Arlington Energy Committee Meeting Minutes 12.14.20

Arlington Energy Committee meeting

December 14, 2020 via Zoom (postponed from Dec. 7)

Next meeting: January 11, 2021, 7:00 p.m. via Zoom.  Agenda: We will get an update from Nick Zaiac on the Select Board’s efforts to secure more bids on Town Hall weatherization and efficiency projects.

Present: Stephanie Moffett-Hynds, Mary Ann Carlson, Mardi Crane, Bryan Dalton (notes), Alexandra Ernst, Karen Jernigan, Rich Lederer (Zoom host), Karen Lee, Garrett Siegel.

Guests: Earth Matters’ Chris Anderson & Carl Bucholt

OLD BUSINESS

GNAT weatherization series: Karen Lee & Mardi Crane reported that they have been in touch with Dawn and the series is on track.  To see the opening and end credits:

[After this meeting, we learned that the show is up and running:  You Conduit, Too! On GNAT, Friday evenings at 7:30pm; videos can be viewed on GNAT website any time:  https://gnat-tv.org/you-conduit-too-saving-with-solar-and-a-heat-pump-water-heater/.  Steph has posted this to Happening in Arlington, VT facebook page.]

Select Board approved private/public solar project: Karen Lee reported the SB approved buying solar credits from Rich & Howie Lederer and Karen & Jim Lee’s solar array on Ed Pike’s barn, for use for street lights.  All elements are local: solar company, investors, homeowner of site, Town is buying. Power agreement should be approved by end of week. SB member who is on school board says solar is working well for the school. Good endorsement of solar by Town.

VECAN Conference: Steph reported on several sessions: Drive Electric which featured Local Motion (a traveling E-bike lending library) and Capstone’s MileageSmart program to help lower-income families buy used high mpg hybrid vehicles with the incentive of covering 25% (up to $5,000) towards the purchase price. She shared helpful resources from Renewable Energy VT (full links at bottom of page):

– Energy Burden Spreadsheet, listed by Town, showing Arlington’s is high

– Connections Between Weatherization and Health

NEW BUSINESS

Guests Chris Anderson and Carl Bucholt, founding members of Earth Matters, gave an overview of the work of its Regenerative Agriculture subcommittee, and their own regen ag practices. 

After a class on climate with Ed Cameron in 2018, they studied the book “Drawdown,” and chose to focus on food production as the area in which they could draw down carbon. Cutting emissions alone won’t be enough; we need to sequester carbon from the atmosphere back into the soil and plants where it was before. Chris was an organic farmer for 20 years. The Regen Ag group interviewed local farmers, did research, and met biweekly for 1.5 years before the pandemic. 

Some in the climate class and regen ag group teamed up with prominent Bennington College faculty and area farmers to create the Regenerative Farming Network in Southern Vermont.  Michael Phillips of Earth Matters reports that some $5 million is being raised to anchor the Network.  Jesse McDougal of Studio Hill Farm in Shaftsbury (https://studiohill.farm/) is certified — working towards regenerating his farm’s soil – and reports there is funding available for regen ag projects. The Network is starting a food hub; opened a meat processing plant in Wilmington to fill the gap in local processing, saving stress on animals during transport; a bakery in Middletown that will grind its own grain; and a network of solar-charged electric storage and delivery trucks, including a tractor-trailer retrofitted in Colorado.  Aim is to generate interest and consolidate products from farmers and ranchers into relatively wide distribution from southern VT.  Larson Farm in Wells didn’t have way to distribute far away after they put in an expensive dairy plant; they linked up with Food Connect in Brattleboro, which covers eastern VT.  CAPA – the Center for the Advancement of Public Action at Bennington College – got a Mellon Foundation grant around food insecurity, a problem in Bennington County. One small grant went to a corner grocer in Bennington to purchase a refrigerator so it can expand its capacity to sell fresh produce, making it more available to residents who don’t have cars to get to the large supermarkets.

At home, drawing on the book “Farming on the Wild Side,” and other sources, Chris and Carl:

– abandoned their 40-year practice of rototilling their garden every fall and spring. (Local farmers may be learning by word of mouth that not tilling saves time and money, and allows getting into fields earlier in wet Springs.)

– leave 2-foot wide paths between beds

– plant cover crops (which also attract pollinators) between garden crops

– every fall cut instead of up-root the garden plants and cover crops, so the roots channel water downward and decay underground, counteracting soil-packing

– lay the plant stalks down with a compost of chopped leaves and hay

– in the spring, plant seedlings directly into the group among the compost, clearing a little strip in the compost to plant seeds

– instead of commercial fertilizer, make and use a compost tea

– spread compost thinly across the lawn and rake it in, and found it helped the lawn resist drought very well

– cut the lawn higher so taller blades of grass photosynthesize, fix atmospheric carbon, and add nutrients to the soil more

– added a wildflower garden and a pollinator garden using plants from Hildene.

