State officials raise serious questions about the Affordable Heat Act’s affordability

GRAFTON — State Rep. Heather Chase, you will shortly be voting on the so-called “Affordable Heat Act” (S.5), formerly the “Clean Heat Act.”

The intent of the legislation is a statewide switch from heating systems that run on fossil fuels such as oil, gas, propane, and kerosene, to energy sources like electricity that have lower carbon emissions. A credit system would reward fuel dealers and consumers for changing over from fossil fuels. Those who don't make the switch would bear the higher costs of conventional fuels.

Remarkably, Vermont state officials have consistently raised serious questions about the affordability of the switch that would be mandated by the act:

• Gov. Phil Scott emphasized that “the costs and impacts are unknown."

• June Tierney, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Public Service, said, “I don't think Vermonters understand the Mack truck that's coming at them...how this is going to impact their lives and what it's going to cost.”

• The Vermont Legislature Joint Fiscal Office reported that because the change from fossil fuels to electricity in the heating sector would be too expensive for many Vermonters they would need support. “The source of that support will need to be determined.” Who knows where the money would come from?

Julie Moore, secretary of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, testified that the Affordable Heat Act would cost Vermonters $1.2 billion in upfront costs of switching to cleaner heat systems and would add $0.70 per gallon to the price of fuel. Others have concluded that the increase in the price of fuel would be much greater, possibly as high as $4 per gallon.

Substantially higher fuel costs will leave many Vermonters at risk, a risk that is unacceptable in a cold climate.

That's a lot of caution from Vermont state officials whose job and duty it is to investigate the implications of proposed legislation.

Quite aside from the high cost is the issue of reliability. Grafton and other Vermont towns have just been through a substantial power outage - our household was out for 4{1/2} days. Imagine, if you will, an outage of that length if we were exclusively dependent on electricity for our power (heat, transportation, and cooking). We would have had a catastrophe on our hands.

True resilience means 1) diverse sources of energy and 2) Vermonters in charge of the systems that work best for their own homes and businesses.

I urge you, Rep. Chase, to heed these cautions and vote “no” on this act.

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