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Burlington Mayor Proposes Statewide Carbon Fee

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger proposes a statewide carbon fee
Pat Bradley/WAMC
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger proposes a statewide carbon fee

Burlington, Vermont’s mayor is proposing a statewide carbon fee that he says would be revenue-neutral and would significantly cut the state’s emissions by 2040.
Renewable Energy Vermont’s annual conference theme of Empowering Energy Transformation was the setting as Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger unveiled a new climate and energy proposal for the state.  The Democrat says it would be a transformative method to reduce carbon emissions by properly pricing the cost of carbon pollution.  “What I want to do is to share a specific proposal for a statewide revenue-neutral Vermont carbon pollution fee. By revenue-neutral I mean that this proposal will not generate new revenues for the state of Vermont. Money collected by the state would be rebated back to Vermont households and businesses and keep those resources working in the economy. And that’s a critical difference from a  lot of the carbon taxation proposals that you hear. And that’s why I think it’s really important and fair to call this a carbon fee not a carbon tax. The idea is to put a fee on the cost of oil and gas companies doing business in Vermont but not to raise government revenues from Vermonters who are already very heavily taxed.”

Mayor Weinberger included an analysis that found a carbon price starting at $30 a ton on heating and transportation fuels, rising annually at 10 percent above the rate of inflation through 2034 and then at 5 percent above inflation annually after that, combined with Vermont’s existing carbon emissions regulations, would result in a 25 percent reduction in emissions by 2030 and a 37 percent reduction by 2040.  “These are big reductions. This would make a major dent in our state’s greenhouse gas emissions and go a long way to put Vermont on the right trajectory to meet our state’s climate and energy goals. Just as importantly the model shows that the fee will have a significant net positive impact on Vermont’s economy. The economic benefits are driven by the rebate system. We modeled a per capita rebate for every household and a rebate for businesses in proportion to how many jobs they support. Our proposal assumes that these rebates would be issued on a monthly or a quarterly basis directly to households and businesses in Vermont.”

Environmental advocates stood behind the mayor as he announced the plan.  Vermont Public Interest Research Group Climate and Energy Program Director Ben Edgerly Walsh says the proposal is actually a simple idea.  “It basically says fossil fuel companies need to pay for the damage that they are causing to the climate. And what you have here is a city really leading the way. Burlington is taking action after action to actually get to its climate commitments.”

Vermont Natural Resources Council Energy and Climate program Director Johanna Miller says the idea can demonstrate the benefits of investing in actions to combat climate change.  “The long and the short of it is we are paying right now for climate change not only in cold hard cash but also in quality of life and it’s my hope that it’s a great model for the state. There are a lot of other big ideas that I think that would compliment this policy including turning our long-held climate reduction goals into requirements.”

Walsh notes that the mayor’s proposal is being offered to the state Legislature for its consideration.  “At the end of the day the question is are we actually serious about getting to our climate commitments as a city, as a state? And that’s the test that we are going to be putting to the legislature. And whether they want to accomplish those goals through this particular policy or another actually hitting those goals, cutting fossil fuel usage and saving Vermonters’ money, really is the litmus test.”