PVEA action items

Pioneer Valley Energy Agenda highlights action items

By G. Michael Dobbs, Managing Editor

NORTHAMPTON James Lowenthal, an astronomy professor at Smith College and bike commute advocate, asked the 50 or so people gathered on Thursday morning to learn about a new energy agenda for a show of hands. How many people walked to the meeting? There were a few hands. How many rode a bike? How many drove their cars?

Nearly everyone raised his or her hands.

The majority drove and Lowenthal said, "Transportation is at the crux of the energy crisis."

Lowenthal added that one third of the gasoline consumed in this country is used for trips that are three miles or less.

Elected officials, candidates, representatives of businesses and colleges and environmental activists were among those who gathered for the release of the "Pioneer Valley Energy Agenda."

Lowenthal's presentation was one of several that called for major changes in how we use energy in the Pioneer Valley and what energy we use.

The agenda is a plan to promote sustainable energy that could strengthen the local economy while decreasing the severity of global warming and the health problems associated with pollution.

State Representative Ellen Story (D-Amherst) explained the issues involving the use of fossil fuels are "becoming catastrophic before our very eyes."

She said the report released on Thursday was the result of meeting with concerned citizens who then worked on the plan for a year and a half.

Among the many action items the agenda calls on the governor and Legislature to:

set a target of 20 percent of Massachusetts electricity to be generated by clean renewable sources by 2020;

support the development of solar power through increased incentives for residential and commercial construction and renovation;

facilitate siting, permitting and grid interconnection for renewable energy, particularly wind and solar;

create a $5 million revolving loan fund to support feasibility research, business planning, legal structuring equity development and financing for community-owned, clean, safe, sustainable energy businesses that create living wage jobs;

invest heavily in freight and passenger rail in the region;

and provide tax breaks for purchasing fuel- efficient and alternative fuel vehicles, implement pay-as-you drive automobile insurance, rewarding drivers financially for fuel efficiency and few miles driven

"Moving away from oil, coal, nuclear and other dangerous energy sources to a more sustainable energy system requires a variety of strategies; there is no silver bullet solution," the report stated.

Grace Ross, the gubernatorial candidate of the Green-Rainbow party told the audience that environmental matters are important to her and that the country needs to move away from it current use of energy.

She said that, for example, mass transportation needs to be built around the needs of people who don't drive and that when these routes are constructed they will be attractive to people who do drive.

Tim Murray, the mayor of Worcester and the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, said that extending commuter trains to Worcester has resulted in economic development.

In conjunction with the release of the agenda, the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission is sponsoring a number of activities during the month of October.

They include the following:

Oct. 5 and 24: Greening Your Home/Lifestyle, 7-9 p.m., at the Florence Civic Center, Park Street & Rte. 9, Florence. National Grid customers can learn about low-interest energy loans and efficiency measures to reduce their home energy use. Presenters: Center for Ecological Technology (CET)'s Energy Efficiency and Clean Energy Staff (6:30 registration and refreshments). Contact CET at 413-586-7350 or tomasin@cetonline.org. Note:

Oct. 7: Amherst Energy Fair, 10 a.m. -4 p.m. Amherst Town Commons. For more information, contact Martha Powers, Amherst Energy Task Force intern, 413-259-3249 / powersm@amherstma.gov

Oct. 7: NESEA Green Buildings Open House: A unique opportunity to visit homes and see first-hand how clean energy and green building practices can be put to work!

To find a location near you or to register online, go to: www.nesea.org/buildings/openhouse

Oct. 8: Youth Power, 3-5 p.m. Training for young people on how to tell people about clean energy, recruit new members and sign them up for clean energy products at Co-op Power tables, events and phone-a-thons. lynn@cooppower.coop

Oct. 12: Come and tour a working wind farm, 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Green Mountain Power Corporation's Wind Farm, Searsburg, Vermont. Contact Cynthia Grippaldi to pre-register no later than one week prior to tour: (413) 445-4556 ext 25. Directions will be given at registration.

Oct. 13 "An Inconvenient Truth" (2 p.m. Main Lecture Hall, Franklin Patterson Hall, Hampshire College) followed by the Global Warming Panel discussion (4 p.m., same location)

Oct. 17: Growing the Bioeconomy: Biomass in a Sustainable World, 3:30 p.m. Lee R. Lynd, Professor of Engineering, Dartmouth College. Cape Cod Lounge, Student Union Building, UMass.

Oct. 18: Solar Energy for Your Home, 7-9 p.m. Learn how home solar energy can work for you! Presenter: Chris Vreeland, professional engineer and CET's renewable energy technical advisor. (6:30 registration and refreshments) Florence Civic Center, Park Street & Rte. 9, Florence, MA. Contact CET at 413-586-7350 or tomasin@cetonline.org

Oct. 19: Pioneer Valley Clean Energy Planning Process: Democracy at work! 7-9 p.m. with registration and refreshments at 6:30. Springfield Technical Community College-Springfield. Participate in the public planning process to create a Clean Energy Plan for our region hosted by the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission and the Franklin County Council of Governments. Use the easy-to-use online planning forum during Clean Energy Month - 10/1/06 to 10/31/06.

Sign on and shape the plan. Share your ideas and perspectives. Help explore our options and their implications. Work with others in our region to set goals and develop action plans. Vote for the things that matter most to you. Sign onto: http://forums.e-democracy.org/pioneer-valley

For agenda, directions and information on how you can participate in on-line discussions go to www.pvpc.org

Oct. 23: Small Scale Wind, 7-9 p.m. (6:30 registration and refreshments) The "nuts & bolts" of small wind & how it can work for you! Presenter: Chris Vreeland, professional engineer and CET's renewable energy technical advisor. Town of Shutesbury Elementary School, 23 West Pelham Road, Shutesbury Bill Labich 413/774-1194 ext. 107 Note: You are invited to a special event from 5:30 - 6:30 p.m. celebrating Shutesbury's new solar panel installation on the Elementary School and CET's/New England GreenStart's contribution to this project. For more information contact Bill Labich at 413/774-1194 ext. 107 blabich@frcog.org

Oct. 25: Solar Energy for Small Businesses, 8-10 a.m. Could solar be a good fit for your business? Presenter: Chris Vreeland, professional engineer and CET's renewable energy technical advisor. (7:30 registration and refreshments) Potpourri Plaza, 241 King St., Suite 234, Northampton. Contact CET at 413-586-7350 or tomasin@cetonline.org

For additional information, contact Catherine Miller of the PVPC at 781-6045 to go to www.pvpc.org.

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