Commissioner Tierney asks Vermont Utilities “How can you help Vermont build back better and smarter?” after Vermont July 2023 Flooding.
Commissioner Tierney’s July 26, 2023 letter urges Vermont Utilities “to leverage your relationships and deploy solutions within your respective service territories that will bring forward-looking flood relief to Vermonters who are digging out and need a more resilient energy future that is efficient and minimizes their carbon footprint.” She advises “On July 9, 2023, Governor Scott declared a state of emergency arising from a series of severe rainstorms that inflicted catastrophic flood damage throughout Vermont. Since then, he has repeatedly called for “all hands-on deck” to aid in the response and recovery. To accomplish this, the Department hereby establishes the following policy guidance for the duration of the recovery from the flood devastation of 2023:”
1. If existing law, regulations, or PUC orders pose a bar to responding to this call to action, please raise such issues with the Department so we can work with you to find a path forward, whether via a gubernatorial executive order, a petition to the PUC, or a legislative fix.
2. The Department urgently encourages all Vermont utilities under Title 30 regulatory jurisdiction to seek out ways to deploy their personnel, expertise, equipment, and reasonably available funds to assist customers with designing and procuring cost-effective energy infrastructure and appliances in their homes and businesses that will result in efficiency gains and emissions reductions. In short, many of your customers are down to studs in their flood-damaged homes and business and need your help now to learn about options that will deliver such gains.
3. In the wake of Tropical Storm Irene, many of you developed practices and expertise in supporting Vermont’s successful recovery. Please review any institutional playbooks and memory you have; look for ways to apply or adapt those lessons and moves to what Vermont faces now.
4. If you have access to federal funding such as ARPA, BIL, or IRA, please review your planned program needs to ensure that this is still the best use for such funding and look for opportunities to leverage these resources to assist Vermonters – particularly low- and middle-income folks -- with build-back measures that will result in efficiency gains and emissions reductions. In doing this review, please ask questions and give some thought to how these funding sources could be used to complement FEMA recovery funding, while guarding against displacing FEMA recovery funding.
5. Please clearly track the costs you incur in delivering this emergency work to support the flood recovery effort. This information will be needed later to address and resolve reimbursement issues. While the funding sources for such reimbursement are not settled at this time, the Department is committed to advocating vigorously for such funding via channels such as federal funding bills, FEMA, DOE, and the state utility regulatory process.
6. The Department invites good will contributions of labor and materials to the flood recovery effort.
7. The Department will make available its resources (data, maps, and outreach resources) to help with identifying areas where your interventions could help.
8. The Department encourages any suggestions, innovations, insights, or refinement of the strategies and principles touched on in this message that you believe could be helpful.
The contributions Vermont Utilities have brought to the table have been numerous and appreciated, and they are being asked to dig deeper to help Vermonters.