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Go Solar: Vermont Senate Passes Net Metering, and other Friday Statehouse News

Vermonters who have been waiting to get solar panels will finally be able to make their homes more energy efficient.
MONTPELIER - Vermonters who have been waiting to get solar panels will finally be able to make their homes more energy efficient. The Senate unanimously passed a net metering bill 28-0 Friday.

The net metering program in Vermont allows people to install solar panels and sell their excess power back to the grid. But there's a mandated cap of 4% of the utility company's peak load, and several Vermont utilities hit that cap in 2013, forcing them to stop the program and not allow any more customers to install solar.

The bill that passed Friday raises that cap to 15%.

Gabrielle Stebbins is the Executive Director of Renewable Energy Vermont. She's been working to get this legislation passed ever since companies started hitting the cap.

"Many, many customers I know...have been waiting to be able to put solar on their roof," she said. "And they can finally do it."

Water Quality

A bill to clean up Lake Champlain didn't make the crossover deadline Friday; but the Fish, Wildlife and Water Resources committee has requested an extension. The crossover deadline required House or Senate bills to pass out and cross over to the other chamber by Friday. State Rep. David Deen (D-Poultney) is the chair of the committee, and says since the bill needs to go to so many committees for consideration, it needs more time.

"The bill really does reach out and try and touch all of the major sectors that provide pollution to the waterways of Vermont," Rep. Deen said. That includes phosphorous runoff from farms and other pollutants.

If the extension isn't granted, the bill can't pass this session.

"I will probably break down and cry," said Rep. Deen.

3SquaresVT Over-payments

The House Human Services committee made it just in time, passing a bill they've been working on since day one of this legislative session.

The state accidentally overpaid food stamp recipients using federal dollars, and the federal government wants it back. Families that have been receiving the money have spent it, not knowing the amount was calculated incorrectly.

"The bill is very simple," said State Rep. Ann Pugh (D-South Burlington), the chair of the committee. "It says the state is responsible for the errors that they make, and not the recipients of food stamps in Vermont, known as 3Squares."

It would cost the state over $600,000 to pay back the money. The bill is headed to appropriations to consider whether to spend that money. Appropriations gets an extra week to pass bills.

All money bills get that extra week, so the FY 2015 budget and property tax bills still have another week, as does the Paid Sick Leave bill.
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