Arlington Energy Committee
Wednesday, November 2, 2022
7:00 to 8:30pm
IN PERSON AT THE TOWN HALL and ONLINE
Present: Mary Ann Carlson, Alexandra Ernst, Karen Lee, Stephanie Moffett-Hynds, Jenny Murtaugh, Garret Siegel, Mardi Crane
Guest: Nick Zaiac
- CALL TO ORDER: called to order at 7:00pm
- MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING: Garret moved to approve; Mary Ann seconded; motion passed.
- OLD BUSINESS
3.1 Status report on efficiency efforts for the Town Hall:
- Act 172 monies: The Municipal Building Energy Resilience Program
We are very excited to see this coming along and to know that the BCRC is taking on such a great leadership role to help us to be well-situated to apply for and receive the much-needed dollars.
First, here is an overview of the project, as explained by BCRC’s Jim Sullivan:
The BCRC effort to gather information about municipal buildings in anticipation of the upcoming launch of a new state program to conduct assessments and provide grants for energy efficiency improvements – from weatherization to replacement of heating system – for municipal buildings. The program, known during its development as “H.518,” or the “Municipal Fuel Switching Program,” and later as “Act 172” or the “Municipal Building Energy Resilience Program” is being implemented by the Vermont Department of Buildings and General Services (BGS), with support provided by regional planning commissions. Municipal Energy Resilience Program | Buildings and General Services (vermont.gov).
While BGS is still working on development of program guidelines, we know that they will be funding up to $5 million in building assessments, followed by close to $40 million in implementation projects. This program will be a great opportunity to obtain direct funding to weatherize buildings and, in many cases, switch to a lower-cost renewable fuel-based heating/cooling system (depending on the building, potentially cold climate heat pumps, advanced wood heating systems, or some combination).
We want to get out in front of the process and gather as much information as possible about all of the potentially eligible municipal buildings in our region so that we can be prepared to assist you with applications for building assessments and system upgrades. To that end, we are working with a University of Vermont intern, Ishan Maratha, who will be contacting you via email to request some basic information (e.g., name, location, use, size, current heating and/or cooling system and fuel type, average fuel consumption/cost,…) about municipal buildings in your town or village. It is likely that any municipal (could include town, village, fire district, etc.) building will, at least potentially, be eligible, so provide as much data as possible. You might find that this is a great project for your local energy committee or someone on one of your boards or commissions with a particular interest in energy efficiency.
Ishan Maratha did reach out to Nick who reported that he has submitted initial applications for both the Town Hall (for which Nick would like to bundle heat pumps and insulation) and the main Rec. Park building. For the latter, he recommends we apply for funds to upgrade windows and heat pumps for both air and heat. The town garage, while it has good ceiling insulation, has many needs and should probably be replaced entirely. Would the town want to apply for upgrades for this building if they were just going to replace it? The committee raised the question of how many years it would be before such a building were replaced and would it still make sense to upgrade it with efficiencies that could begin saving energy as soon as they are installed and then be transferred into any new building. Nick wondered what the RX value the heat pumps would need to reach and if that would even be possible in the current garage. There is so much leakage in that building.
Discussion also ensued about what the West Arlington Fire House would benefit from having. While it is in good shape, it would be great to have heat pumps in that building, as well as LEDs to replace all the fluorescents. The East Arlington Fire House is not owned by the town, but if the town were ever to take on the responsibility of running it, there is talk of building a new facility one day that would have the efficiencies baked into the design. The Act 172 money is for upgrading existing structures.
At this point, Nick estimates he will be applying for about $100,000 worth of upgrades.
