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ACT SUMMARY 2007-2008

SUMMARY OF THE 2008 ACTS AND RESOLVES View the complete text of this act

ACT NO. 209


Greenhouse gas inventories; registry; rulemaking; transportation

This act amends the administrative rulemaking process by requiring that the economic impact statement that must be developed during rulemaking shall include a greenhouse gas impact statement that explains how the rule will reduce the extent to which greenhouse gases are emitted. The secretary of administration, in conjunction with the commissioner of public service and the secretaries of transportation, of natural resources, and of agriculture, food and markets, shall provide a checklist which shall be used in the adoption of rules to assure full consideration of greenhouse gas impacts, direct and indirect.

The act requires the state agency energy plan for state government to provide, where feasible, for the installation of renewable energy systems, which shall include solar energy equipment or building design features, or both, designed to limit solar gain in the summer and maximize it during the winter, as part of the new construction or major renovation of any state building. It requires that the cost of implementation and installation be identified as part of the budget process presented to the general assembly.

The act requires the secretary of agriculture, food and markets to provide data and funding recommendations to the Vermont climate change oversight committee (created later in the bill) regarding: funding and implementing state conservation programs in order to increase carbon sequestration; cost-share assistance for farmers to purchase manure injection equipment; cost-share assistance for farms to develop and implement nutrient management plans; cost-share assistance under the farm agronomic practices program so that farms implement cover crops and other soil erosion and land cover practices; and other ways to create incentives for carbon sequestration on farm and forest land. It requires the secretary of agriculture, food and markets to continue the agency’s methane capture program, setting goals to digest and use 15 percent of the state’s dairy cattle manure by 2012, and 50 percent by 2028 and to increase composting of poultry and non-dairy livestock manure to 25 percent by 2012 and 50 percent by 2028.

The act defines “greenhouse gas” to mean any chemical or physical substance that is emitted into the air and that the secretary may reasonably anticipate to cause or contribute to climate change, including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride. It requires the secretary of natural resources (ANR) to participate in the Vermont climate collaborative, which it describes as a collaboration between state government and the state’s higher education, business, agriculture, labor, and environmental communities. It encourages members of the collaborative to be included in working groups established by the climate change oversight committee. It requires public notice that the collaborative is developing greenhouse gas reduction programs and meaningful opportunity for public comment on program development. It requires state representatives to advocate before appropriate regional or national entities and working groups in favor of the establishment of a regional or national cap and trade program for greenhouse gas emissions, including those caused by transportation, heating, cooling, and ventilation. This may take place as an expansion of the existing regional greenhouse gas initiative (RGGI) or it may entail creation of a new regional or national cap and trade initiative that includes a 100 percent consumer allocation. It also requires RGGI negotiators to advocate adjusting the rules of the program so that greenhouse gas reductions from public investments and those required by state law will not be prohibited from being eligible for off-sets under the program.

The act requires the secretary of natural resources to work, in conjunction with other states or a regional consortium, to establish a periodic and consistent inventory of greenhouse gas emissions. It requires the secretary to publish an inventory and forecast by June 1, 2010, with updates annually thereafter until 2028, until a regional or national inventory and registry program is established, or until the federal national emissions inventory includes mandatory greenhouse gas reporting. It requires the secretary to develop the inventory by aggregating publicly available data on emissions and sinks, and updating that data periodically. Information is to be standardized to reflect the emissions in tons per CO2 equivalency and shall be set out in the inventory by sources or sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing, vehicular emissions, heating, and electricity production. The act requires the secretary to use best efforts to forecast emissions for a five- and ten-year period based on publicly available information. It requires the secretary to work with other states or a regional consortium in order to build a regional or national greenhouse gas registry. The registry shall be designed to apply to the entire state, to accommodate a broad array of sectors, and to allow sources to start as far back in time as is permitted by good data, affirmed by third-party verification. It allows the secretary to adopt rules to implement the program, and requires the secretary to review other reporting programs and to promote consistency among programs and to streamline reporting requirements. The act allows the state and its municipalities to participate in the inventory.

The act amends the pollution abatement policy to include a finding that it is cost-effective and beneficial to continue state efforts to ensure energy efficiency in operation of treatment facilities. It requires solid waste plans to include methods to remove from the waste stream commercially generated and other organic wastes, used clothing, and construction and demolition debris, and it requires that these plans include methods to collect and dispose of obsolete electronic equipment. It requires an assessment of the feasibility of providing single-source recycling. It requires consideration of the need for additional regional or local composting facilities, the need to expand collection of commercially generated organic wastes, and the cost-effectiveness of developing a single stream waste management infrastructure adequate to serve the entire population.

With regard to transportation, the act requires revision of the mission statement of the agency of transportation (AOT) to coordinate and integrate all modes of transportation. It requires the agency to coordinate planning and education efforts to: (1) assure the integration of the transportation system as a whole, of access to the transportation system, and of conservation and efficiency opportunities; and (2) support employer- or government-led conservation, efficiency, rideshare and bicycle programs, and other innovative transportation advances. It also provides that AOT’s mandate to manage funding to preserve the functionality of the existing infrastructure, explicitly includes the preservation of bicycle and pedestrian trails.

