Scott rejects carbon tax study

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott has long opposed a carbon tax. But now he's made it clear he doesn't even want to study the idea.

The Climate Action Commission, formed by the governor last year, recommended five strategies last month, including a study of carbon pricing.

Scott has rejected the commission's recommendation that the state obtain an impartial review of carbon tax strategies to curb emissions from fossil fuels. The governor asked the commission to forgo the study in a letter issued Friday.

Scott says only the federal government is in a position to study a carbon tax.

Carbon dioxide is a prime driver of global climate change, which threatens Vermont's ski resorts, maple sugaring and tourism. Environmentalists have advocated putting a tax on gas for transportation and home heating fuels to curb use and encourage conservation. The money collected from the tax would be used to significantly lower electricity rates.

The governor has said that the tax would hurt low-income residents and Vermonters who live in rural areas. Taxing carbon "would place the region — which currently has the highest wholesale energy prices in the nation — at another competitive disadvantage when we're trying to retain and and attract working-age residents and create more and better paying jobs," he wrote.

Climate Action Commission co-chairman Paul Costello said the commission may continue to press the issue, although it's not clear how members of the group will react. The commission is to deliver a final set of recommendations to the governor in July.

"I suspect there's a lot of interest" among members of the commission, Costello said.

Costello, who is the founder of Vermont Council on Rural Development, has said that global warming represents "a transformative moment in world history, a critical moment."

"The historical imperative we face is the most important one we face as a species," Costello said. "We've got some hard work to do."

Commission co-chairman Peter Walke, deputy secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources, said he shares Scott's views on the study. The commission, however, should consider whatever actions it deems appropriate.

"I believe that Vermonters care about us considering all options as we look to the future," Walke said. "We'll have the discussions that any of the commission members — or members of the public — wants."

Environmentalists are outraged that the governor has undermined the commission's study recommendation.

Ben Walsh, a climate and energy program director for the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, said Scott is passing the buck to Congress and the Trump administration.

In an email, Walsh wrote that it's ironic the governor rejected the "very modest" recommendations of his "handpicked" Climate Action Commission.

"Despite its nearly unanimous vote in support of a thorough, independent analysis of carbon pricing and other policies that could put Vermont on track to meet our climate goals, Governor Scott rejected such a study out of hand," Walsh said. "What, exactly, is he afraid of?"

A legislative committee is pushing ahead with the study. Originating in the House Committee on Natural Resources, Fish, and Wildlife, H.763 directs the Legislature's Joint Fiscal Office to analyze financial impacts of reducing Vermont's greenhouse gas emissions, including a carbon tax and a cap-and-trade program.

That bill was read before the entire House on Tuesday and the House Natural Resources Committee will take testimony on it beginning Thursday.


If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.

Powered by Creative Circle Media Solutions