Town asked to improve energy efficiency By DANIEL BARLOW
Brattleboro Reformer Thursday, March 11, 2004

BRATTLEBORO—Paul Cameron sees the $10,000 in funding he is asking for as more than just his group’s budget for the coming year—it’s an investment in the future of the community. Cameron, the head of the nonprofit group Brattleboro Climate Protection, is asking the Brattleboro Town Meeting Representatives on March 20 for the funding so that his group can continue working on a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in town.

“I look at it as a moderate investment in Brattleboro’s future,” said Cameron on Wednesday. “The result will be lower taxes, cleaner air and an improved quality of life.”

Part of an international movement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve energy efficiency, the local group is part of the Cities for Climate Protection campaign, an effort that has taken root in 550 local governments, including 150 in the United States. Other nearby towns that have similar groups include Burlington, Keene, N.H., and Amherst, Mass. The Brattleboro group was formed in June 2002 and has an office in the planning office at the municipal center. It has worked with town and school officials on a plan to reduce emissions in town-owned buildings and Brattleboro’s elementary schools by 20 percent over the next six years.

The group is also seeking to reduce emissions throughout town by 10 percent by 2010 and plans to launch a campaign later this year to sign up local businesses. Companies such as Fibermark and Putney Paper Co. have expressed interest, said Cameron.

Under the current plan, reducing the town’s emissions and increasing buildings’ energy efficiency would mean no initial financial contribution, explained Cameron; instead the cost of the energy audit and retrofitting would be taken from the savings made by the alterations. The town currently spends more than $700,000 annually on energy and the town’s elementary schools spend approximately $135,000. It is estimated that around $84,000 will be saved each year if the town buildings and elementary schools reduce energy consumption by 10 percent, Cameron said. “That will save the taxpayers money,” said Cameron. “That is funds that can be used for other town services.”

Among the accomplishments in 2002 was the conversion of some of the Windham Solid Waste District’s vehicles to biodiesel, the introduction of a biodiesel pump at the Fleming Oil Co. station in West Chesterfield, N.H., and hosting an energy-effecient workshop attended by representatives from approximately 40 Brattleboro businesses.

In Burlington, a group similar to Brattleboro Climate Protection has been active since 1996, and city and state buildings in the area have signed up for the 10 percent challenge, said Debra Sachs, the director of that group. In the past few years, hundreds of households in Burlington have signed up for the challenge and recently 200 employees at IBM signed up and vowed to look at transportation alternatives to and from work to reduce vehicle emissions.

“It’s amazing how it has really taken on a life of its own,” said Sachs.“We have a very transparent and transferable program that others can take and make their own.” Brattleboro Climate Protection has typically been funded through a combination of grants, private donations and town funds. In 2003 the town gave the group $8,500 and donations and grants gave the effort another boost of $12,000.

Selectboard member and supporter of the climate group Pat DeAngelo said the effort is a “win-win” for the town’s finances and the town’s environment. “Let’s say the audit comes back and says it will cost $30,000 to implement the recommendations,” she said. “Well, that seems like a lot of money, but not once you factor in what the town will be saving each year by implementing it.”

“Plus we are cleaning up our air and improving the health of everyone in town,” she added.
Looking to the future, Cameron said his group plans to have local businesses sign up to the 10 percent challenge via a Web site to track their emission reduction efforts. There are also plans to establish an award program for the companies that improve their efficiency.

The group will also continue to push biodiesel as a healthy alternative, coordinate more workshops and look for other opportunities to use wood-chip heating systems. If the $10,000 allocation is not approved at town meeting, the impact on the group’s efforts is not clear, said Cameron. The group’s efforts would likely look much different, he explained, if the funding support from the town did not get approved.
“It’s going to save money for the town,” he said. “There are real gains here.”