving Burlington even faster away from fossil fuels. We're glad to have played some small role in this step forward."

Next Steps toward Implementation of a Carbon Pollution Impact Fee

  • The City Council and Mayor now can work to advance an ordinance to implement the proposed new policies, including the application of the carbon pollution impact fee as approved by the voters.
  • Ultimately, compliance for the Renewable Thermal and Heating requirements and the carbon pollution impact fee will be implemented by the City Department of Permitting and Inspection.

*December 5, 2022 Memorandum from Burlington Electric Department and Permitting & Inspections to the Burlington City Council, titled “Final Report on Thermal Charter Change Work/City Council Resolution Relating to Decarbonizing All Buildings in Burlington by 2030” www.burlingtonelectric.com/thermal22report

*Resolution relating to Implementation of a Carbon Pollution Impact Fee for New Construction and Large Existing Commercial and Industrial Buildings 50,000 Square Feet or Larger

*BED Thermal Energy Policy Development PowerPoint Presentation www.burlingtonelectric.com/thermal22presentation

3.8.2023. Burlington, Vt. – Office of Mayor Miro Weinberger