Guest editorial: Climate bill doesn’t make legislature accountable


Editor’s note: On May 4, Governor Phil Scott returned without signature and vetoed S.5 and sent the following letter to the General Assembly:

As Governor, I believe we must make Vermont more affordable by helping Vermonters keep more of what they earn, while we simultaneously make transformative, strategic investments in important areas like community revitalization, climate action, housing, childcare, clean water, and broadband.

I also believe government transparency is essential to maintaining faith and trust in our democracy. When we pass laws, we must clearly communicate both the burdens and the benefits to Vermonters. From my perspective, S.5 conflicts with these principles, and I cannot support it.

It’s important to note despite significant concerns with the policy, I would not veto a bill that directs the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to design a potential clean heat standard — provided it’s returned to the Legislature, in bill form with all the details, and debated, amended, and voted on with the transparency Vermonters deserve.  

The so-called “check back” in S.5 does not achieve my simple request. Instead, the “check back” language in the bill is confusing, easily misconstrued, and contradictory to multiple portions of the bill.

As I have repeatedly stated publicly, this veto could have been avoided had the Legislature eliminated the confusion and spelled out, in plain language, that the proposed plan would return to the Legislature to be considered for codification and voted on in bill form.

Again, I continue to fully support efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As the Legislature is well-aware, more than any previous governor, I have proposed, supported, and invested hundreds of millions of dollars to reduce emissions in the transportation and thermal sectors. I’m also committed to following through on the work outlined in our thermal sector action plan.

Here’s the bottom line: The risk to Vermonters and our economy throughout the state is too great; the confusion around the language and the unknowns are too numerous; and we are making real and measurable progress reducing emissions with a more thoughtful, strategic approach that is already in motion.

For these reasons I cannot allow this bill to go into law. It’s my sincere hope that members of the Legislature will have the courage to put their constituents ahead of party politics and sustain this veto.

 Philip B. Scott, Governor

See the legislators’ response here: Bill spells out accountability, sets Vt. on path to success

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