3.2 Continuing work on the town’s Energy/CO2 Emissions Analysis:
- Mary Ann and Mardi will get together with Mary Ann Holmes to discuss the idea of adding soil amendments to open areas in the town like the golf course and Rec. Park, adding clover, etc., to find out what can be done to boost carbon sequestration
- Steph will contact Rob Terry, executive director at Merck Forest & Farmland Center, about their plans to electrify as much as their fleet as possible. They have already purchased an electric commercial mower: Steph will ask how they like it and how they financed it. They also “secured a position on the waiting list for an electric side-by-side and half-ton” and are researching emerging electric farm equipment. It might be an excellent opportunity to partner with Merck as a resource on how to move in this direction, even though they are governed by a non-profit board.
- Steph will also talk with Merck about their efforts to sequester carbon. After having attended a recent meeting with Karen Lee on the importance of leaving mature forests completely alone and the drawbacks to Early Successional Habitat Creation, Steph was surprised to read that the latter appears to be their strategy (“forest management to accelerate the presence of important ‘old forest’ characteristics in our woods through progressive management strategies,” which is what the forest service is also doing). She would like to better understand why they are choosing this process and how much of their forest they are leaving to mature without any interference (mature forests in the northeast sequester far more carbon that managed forests). This all relates back to any recommendations the energy committee will ultimately make to the select board and to residents. Steph would welcome anyone else on the committee to go with her for these conversations.
- More on Carbon Sequestration: Karen and Steph visited the Ranger Station in Manchester, also, and spoke with the District Ranger and two staff rangers who manage lumber for the branch. While it is clear that they care deeply about the health of the forest and its ability to provide some economic benefit to residents who use the timber to create wood products, we came away concerned that they are using outmoded practices that are not in keeping with President Biden’s Executive Order: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2022/04/22/fact-sheet-president-biden-signs-executive-order-to-strengthen-americas-forests-boost-wildfire-resilience-and-combat-global-deforestation/:
America’s forests are a key climate solution, absorbing carbon dioxide equivalent to more than 10% of U.S. annual greenhouse gas emissions. Federal lands are home to many of the nation’s mature and old-growth forests, which serve as critical carbon sinks, cherished landscapes, and unique habitats. However, these magnificent ecosystems are threatened by the climate impacts that are already here, with intensifying wildfires demanding urgent action to protect our forests and the economies that depend on them. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides historic wildfire resilience funding and calls for prioritizing the restoration of old-growth forests.
Building on this directive and the Administration’s commitment to climate-smart forest stewardship, today’s Executive Order will:
- Safeguard mature and old-growth forests on federal lands, as part of a science-based approach to reduce wildfire risk.
- Strengthen reforestation partnerships across the country to support local economies and ensure we retain forest ecosystems and sustainable supplies of forest products for years to come.
- Combat global deforestation to deliver on key COP26 commitments.
Now that we know that we need to set aside a certain percentage that we completely leave alone—at least in the northeast where we are not faced with the fire hazards that so much of the rest of the US is now facing due to global warming—the forest service is mandated to do the same in Vermont. The rangers said that while this is true, they have not been given any guidance yet from NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) as it usually takes several years for policies to be translated into action steps for the rangers to follow. Steph pointed out that they won’t be able to undo their clear-cutting (which is slated to begin soon on forest land on a considerable scale) in a few years, once those steps are finally articulated. Wouldn’t a pause be a better idea? It was a good initial conversation with them and Karen and Steph freely admit to being novices at understanding the policies and ramifications. The rangers did say that they try to do as little management in those sections marked “Wilderness” as possible.
Having met with the rangers (and with the intention of also speaking to Merck about their practices), the committee will also seek more information at a virtual presentation on 11/16 to better understand the position of those who think the forest service shouldn’t be accelerating the rate and amount of forest they are now planning to cut: https://www.savepublicforests.org/events/mythbusters. All committee members are encouraged to attend and to continue to talk with people on all sides of this issue.
Bottom line: Karen underscored the importance of compiling data and identifying the most scientific sources, as we go about determining the carbon sequestration benefits of trees.
- Field Trips: First one will be Friday, November 4, 9am to visit the West Arlington Fire House and the town garage. Mary Ann, Steph, and Nick to attend.