The act also requires that rail service be integrated into the state’s transportation network as a whole. It requires that rail passenger service complement the state’s other transportation resources. It provides that goals of the state include increasing passenger rail use and freight use in accordance with the AOT rail plan. It declares it to be policy of the state to maintain and improve intercity bus and rail, freight, and commuter rail services, and necessary intermodal connections, and to increase the efficiency of equipment and the extent which equipment selection and operation can limit or avoid the emission of greenhouse gases. It becomes state policy to plan for increased ridership with city-to-city and commuter rail service and for increased coordination of rail service with bus service, car-pooling, and ride-sharing opportunities.

The act makes it state policy to assure the rapid replacement of any unplanned decrease in public transit service. It requires AOT to develop and update a plan which shall coordinate rideshare, public transit, park and ride, interstate, and bicycle and pedestrian planning and investment at the state regional, and local levels and to create or expand regional connections within the state, in order to maximize interregional ridesharing and access to public transit. It requires the agency to develop and make available to the public a statewide online service that coordinates transportation options and provides web-based access to information that will allow the traveling public integrated, convenient, affordable, and dependable access to alternative transportation modes sufficient to allow efficient, cost-effective, and timely travel throughout the state.

The act makes it state policy that highway shoulders should be safer for pedestrian traffic. In addition, it requires that any construction or reconstruction of highways shall maintain or improve existing access and road surface conditions for bicycle and pedestrian traffic, unless the area is adequately served by bicycle and pedestrian paths that are not located along the shoulders of these highways, or unless the agency deems it cost-prohibitive to do so.

The act authorizes municipal bylaws to include “green development incentives” to encourage the use of low-embodied energy in construction materials, planned neighborhood developments that allow for reduced use of transportation, and increased use of renewable technology. Regulatory incentives explicitly allowed are increased densities and expedited permit review.

The act makes it a goal of the Electrical Energy Plan goal to assure by 2028 that at least 60 MW of power are generated within the state by combined heat and power (CHP) facilities powered by renewable fuels or by nonqualifying SPEED resources. (The latter need not use renewable fuel, but must meet efficiency, air quality, and other standards established in the SPEED chapter.) It requires the plan to include incentives for development of CHP and strategies to identify locations suitable for CHP and to ensure consideration of CHP during any process related to the expansion of natural gas services.

The act requires that in a regulated utility’s least cost integrated plan determinations “economic costs” shall be determined with due regard to the greenhouse gas inventory, to the state’s progress in meeting greenhouse gas reduction goals, and to the value of the financial risks associated with greenhouse gas emissions.

The act requires the commissioner of public service to hold workshops concerning distributed generation and the barriers to development throughout the state of distributed generation. The commissioner shall present recommendations on these matters by no later than January 15, 2009 to specified legislative committees.

The act establishes a nine-member Vermont climate change oversight committee, to include persons who have skills specified in the act. The committee is entitled to staff assistance from the natural resources board and from the agency of natural resources. The primary mission of the committee is to consider the recommendations of the governor’s commission on climate change and its plenary group and the recommendations of the Vermont council on rural development and to delegate and oversee program development by appropriate working groups. The working groups are required to recommend how climate change issues should best be addressed in statute and as part of the climate change action plan, and to develop ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are permanent, quantifiable, and verifiable. Duties of the committee are: to identify barriers to reducing greenhouse gas emissions; to identify priority areas for consideration, due to ease of implementation and potential to bring reductions; to recommend ways to overcome those barriers; to identify resource needs and funding options; and to facilitate state and private entities in addressing these issues. The committee is to collaborate with other groups and persons and to present to legislative committees a preliminary report by January 30, 2009 and a final report by January 30, 2010.

The act allows the installation of solar domestic hot water systems and other renewable energy systems through the low income weatherization program, where it is cost-effective and consistent with other program needs to do so. It also requires the secretary of ANR to make regulatory revisions or recommend statutory change to allow use of other waste in farm-based digesters, such as food processing waste, whey, and brewers’ waste. It requires the secretary of ANR, by January 30, 2009, to report to legislative committees on the implementation of the vehicle emissions labeling program for new motor vehicles established under 10 V.S.A. § 579.

Finally, by December 15, 2008, the act requires AOT, in collaboration with the UVM transportation research center and ANR, to report to legislative committees with:(1) an analysis of the role of motor vehicles in contributing to air contaminants in Vermont and a determination of what portion of overall statewide energy consumption is due to motor vehicles; (2) recommendations to encourage efficient transportation, reduce greenhouse gases generated by transportation, and support alternative modes of transportation; (3) recommendations for public education regarding clean and efficient transportation; (4) other recommendations regarding the efficient use of transportation services.

Effective Date: July 1, 2008.

Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont