While hopes of passing a carbon tax in Vermont are dimming by the day, a development in nearby Connecticut could breathe new life into the initiative.
According to a CTNewsJunkie report, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire are considering carbon taxes.
“The strategy among the carbon tax supporters is to just put it in front of all the different legislatures,” Matt Cota, executive director of the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association, told Watchdog. “We had our turn last year, and maybe now it’s Connecticut [that has a chance of passing the tax]. But I fully suspect that this is an issue that won’t go away.”
In the case of Connecticut’s proposal, H.B. 7247, the tax could be $15 per ton of carbon dioxide equivalent that would be released by burning such fuel, increasing by $5 each following year until a special committee decides otherwise. Like the proposals floated in Vermont, supporters claim it will mostly be “revenue neutral,” meaning most of the money will find its way back to citizens in one form or another.
Eric Brown, associate counsel for the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, told Watchdog that while his group supports a general conversation about a carbon tax, he thinks the bill is moving too fast.
“We’re not against having a conversation about it, but obviously we’d prefer … that it happen at the federal level,” Brown said.
While a federal carbon tax seems unlikely under the Trump Administration, Brown said that there is language in the bill for a regional effort that neighboring states could join.
Stephen Rosental, president of Leahy’s Fuel in Danbury, Conn., said his business is located six miles from the New York state line, and he’s concerned a carbon tax for Connecticut would disadvantage his business and send customers across the state line.
“In seven years out we would be at a 50 cents per gallon of fuel oil disadvantage to New York,” he said. “There are plenty of oil companies right near the border, and that’s a major problem that will ever be growing. It’s basically a death knell to the industry anywhere near that border.”
Chris Herb, of the Connecticut Energy Marketers Association, represents about 600 heating oil dealers and about a 1,000 gas stations. He says the policy is a grave threat to the industry.
“I think that it’s probably the largest threat to the economy. It will do significant damage to our ability to attract and maintain employers,” he said.
He added that a carbon tax would not reduce fuel usage.
“Even when gas prices double, it’s almost the same consumption,” Herb said. “All this will do is put tremendous pressure on middle and working class. This isn’t about incentivizing solar or wind, this is about punishing you for going to work.”
Back in Vermont, S.66, authored by state Sen. Virginia Lyons, D-Chittenden, has not seen any action since its first reading in the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee on Feb. 3. While backers such as the Vermont Public Interest Research Group and the Vermont Natural Resources Council hyped the bill for 2017, opponents including the free-market Ethan Allen Institute have successfully campaigned against the policy.
“The Ethan Allen Institute worked hard to explain to Vermonters just what they were being asked to buy into,” EAI Vice President John McClaughry wrote in a recent online commentary.
Since Republican Gov. Phil Scott has repeatedly promised to veto a carbon tax, supporters may have to settle for commissioning a study on the policy, or it could be revived if attached to another bill.
Michael Bielawski is a freelance reporter for Vermont Watchdog. Contact [email protected]