Chris & Carl visited Arlington’s community garden and talked to Dottie Sundquist.  An empty area there could be used to plant fruit or nut trees, and the fruit would be available for free distribution in town, via a project by 350 Vermont (of which Earth Matters is a node member) to distribute 100,000 trees free to be planted around the state. 

Mardi plans to make more AEC videos on lawn practices to draw down carbon, save energy. She reported that the UVM Ag Department will analyze samples of soil for residents.

Steph flagged Hildene’s course ‘Rethinking your Lawnscape’ for more info.

Glyphosphate/Roundup: in our mission to help Arlington and its residents reduce their carbon footprint, the group resolved to coordinate language and talking points with legislators and Manchester’s conservation committee, in support of an upcoming bill in the Vermont Legislature to ban the herbicide glyphosphate (aka Roundup).  As the Manchester conservation committee plans to, our AEC may propose language on this issue in the March 2021 Town Report.  We agreed to develop a plan for building support for a ban. Mary Ann noted that our current Representative in Montpelier, Kathleen James, is on the climate committee; incoming Rep. Seth Bongartz has done extensive environmental work while leading Hildene; and Senators Dick Sears and Brian Campion likely can be approached to support the measure.

(As Karen Lee explained, glyphosphate, a carcinogen, kills microorganisms in the soil that are essential to retaining carbon from the atmosphere through photosynthesis, and that help soil retain water. Poisoning soil thus accelerates global warming and exacerbates flooding and erosion.  A warmer environment means more energy needed to mitigate its consequences.  Thus, this issue is an energy issue.  Healthy soils will help Arlingtonians to be more resilient.)

Chris Anderson and Carl Bucholt provided the following list of resources:

From  Grassroots Environmental Education:   https://www.grassrootsinfo.org/

Lawn Pesticides: An Unacceptable Risk:  https://www.grassrootsinfo.org/pdf/unacceptablerisk.pdf

What You Can Expect from Your Natural Lawn Program:  https://www.grassrootsinfo.org/

From  Vermont Healthy Soils Coalition:   https://www.vermonthealthysoilscoalition.org/resources

Healthy Soil Principles

https://5cde9067-7022-407d-a645-c6835dd49db1.filesusr.com/ugd/1230a6_da33a92602fb4c41be747499eaf251f4.pdf

Regenerative Agriculture in the Climate Justice Movement

https://5cde9067-7022-407d-a645-c6835dd49db1.filesusr.com/ugd/1230a6_8f2c62339c4a4753b1110dd08aefdda9.pdf

Take Action to Build the Soil Sponge’

https://5cde9067-7022-407d-a645-c6835dd49db1.filesusr.com/ugd/1230a6_c484f3aeb3c94c8e84a1af9f6c6fc315.pdf

From Soil4Climate:  https://www.soil4climate.org/

Grazing as a Vermont Climate Solution

https://5cde9067-7022-407d-a645-c6835dd49db1.filesusr.com/ugd/1230a6_9471801b8c794665921b1136f17bafd6.pdf

From Bio-Integral Resource Center: 

Common Sense Pest Control Quarterly:  Alternatives to Glyphosate (Vol. XXXII,December 2018)

https://www.birc.org/FinalDecemberQuarterly2018

From NOFA Mass

Tips for Carbon Sequestration

Soil Carbon Restoration page, includes a 6+ minute video 

Town Report: Steph floated the option of submitting a report on the AEC’s work in Arlington; Garrett noted we should ask Town Clerk Robin Wilcox how soon we’d need to get in a submission.

Resources from Renewable Energy Vermont www.revermont.org :

·       Shared resources:

o   New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA)

o   Justice and Equity in the CLCPA

o   Co-Design

o   Energy Democracy Alliance NY

o   Univ of Michigan analysis of energy efficiency investments for residential electric customers

o   US News & World Report healthiest communities project Vermont counties

o   Efficiency Vermont energy burden report Appendix D, VT town/county data (download spreadsheet)

o   Vermont’s Total Energy Burden by Town (White paper)

o   A Guidebook on Equitable Clean Energy Program Design for Local Governments and Partners

o   Vermont Clean Energy Access Coalition

o   Equity Foundations Training

o   Burlington Electric Department Green Stimulus

o   VT Mileage Smart Program

o   Retrofit New York

o   NY Energy Affordability Policy

o   Guiding Principles from the Massachusetts Global Warming Solutions Act Implementation Advisory Committee

o   VT data on weatherization and health from VT Dept of Health

o   Report on tax extenders set to expire in 2020

o   VT Climate council website

Watch and sign-up for VNRC’s “Climate Dispatch” videos

Climate Dispatch – Vermont Natural Resources Council

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