Arlington Energy Committee
Wednesday, February 1, 2023
7:00 to 8:30pm
IN PERSON AT THE TOWN HALL and ONLINE
In attendance: Alexandra Ernst, Garret Siegel, Karen Lee, Stephanie Moffett-Hynds, Jenny Murtaugh, Mary Ann Carlson
Town Administrator/energy coordinator present: Nick Zaiac
Guests present: Andrew McKeever, Mary Anne Holmes, Carl Bucholt, Jim Hand, Tim Lalor, Rob Terry
Absent member: Mardi Crane
- CALL TO ORDER: called to order at 7:04
- MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING: Mary Ann C. moved, Alex E. seconded, minutes approved
- OLD BUSINESS
3.1 Nick reported on efficiency efforts for Town. LED lighting installation for town garage is imminent. Heat pumps are still in discussion for town hall. He is hoping to use Act 172 funding for many of the planned efficiency projects.
3.2 Karen reported that CO2 analysis spreadsheet is progressing. Computation of town operation carbon footprint is complete. She is waiting for confirmation from Laura from VCRD that calculations are correct before bringing information to Town Selectboard.
3.3 Mary Anne Holmes reported on her research about carbon uptake from Arlington’s town forest. She estimates that we need approximately 116 acres of forest to offset the town’s diesel truck emissions. Nick said the Town owns 120 acres. General discussion was held about the health of the town forest and future management. Nick said he would find the Town’s management plan of the forest. Effectiveness of the Town forest as a carbon sink will be better determined in the summer months of 2023 after on site visitation. Mary Ann Carlson asked if private conservation lands, such as the forest owned by the West Mountain Inn, could be used in carbon offset calculations. Nick answered that, potentially the answer is yes, if the Town owns the conservation easement.
- NEW BUSINESS
Rob Terry, Executive Director of Merck Forest and Farmland Center in Rupert, VT, gave a presentation on the proposed new management plan for Merck’s forest. Some points from his talk and general discussion with members and guests include:
a) Rob is a former teacher, not a forester. He is learning from forest experts from UVM (Tony D’Amato) and UMass. Merck: “On a mission to inspire curiosity, love and responsibility for natural and working lands.” Merck is 3,500 acres of forest and 60 acres working farm. Merck’s forest is an important part of the Northern Appalachian Boreal Forest. Rob showed a map of the Taconics which illustrated the significance of the 41,692 unfragmented acres from Arlington to Rupert (of which both Merck and Arlington are a part). Merck desires to maximize carbon sequestration from its forest, while also managing for biodiversity, and ecosystem health.
b) The forest directly generates income through the sale of saw timber, cordwood, maple syrup and the leasing of a portion of the sugarbush. Of the total forest acreage of 3500 acres, 15-20% has been designated as No Touch due to ecological value. Much of that is also just too wet to manage. Remainder of the forest will be actively managed to remove most beech and ash which are not serving their former complex habitat roles due to disease. Beech outcompetes other species that are more effective at carbon sequestration. Wherever possible, female ash of a certain diameter (10”?) are not removed, with the hope that they will survive.
c) Hudson Carbon from New York state is surveying the above and below ground carbon to determine the forest’s health. Below ground has never been surveyed. They are in their first year of gathering data by doing tree and soil coring, water filtration testing, flyover analysis (using LiDAR technology: Light Detection and Ranging), etc.
d) Steph asked why Rob used “500 years” as a reference to what he would consider old growth forest. He explained that a diverse forest can certainly be old growth at 150+ years, that would not often be the case in VT due to its history of clear-cutting much of the state. What has emerged in much of the state is not always diverse and diseases beech stands slow down the process of getting to that old growth composition. In other words, he has been told that it would take 500 years for the forests to self-correct and become a diverse, healthy forest in much of Vermont.
e) Merck is not going to sell carbon credits due to lengthy time commitments and future uncertainties. Not enough data have been gathered. Too little is presently known about forests as carbon sinks to enter into a management program over which they would have no control.
f) Stephanie voiced concerns about conflicting information and differing scientific opinions about Vermont forests and carbon sequestration. Rob said he would provide links with information from UVM and UMass.
g) Rob discussed the ongoing electrification of Merck’s fleet and installation of renewable energy. They are very pleased with their commercial e-mower (Mean Green). He said that they are Process Auditing in an effort to avoid the intellectual trap of potentially wasting energy because of new efficiency efforts. They are consciously reducing the amount of land mowed and the frequency—not because the mower power won’t last, but because it is not necessary and mowing still uses electricity which must be generated.
h) Alex asked if we could investigate a sharing concept between municipalities and/or individuals to share newly purchased electric equipment to save money. We need to think outside our own individual units and come up with creative ideas to reduce investment costs of conversion from fossil fuels to electric.
- Garret is almost finished with the AEC submission for this year’s town report; just needs some clarification from Karen and Steph. Will submit to Nick by Friday, February 3.
- To celebrate Earth Day on April 22 and advance our mission to disseminate efficiency information to the public, the AEC will be participating in the Energy Fair with Sunderland, Manchester, and Dorset energy committees (led by Carl Bucholt and the Manchester energy committee). Carl said there will be another planning meeting on Monday or Tuesday and the fair will take place at the Manchester Town Hall. Stephanie will be in charge of a WindowDressers table and urged those members and guests who will be available to help with the many other activities.
- Stephanie urged members and guests to attend VECAN meetings. They are offered every other Wednesday from noon to 1pm. This week, she attended one on Community-Led Resilience Hubs which focused on the ways individuals and town energy committees can help their towns to make sure that shelters will be self-sufficient in the event of disasters. Craftsbury, for example, equipped their town library with solar, backup battery storage, etc., to make sure that power would continue in the event that it is down elsewhere. This would be essential for heat, connectivity, etc. She and Karen are going to give brief report on CO2 analysis at VECAN meeting on February 15 called, “Inter-Community Idea Share: Cross-Pollinating Community Energy Progress, Challenges and Successes.” Everyone welcome to attend these free discussions; sign up at VECAN.net.
MOTION to ADJOURN: Mary Ann motioned; Alex seconded; all approved: 8:32pm
Next Meeting: March 1, 2023, 7 p.m.