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Scott Signs Burlington Thermal Energy Bill into Law


Published April 20, 2022 at 8:21 p.m.

  • Thom Gluck
Despite some reservations, Gov. Phil Scott has signed into law a bill that allows the City of Burlington to charge carbon taxes on owners of properties heated with fossil fuels.

The bill, H.448, was one of several charter changes Burlington voters approved in March 2021. It authorizes the city to impose carbon fees and "alternative compliance payments" on both commercial and residential property owners, but Burlington voters would have to approve those fees on a future ballot item.

Scott said that fact led him to sign the bill on Wednesday.

“Although I’m concerned by the potential cost impacts this could have for Burlingtonians, I’m signing the bill because any new policy that could result from it will need to be brought back to Burlington residents for their final say,” he said in a statement.
Burlington has one of the most aggressive carbon reduction goals in the country, aiming to achieve net-zero fossil fuel use by 2030. The concept of regulating heating systems was first broached in May 2020, when city councilors instructed city departments to explore banning fossil fuel use in new buildings. Mayor Miro Weinberger subsequently proposed a "building electrification and carbon price ordinance" to reduce fossil fuel use that fall.

But officials soon realized that the city didn't have the legal authority to impose such fees. That led to the charter change ballot item, which ended up passing with 64 percent of votes despite opposition from business-oriented organizations.

Burlington Electric Department general manager Darren Springer hailed the bill's signing into law as a major milestone in the city's quest for net-zero.

"It's a very ambitious goal, and we're going to need more policy," Springer said. "I just think it's a great opportunity for us to work together to advance some additional policies, in this case focused specifically on the building sector."

Mayor Weinberger echoed those comments in a statement, saying that the best way to address the climate emergency is "to electrify everything."

“I look forward to working with the City Council as we continue on the path toward our bold goal," he said. "I am proud of Burlington’s leadership on this effort, and I thank the Burlington and Chittenden County legislative delegations for their work to pass the Charter Change, and thank Governor Scott for signing the bill.”

City Councilor Jack Hanson (P-East District) said he looks forward to crafting policies. He suggested that the city could consider one that would use the revenue from carbon fees to fund incentives for people who otherwise couldn't afford the cost of switching to a renewable heating system.

"This is a huge opportunity for Burlington to lead the country and do some really cutting edge policies on building decarbonization," he said. "It's really exciting, and now it's time to get to work and actually do it."