A couple hours before the House was expected to approve a 55-cent monthly charge on Vermonters’ electric bills to pay for renewable-energy projects, Gov. Peter Shumlin declared he had a better idea, prompting lawmakers to yank the fee out of the legislation.
The charge would fuel the state’s Clean Energy Development Fund.
Shumlin refused to elaborate on his “better idea,” saying, “It’s not ready for prime time.” He later said he wants to find a funding source that won’t affect electric rates, and he expects to have something to announce next week.
Shumlin’s new plan surprised House Speaker Shap Smith, D-Morristown, whose chamber had wrangled over the 55-cent charge Tuesday and expected further debate Wednesday. That discussion never happened, as lawmakers pulled the fee before passing the energy bill.
Although Smith and Shumlin are Democrats who have worked almost in lock-step this legislative session, Smith said Shumlin didn’t talk to him about a change in plans for the Clean Energy Development Fund. Smith said the idea for the 55-cent charge came from the Public Service Department, which answers to Shumlin.
Public Service Commissioner Liz Miller said her department calculated that 55 cents would cover the amount needed in the fund and said the department could live with it but would prefer another funding source.
Rep. Kurt Wright, R-Burlington, said lawmakers spent considerable time on the controversial fee and were under the impression Shumlin supported it.
The fund relies on a tax on Vermont Yankee’s power generation, which would end next year if the plant shuts down, as Shumlin wants it to.
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