Issues, Legislation/Bills

The Affordable Heat Act

Over the past week since I told my constituents that I support S.5, the Affordable Heat Act, I have received hundreds of emails, calls, and notes asking me not to vote for S.5. This is largely because fuel dealers also sent messages to their customers intentionally misleading you about how the Affordable Heat Act would work and what it would mean for Vermonters, and they told you to contact me to tell me to vote no on S.5.

In fact, over just the past two weeks, according to reports to the Secretary of State’s Office, the VT Fuel Dealers Association has spent more than $36,000 on advertising alone in an attempt to defeat S.5.

Why would the Fuel Dealers Association want to defeat S.5? Because the Affordable Heat Act would require them to help you save money on heating your home. Unlike electric and natural gas utilities, fuel dealers are largely unregulated and can set their prices at whatever rate they want—S.5 would help level that playing field.

Over the past two years, the average price of fuel oil increased by over $2 per gallon or 85%, forcing you to spend more to heat your home while fossil fuel companies have recorded record profits. The reality is that fuel companies are the ones raising your prices, not the Legislature.

S.5 would not require you, or any individual Vermonter or household, to do anything differently, but it would require fuel dealers to change the way they do business. It would require them to be part of the solution and help you heat your home more efficiently.

If you currently heat your home, like I do, with an oil furnace, wood stove, and/or electric heat pumps, the Affordable Heat Act would allow you to continue with any or all of these sources of heat. If you want to change how you heat your home to switch to a cheaper, more energy efficient heating source, S.5 would help you do that. And, if you have a low or moderate income, it would help you pay to make the switch.

The fuel dealers’ claim that S.5 would raise taxes is false—the bill includes no new taxes. Their claim that S.5 would increase the cost of fuel by 70 cents per gallon is false—that number comes from an irresponsible “back of the envelope” guess by the Agency of Natural Resources. More complete estimates point to $2 billion in savings, or $7,500 per VT household, by 2030.

The Affordable Heat Act would be phased in slowly over the next several years, giving you lots of time to either make adjustments to your heating system or decide to stick with what you have now.

Fuel companies would have to make changes in how they do business to help you save money and help our state lower its emissions. If they do their job well, fuel dealers can transform into “clean heat providers” and earn credits by helping customers afford to change how they heat their home.

Now is a great time to pass the Affordable Heat Act because last summer Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act which includes generous tax credits and financial assistance for states, utilities, businesses, and individuals to upgrade infrastructure, purchase equipment, and gradually change their use of traditional energy sources.

Climate change has forced many Vermont businesses, including farmers, loggers, maple producers, and ski areas, to change how they operate. These Vermont businesses work every day to adapt to the impact of climate change, while fuel dealers are spending thousands of dollars refusing to adapt and trying to stop legislation that would help fight climate change, and improve the lives of Vermonters and the traditions we cherish.

If you want to learn more about the details of how the Affordable Heat Act works, listen to my colleague Senator Becca White explain S.5 on Vermont Edition, or read this op-ed in the Addison Independent or the The Times Argus by my colleague Senator Anne Watson, or answers to frequently asked questions by the Energy Action Network, or this overview of S.5 by the Vermont Natural Resources Council.

I am voting for S.5 because it’s the right thing to do for all Vermonters and our beautiful state. I hope you’ll take the time to learn more about how the Affordable Heat Act works and the potential benefit to you, our community, and the future of Vermont. Thank you for reading and stay warm.

Source of image above: Energy Action Network