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Opinion: CT’s Clean Heat Carbon Tax a Bad Idea

George Harrison and John Lennon wrote the song “Taxman” for the Beatles album “Revolver,” where they bitterly intoned “If you get too cold, I’ll tax the heat … cause I’m the taxman.” Connecticut citizens may soon share that sentiment with the specter of Senate Bill 1145 looming. 

SB 1145 is full of vagaries, from the idea of what “indirect emissions” might entail, to giving the unelected Department of Energy and Environmental Protection commissioner the authority to enter compacts with Canadian provinces. 

Key text from SB 1145 reads as follows: “the Commissioner of Energy and Environmental Protection shall adopt regulations … to establish sector-specific subtargets for commercial and industrial heating and cooling, residential heating and cooling, industrial processes, natural gas distribution and service. … Such regulations may include but shall not be limited to, implementation of the policies, strategies, and any other actions identified in any report prepared pursuant to subsection (c) of this section, market-based compliance mechanisms…” 

Because no Connecticut legislator has proposed legislation outlining what “market-based compliance mechanisms” may bypass the legislative process under SB 1145, we can only make some educated observations.

Two weeks ago, the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection, that same government department which stands to gain a great deal of regulatory power under SB 1145, published an updated Connecticut Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory to track the state’s efforts to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.  

The most important item included in the 2023 report that was not included in the last Inventory of 2021 was the recommendation that Connecticut should adopt a “clean heat standard.” As described therein: “Clean heat standards, as proposed or implemented in other states like Vermont and Oregon, create a standard and market for “clean heat credits” similar to existing renewable energy credits used in electricity markets.” This sounds extraordinarily like the “market-based compliance mechanisms” described in SB 1145. 

The inventory’s language is misleading, however, since neither state mentioned has implemented such a radical proposal to date. 

Oregon only has a fuel standard for gasoline/diesel. It has yet to consider a mandatory heating fuel standard. Likely because such a proposition for heating fuels would be much more complicated than gasoline/diesel, coupled with the regressive nature of fuel standards generally. 

This leaves Connecticut to consider Vermont’s heating fuel standard. Vermont’s legislators are at this moment hotly debating S.5, a bill which would implement a clean heat standard statewide. Last year, legislators upheld Gov. Scott’s veto of a heating bill by a single vote. 

Vermont’s iteration of the Clean Heat Standard would force heating fuel suppliers to keep track of every unit of fossil heating fuel they sell. They would then be obliged to generate clean heat credits by installing “green” heating systems in Vermont residences to atone for the sin of keeping their neighbors warm. Or else fuel suppliers must purchase credits from others who did the installations in a government-created marketplace. Given the low margins in Vermont’s niche industry populated by small businesses, fuel suppliers must either raise prices to offset the cost of the credits or go out of business and leave their customers out in the cold. 

Myers Mermel, president of the Ethan Allen Institute, estimates Vermont consumers could pay an additional $4.04 per gallon of heating oil. This proposal has raised such an outcry that a check-back has been introduced, requiring Vermont’s legislature to give the program final approval after the program has been designed. Without the need for legislative approval, the DEEP commissioner could make Connecticut pay even more. 

Meanwhile in Connecticut, SB 1145 opens the door to a similarly expensive proposal without needing explicit legislative approval. At the very least, Connecticut citizens deserve the right to tell their legislators about how a clean heat standard would impact them. The authority to tax should remain with the General Assembly, not be haphazardly delegated to an unelected government official, especially one so willing to suggest such radical proposals like a clean heat standard. 

SB 1145 is nothing less than a carbon tax on fuels used to keep Connecticut residents warm in the winter.  

This article originally appeared in ctpost.

David Flemming

David joined Yankee in April 2023 after working for five years as an energy policy analyst at the Ethan Allen Institute in Vermont, becoming a vehement opponent of carbon taxes in all guises. He has a B.A. in Economics from Hillsdale College, is an alum of the Young Voices and Stand Together public policy programs, and served as Executive Assistant for the Booker T. Washington Society. He is an avid Yankees and Celtics fan, board game enthusiast, Toastmaster, science fiction aficionado, live music junkie, casual tennis/ping-pong/dodgeball player and occasional participant in very amateur theater/improv.

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