Global warming debate heats up for Burlington

BURLINGTONThe cold weather didnt keep the minds of Burlington residents off global warming last week. A public meeting with global warming as the subject saw an impressive turnout at Contois Auditorium despite the chilly temperatures last Thursday, Feb. 8. Mayor Bob Kiss introduced Drew Hudson from the Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG) who put the issue of global warming on a local scale for the audience, with impacts that hit close to home. Between recreational winter activities and statewide traditions like sugaring, Hudson said, What makes Vermont special to us is threatened by the problem of global warming. Hudson showed charts and graphs that showed how climate temperatures had spiked in recent years and also the varying levels of pollution in towns around the state. Starksborough, an in-between town where residents must drive to get to most any destination was the leading Vermont town in high levels of pollution. He also pointed to the impending need to replace energy sources in the state, with contracts coming due with Vermont Yankee and Hydro Quebec. Hudson said by 2018, Vermont will need to replace 70 percent of its energy sources, and referred to continuing to utilize energy from Vermont Yankee as a a non-solution because of reported increased radioactive waste at the plant. While he said the future of our energy is daunting, it is a wide open field where there can be real action and changes. Hudson outlined several areas for change including an emphasis on public transportation and pedestrian friendly towns and cities, energy efficient regulations on new buildings and time of sale efficiency policies for apartment buildings at a statewide level, among others. He stressed that it was of utmost importance to get the public involved in these issues and to create pressure for Vermont lawmakers. Wayne Senville, a Burlington resident, echoed the need for changes around transportation means and especially to stop putting money into highways that will encourage the current driving culture of the state. He informed the audience that the states administration had voted to put millions of dollars toward the support of global warming, with proposed creation of The Circ, or circumferential highway that would bypass town roads between Williston and Colchester. Betsy Rosenbluth, director of the Burlington Legacy Project spoke to the audience about the 10 percent challenge, which hoped to help businesses and residents reduce their greenhouse gas emissions with a goal of 10 percent reduction by 2005. While Rosenbluth said we are falling short of our own goals, she stressed that it is still important to take action as soon as possible. Burlingtons City Council has recently passed an initiative to create an Environmental Security Task Force, which will be appointed by the mayor before March 1. After Rosenbluth and Hudson gave presentations, there was time for public questions and comments followed by the separation of audience members into three groups including: statewide energy issues, ideas for mobilization, and the citys new Environmental Security Task Force. Attendees split up into three groups according to what issues they were most interested in. The public meeting was the last in a series of six public meetings in Vermont about global warming, and what Hudson described as the last of statewide tour.

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