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Middlebury aims to cut CO2 by 80%

MIDDLEBURY  — The Middlebury selectboard has set a goal of transitioning to greener municipal operations in a manner that would allow the town to reduce its carbon emissions output by 80% (compared to fiscal year 2019 levels) by the year 2030.
The board on Jan. 28 unanimously supported the 2030 carbon-reduction goal as part of a resolution that also calls upon the town’s Energy Committee to create an annual CO2 (carbon dioxide) progress report at the end of each calendar year.
“I think it gives us a hard target, something to aim for,” said selectboard member Lindsey Fuentes-George, the panel’s delegate to the Energy Committee. “It also gives us a way to measure our progress.”
Middlebury Energy Committee members have estimated that town operations currently generate 920 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year. Specifically, the group estimates the town’s fleet of gas-powered vehicles generates 153 tons, its diesel-powered vehicles create 146 tons, the electricity it uses is responsible for 377 tons, and the heating fuels it burns for municipal building (including police, towns offices, recreation facility) manufacture 244 tons.
The committee recommended the selectboard take a multi-pronged approach to meet its carbon reduction goal, including converting all building heat to cold-climate electric heat pumps; transitioning all cars, pickups and SUVs to electric vehicles; and making no new investments in fossil-fuel burning equipment or vehicles.
It’s a strategy that assumes Green Mountain Power will succeed in making its electricity portfolio carbon-free by 2025. It includes exploring conversion to a heat pump system in the police headquarters, installation of a 20% biodiesel storage tank, and moving forward with estimates of methane production by the anaerobic digester at the municipal wastewater treatment plant.
“We will not make progress in reducing CO2 emissions without deliberate action,” reads a statement by the Middlebury Energy Committee.
Energy Committee member Richard Hopkins noted his panel has made three carbon-reduction presentations to the selectboard during the past year. The panel’s initial pitch was for 80% carbon reduction within eight years. But the committee recalibrated its proposal based on recent visits with municipal staff and the town’s infrastructure committee.
“Each time we come (to visit you) our proposal is better, because you send us back with good questions,” Hopkins said.
Officials acknowledged the next several years could bring new technology that could affect the “80% by 2030” goal.
“We’ll have to think on our feet and make changes as they come, based on what’s available,” Fuentes-George said.
Selectman Nick Artim supported the resolution, but urged caution in choosing the ways to reach the 80% carbon-reduction goal.
“A lot of people have great enthusiasm for cold-climate heat pumps, and I see places where they work really well, but I’ve seen places where they don’t,” Artim said. “So I think we have to leave that to the professionals who really understand this technology … It’s the same thing with vehicles going all-electric; one of the things we have to be cautious of is even electric vehicles aren’t the cleanest things in the world, when it comes to the manufacturing of them.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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