Towns appointing energy commissions, coordinators

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(Host) Hartford’s select board has appointed seven residents to a “town energy commission” that’s been charged with promoting conservation.

As VPR’s Ross Sneyd reports, Hartford is among a growing number of towns trying to make global warming a local concern.

(Sneyd) For years, Hartford has had a goal in its town master plan of conserving energy both in municipal facilities and among townspeople.

But there’s never been any individual or board that tried to make those goals a reality.

Planning Director Lori Hirshfield says the panel isn’t interested in the political debate that swirls around global warming – just in conservation.

(Hirshfield) “Whether you believe in the concept of global warming or not, I think everyone can agree that we can reduce our energy consumption. You can argue whether there’s an impact on our environment. But I think it’s a hard argument to say if we reduce our energy consumption it’s going to cost us less in the long run. And why do we need to spencd the natural resources or the money if we can spend less.”

(Sneyd) So the new commission will review the town’s buildings, vehicle fleets, heating plants and other facilities, looking for efficiencies.

More than three dozen communities across Vermont have taken similar steps.

They got a boost from the Legislature.

The big global warming initiative that ended in a veto got all the attention in the Statehouse this year.

But Karen Horn of the Vermont League of Cities and Towns says a climate bill was enacted.

Act One of the 2007 session was a little-noticed bill giving select boards authority to appoint energy commissions like Hartford’s or individual energy coordinators.

(Horn) “The neat thing about it from my point of view is it’s very grassroots. This is coming very much from local folks in their communities who see a need and are talking to the municipality about getting something going.”

(Sneyd) Many of the towns have gotten help from a nonprofit group in Thetford known as SERG, for Sustainable Energy Resource Group.

SERG’s Bob Walker says the group was formed six years ago, partly in response to growing awareness about global warming.

(Walker) “There’s also the issues of the high prices of fuel, concerns about oil running out, concerns about wars being fought over dwindling reserves. So there are a myriad of different reasons to try work on these issues.”

(Sneyd) Walker says there have been efforts at the state and federal level to do something meaningful about global warming.

But after his experience with local energy coordinators and commissions, he believes the best approach in the current political climate is to act locally.

For VPR News, I’m Ross Sneyd.

(Host Outro) SERG has organized a meeting of town energy coordinators for next week in Montpelier.

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