Sustainable Arlington - Jan 5th, 2020

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This afternoon's meeting was held in the basement of the Senior Center. Co-Chair Amos Meeks presided over the meeting, where the main topic was bringing a `gas ban' article to town meeting, similar to one that Brookline recently passed.

Amos suggests trying to follow Brookline's model. Brookline's article was the result of a year-long effort, and it passed 211-3 with six abstentions. The folks working on Brookline's article did a lot of research, and made it available for communities that want to pass similar ordinances. The text of Brookline's article is available at https://www.brooklinema.gov/DocumentCenter/View/20839/ARTICLE-21-as-voted-per-Town-Clerk and their material is available at https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1fw8GTn7RAA3RHOscxWP8Ra0IThsUTh58

Brookline's article affects piping after the gas meter, and it applies to new construction or substantial rehabilitation. Substantial rehabilitation is that which affects 50% or more of the floor area.

Gas piping is allowed for cooking appliances (stoves, etc). Cooking accounts for 5% of residential CO2 emissions; their bylaw is going after the 95% that's used for heating and hot water. There are also exemptions for laboratory and research spaces, restaurants, and central hot water heating systems. Their article creates a sustainability review board that will hear requests for exemptions and waivers.

Brookline's bylaw is being reviewed by the Attorney General, and they expect the review to be completed by July at the latest. It may not be reviewed in time for our town meeting. Brookline's article threaded a very narrow needle, and we'd have to be careful about adding to it. For example, they were very careful not to contradict utility laws or state building codes, both of which pre-empt local bylaws.

The AG could do several things with Brookline's article: accept it as is, reject it, or reject one or more specific provisions. Even if the AG rejects it, having several communities pass similar laws could encourage the state legislature to move on the issue.

There's a webinar about gas hookup bans on January 8th at 8pm.

Someone asks if we're expecting organized opposition to a ban on new gas heating installations. It's possible, though it could be difficult for petroleum industry lobbyists to mount opposition campaigns in numerous communities at once.

There's a question about how many new homes and substantial renovations are done in Arlington each year. A residential study group report on replacement homes has some data, but building permits are likely the best source of information. Another attendee suggests looking at the number of heating system replacements as well.

One attendee believes that energy-efficient electric heat should be the gold standard for new construction. We expect the grid to get cleaner over time, and homes with electric heat will automatically benefit from those improvements. We'd like to get builders and ordinary people interested in new heating technology. As people get more serious about new electric heating technologies, utilities are likely to get interested too.

Over the long term, it would useful to build a "green caucus" at town meeting, who would help pass similar articles.

Eversource is planning to develop three geothermal micro grid projects in Massachusetts. That's not directly relevant to the warrant article we're discussing, but people here might be interested in it.

Warrant articles have to be submitted by January 31st. The town's Clean Energy Futures committee may submit an article, but Amos is willing to submit it himself if necessary. In the interim, we should look over Brookline's research and materials, and work on self-education. We might also try to find people in industry that would be willing to talk about energy-efficient electric heating systems, and start talking to town meeting members.

The article would go before the Select Board in February. Between February and April, we'd try to engage with town meeting members, and try to win their support (or reduce their inclination for opposition). Town elections are in early April, and town meeting starts on April 27th.

The Brookline organizers tried to make public meetings more about problem solving and concern airing, rather than having a debate. They felt this made the meetings more productive.