First piece of climate change legislation emerges

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(Host) The first piece of legislation has emerged from the Legislature’s study of climate change.

The bill would impose a fuel efficiency surcharge on new cars that fail to meet higher mileage standards.

However, the head of the Senate Transportation committee has strong concerns about the plan.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) Recent studies indicate that the single largest source of greenhouse gas pollution in Vermont comes from transportation related emissions.

That’s one of the reasons why Chittenden senator Hinda Miller is sponsoring a bill to discourage Vermonters from buying new cars that get poor fuel mileage.

Under the legislation, a $250 surcharge would be added to the price of new cars that have a federal fuel economy rating of 19 miles per gallon or less.

A $50 surcharge would be imposed on cars with a rating of between 20 and 24 miles per gallon.

Miller says the bill sends an important message.

(Miller) “I think what we have to look at – people’s right to choose what they want to buy and what they want to drive. But if it doesn’t meet standards that we need in order to preserve and even improve our environment, particularly the air, then people have to pay for it. And with that money, we’ll do the clean up.”

(Kinzel) Miller says the legislation is a part of a new approach to help protect natural resources.

(Miller) “I think we have to begin to look at all our common assets like that. And air is a common asset, which is what we’re trying to put our arms around is what do the citizens own. And if you harm that, you pay for it. And if you take it, you pay for it. So it’s a new way of looking at our choices.”

(Kinzel) Senate Transportation chairman Dick Mazza thinks there are some serious problems with the bill.

(Mazza) “Before you impose a penalty or a surcharge, I think you have to carefully look at who the people are affected by that charge. It maybe people you don’t want to affect – maybe folks who can’t afford to purchase a fuel efficient car. When you start separating whether the mileage is 19 miles or 24 miles or the weight of the vehicle, it gets very complicated and very difficult to enforce.”

(Kinzel) Mazza says he would rather provide tax incentives for people who purchase fuel efficient cars than impose penalties.

(Mazza) “If you want to do something in the future to encourage purchasing vehicles with better gas mileage or some incentives, I’d be open to that discussion.”

(Kinzel) It’s likely that Mazza’s committee will take testimony on the legislation in the next few weeks.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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