Dozens of Vt. Communities to Weigh in on Climate Change

At least three dozen Vermont communities will consider an advisory question on Tuesday's Town Meeting Day, asking whether the state should get more aggressive in moving away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy — to cut down on carbon emissions.

"This is urgent," Marina Meerburg of Stowe said of threats posed by climate change. "And this planet is wonderful — it's just wonderful."

Stowe is one of the towns and cities tackling climate change at its town meeting.

As a resort town that depends on snow for skiers and riders, Meerburg insists Stowe's very identity would suffer from warmer winters.

"What are you going to tell your children, grandchildren, your nieces and nephews, when they ask, 'what did you do to stop this?'" Meerburg asked, describing what her message to her neighbors will be Tuesday when asking for their support for the resolution. "The worst consequences of climate change are going to be dealt with by the younger generations."

The resolution calling for more aggressive state policies to address climate change and move toward renewable energy is non-binding.

Still, climate change activists hope a strong showing on Town Meeting Day will spark new urgency among state leaders, getting them to accelerate their goal of getting 90 percent of Vermont's energy needs from renewable sources by the year 2050.

The grassroots group 350Vermont, which advocates for solutions to reverse climate change, said in addition to Stowe, the list of towns weighing the question on Town Meeting Day includes Arlington, Bennington, Bethel, Brattleboro, Bristol, Burlington, Calais, Cornwall, Dorset, Dummerston, East Montpelier, Guilford, Huntington, Lincoln, Manchester, Marlboro, Marshfield, Monkton, Montpelier, Northfield, Peacham, Peru, Plainfield, Putney, Rupert, Shaftsbury, Sharon, Strafford, Thetford, Tunbridge, Wardsboro, Weston, Williston, Woodbury, and Worcester.

"It's dangerous in terms of, I think, how broad a statement it is," Tom Evslin, a natural gas provider who lives in Stowe, said of the advisory question on communities' agendas or ballots.

Evslin founded a company called NG Advantage, which trucks compressed natural gas to big customers, like factories and hospitals, for their energy needs.

Evslin is on board with the goal to slash greenhouse gas emissions, but believes doing so takes a wide range of solutions; not just renewables. He argued that relying too much on renewables is not fiscally or environmentally feasible.

The businessman said he believes natural gas should be a part of that range of solutions, calling it much cleaner than, say, home heating oil.

"We shouldn't be limiting ourselves to specific technologies," Evslin argued. "We shouldn't confuse the means — whether those means be solar, wind, or natural gas — with the end, which is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

Evslin said he plans to introduce an alternative resolution on Stowe's Town Meeting Day, which would still call for the topic of climate change to be taken very seriously, but also recognize that any means — including conservation or natural gas — could be employed in the work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

350Vermont said while it knows of 36 Vermont communities that plan to address climate change on Town Meeting Day, people in other cities and towns may well raise the issue with their neighbors on Tuesday, too. A spokeswoman for 350Vermont said she would "love it" if residents of other communities did bring up climate change at their town meetings.

Most communities allow for the discussion of various topics as part of "other business" to be addressed on Town Meeting Day.

Environmental advocates including Marina Meerburg of Stowe called the Town Meeting Day discussions an important step in tackling one of the most pressing topics of our time.

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