Burlington considers carbon fee on new construction heating with fossil fuel

Published: Dec. 5, 2022 at 5:18 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 5, 2022 at 5:46 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Burlington could soon be charging to build new construction using fossil fuel heating in the city. The measure is up for debate at the City Council meeting Monday.

This is part of a multiyear process. Burlington voters approved giving the city the ability to look into putting a fee on buildings using fossil fuel back in 2021. Now, the City Council is looking at a specific proposal to bring back to the voters.

Under the plan, the fee would be assessed to all new construction in the city and to existing large commercial buildings in need of heating system renovations, plus city and municipal buildings.

The goal is to create a cost incentive for installing renewable heating, like heat pumps. If builders decide to use fossil fuels they will be assessed a carbon fee.

The city gave an example of a large building in which a conventional heating system would normally cost $5.2 million. This fee would bring that up to around $5.8 million.

The mayor says this is all about continuing to encourage building while taking into account Burlington’s major need for housing.

Some builders, however, feel it’s too much in an already prohibitively expensive building environment.

“I’m pretty hopeful based on the feedback that we’ve had with the various stakeholders so far that we’ve gotten it right here that it is a balanced proposal that is going to help us achieve our climate goals without seriously undermining our housing goals,” said Mayor Miro Weinberger, D-Burlington.

“What Burlington is trying to do I think is mandate it and it will happen. It can’t, you can mandate it but what you are going to do is set up a punitive situation where people are going to be charged fees to go ahead and if they’re not using electrification because they can’t get there and then that’s going to make their housing more expensive, and thus I think that’s what’s going to deter growth,” said Jim Bradley of the Vermont Builders & Remodelers Association.

It’s important to note that this policy is not at this time addressing existing residential buildings or affordable housing.

The city is aiming to put this new fee on the March 2023 ballot.

This is the first time the City Council is seeing the final plan, they will be addressing it Monday evening and for the next month or so before deciding whether it will end up on the ballot for voters to weigh in on the proposed carbon fees.


The City Council on Monday will also discuss the long-awaited redistricting map.

They have until next Monday to agree on a map and put it forward to voters.

The map they will discuss on Dec. 5 keeps the 12 wards and four districts idea but moves around the wards just slightly.

Councilors and the public have been working for more than a year now on census data to equalize the number of people in the wards, while also taking into account a problematic Ward 8 which saw the smallest voter participation thanks to the high student populations.

The council will be looking at the new maps Monday.

They have to vote on a map by next Monday, Dec. 12, in order to make it on the ballot for a charter change in March.