Gov. Phil Scott has asked a 21-member commission to figure out how to combat climate change while making money for Vermont businesses and reducing costs for everyone else.
Scott formed the committee with an executive order he signed Thursday. His committee takes the place of former Gov. Peter Shumlin’s Vermont Climate Cabinet, which itself replaced former Gov. Jim Douglas’ Climate Neutral Working Group.
Scott said he had reservations about forming another commission, a sentiment he said was shared by many in the room.
But while Montpelier insiders often criticize Vermont lawmakers’ use of commissions as an alternative to action, Scott said his concern is that such groups often come up with unrealistic proposals.
Nevertheless, he said, there appears to be a lack of consensus on how best to treat the problem, and a commission might be the solution.
“To be honest, I was not immediately convinced this was the best path forward,” he said. “But I thought about it deeply, and I keep coming back to this point: If we all agreed on appropriate actions to take, we would have taken them already.”
The commission ought to come up by the beginning of 2018 with at least three tangible proposals for Scott and the Legislature to take on, Scott said.
By July 2018, the commission should come up with an “action plan” that reduces the state’s greenhouse gas emissions “while driving economic growth, setting Vermonters on a path to affordability, and ensuring effective energy transition options exist for all Vermonters.”
Thus far, Scott said, climate change has acted as “a disruptive force on Vermonters and our economy, (and) the question we have to answer today is whether we’re going to let the impacts of a changing climate threaten our people and our economy, or are we going to harness the innovative minds of Vermonters to lead the growing climate-change economy.”
Although Scott said he’s wary of commissions’ tendency to overreach, the task that lies ahead, he said, will be “monumental,” and “all sectors of Vermont’s economy will need to change to take advantage of this opportunity.”
The commission includes government officials, an environmental advocate, a fuel dealer, a former Chamber of Commerce executive, an as-yet-undetermined student, an engineer and others.
Peter Walke, deputy natural resources secretary, will co-chair the committee with Paul Costello, of the Vermont Council on Rural Development.
Other members are:
- Michael Schirling, secretary of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development.
- Michele Boomhower, designee of the secretary of the Agency of Transportation.
- June Tierney, commissioner of the Department of Public Service.
- Marie Audet, representing the agriculture sector.
- Linda McGinnis, representing the clean energy sector.
- Joe Fusco, representing the commercial hauling or trucking sectors.
- Bob Stevens, representing the construction or development sectors.
- Kristin Carlson, representing energy utilities.
- Mary Sprayregen, representing the energy efficiency sector.
- Johanna Miller, representing a statewide environmental organization.
- Peter Bourne, representing the fuels sector.
- St. Albans Mayor Liz Gamache, representing local government.
- Adam Knudsen, representing the manufacturing sector.
- Bill Laberge, representing small businesses.
- Bethany Fleishman, representing the transportation demand management sector.
- Tom Donahue, representing the Vermont Community Action Partnership.