Opponents raise questions about proposed Burlington carbon tax

Published: Dec. 11, 2020 at 12:48 AM EST|Updated: Dec. 11, 2020 at 5:37 AM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - We are learning more about the proposals that would push Burlington residents away from fossil fuels and towards electric heat.

Under the proposals from City Councilor Jack Hanson, P-East District, all new buildings would be banned from using fossil fuels as a primary heating source and also would allow the city to charge a tax on current buildings that use fossil fuels.

“A lot of people want to change without changing. They want to address the climate crisis but they don’t want any sort of inconvenience or disruption in order to do that. But we have to actually change, and sometimes that can feel uncomfortable, but it’s necessary,” said Hanson.

Critics say Hanson’s ideas are an impractical solution at the moment. They say going to electric heat will not be efficient on Vermont’s coldest nights, and the electric resistance heat is 143% more expensive than oil heat according to the Vermont Public Power Supply Authority.

“The limitations on electricity are, the colder it gets, the less efficient heat pumps, electric heat pumps become. Electric resistance heat pumps are by far the most expensive way you can heat buildings in Vermont,” said Matt Cota with the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association. He says the proposal also isn’t as clean as some might think. “There’s been a false narrative that allowing putting a ban on natural gas in Burlington will somehow solve the climate crisis and that just doesn’t jibe with reality. The reality is, the electricity that fuels most of Burlington comes from a wood-burning power plant.”

Over at the Lake Champlain Chamber of Commerce, Austin Davis is worried higher prices for heating homes and businesses will keep people and developers out of the city of Burlington, causing people to burn more fossil fuels by traveling into the city instead of already being there. “Not only will they put a wrench in the work of folks like us to make downtowns more desirable and environmentally friendly, they might achieve some level of emissions reductions. What they really would be doing would be pushing those emissions reductions outside of their city,” he said.

The piece of Hanson’s plan involving a new tax would require a change in the city charter and ust also be approved by the Legislature. The City Council is scheduled to debate the measure on Tuesday on whether to put the question on the ballot for Town Meeting Day.

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