3.3 WindowDressers Community Build Wrap Up:
The 2022 Northshire WindowDressers Community Build in Arlington was a great success! Kudos to all involved. We made 267 insulating inserts in 5 days with 74 volunteers putting in 692 hours. Inserts have gone into 32 homes and 5 non-profit and municipal buildings. Of the total, 33% were built for customers who qualified to receive them for free or at less than full price.
Savings: At an average of $27 savings on fuel bills per insert, per year, this means about $7,209 in savings. The $27 average is what is listed on WindowDressers’ website. But the savings could be much greater if you go by the rates published by the VT Dept. of Public Service in August 2022: fuel oil: $4.73/gal & propane: $3.20/gallon. Looking at 10 window inserts saving 105 gallons of fuel oil a year:
105 gallons divided by 10 windows is 10.5 gallons per window, per year. Averaging the costs of fuel oil and propane = $3.97/gallon. Multiply $3.97 by 10.5 gallons, and one does get the $41.63 savings per window.
Thank you to everyone who pitched in—especially those who hadn’t even ordered inserts, but just wanted to help their neighbors. Some provided delicious, fortifying dishes and snacks, while others came in “off the street” to see what this thing was all about and ended up staying for many sessions afterwards.
The committee is grateful to Arlington’s American Legion for so graciously hosting the build. (The WD crew built 6 window inserts for the legion and will make a monetary donation toward their electric bill, once that is known.) With the bonus of being able to use their kitchen, this turned out to be a great fit. Here are the links to news coverage of the build:
Bennington Banner: Keeping warm, saving energy:
- NEW BUSINESS
4.1 OTHER GRANT opportunities: the Vermont Diesel Emissions Reduction Financial Assistance Program is an annual program. The deadline is Nov. 29. Nick feels that Arlington is not yet at the point when it can use this, but anticipates that it will be in a couple of years.
Callie Fishburn sent information about the VCRD’s Climate Economy Resilient Communities program, but the deadline is Nov. 7—just too short a window for us to get in a proper application. This is a shame, according to Steph, and she would like us to form a subcommittee on grants so that we can look ahead and be prepared for such opportunities as there are many that could be a great help to Arlington. The committee is encouraged to consider this for next year:
|The Vermont Council on Rural Development (VCRD) announces the call for Climate Economy Resilient Communities participants for 2023. Community leaders and volunteers submit a simple online application by November 7 to be considered. VCRD’s Climate Economy Resilient Communities(formerly known as Climate Economy Model Communities) will support three to five communities per year that are working on local climate action solutions. The change reflects new opportunities to work within more communities and for each to self-identify the area of support needed to move projects forward. Through this program, VCRD will provide assistance to communities to make strong forward movements toward a community engagement process, communication outreach planning, strategic planning, technical assistance, and/or project implementation. Selected participants for the Resilient Communities program will receive targeted support through direct partnership with a community committee, organization, or leader working on local climate action solutions through VCRD. Eligible entities include, but are not limited to, Town Energy Committees, Energy Coordinators, other municipal leadership, or Climate Catalysts leading in their community. All projects must have a place-based community as their focus (an individual or group of town(s), village(s), or other municipal entity). Learn More & Apply Today →|
|4.2 This is a carry-over from last month, but is still in the works: Energy committee chairs in the Northshire are setting up a meeting to greet the new BCRC executive director, Bill Colvin. Once a date is set, they will invite any committee members who are available to join them. As Garret suggested, each committee will share what they are working on and underscore the importance of having the BCRC and Callie Fishburn, in particular, helping us. Nick suggested that we also strengthen our relationship in a similar way with our Conservation District. We will take this up at our next meeting.|
MOTION to ADJOURN: Garret motioned; Mary Ann seconded; all approved: 8:15pm.
Next Meeting: Wednesday, December 7, 7-8:30pm
Minutes by Stephanie.