As in previous election cycles, on February 21, 2023, CR4SEF contacted each of the three candidates (Chris Albert, Lisa Lopez, John McCourt) currently running for the two open Canton Select Board seats. We posed four questions in order to learn more about each candidate's stance on timely climate and sustainability initiatives, including:
Canton Electricity Choice;
a Municipal Opt-in Specialized Stretch Energy Code;
the formation of an interim Sustainability/Climate Action Planning Committee as a companion to Town Meeting Article 27;
and, other steps the SB candidate would take to help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The responses of the two candidates who replied are posted here. We will also summarize their response to each question, which will be published in The Canton Citizen. This effort to help inform the public about the candidates’ positions aims to advance our mission of promoting civic and public engagement, working across sectors to address climate change. (NOTE: Find additional context and resources links at bottom)
1a) Will you support and ensure that the standard (default) setting for Canton Electricity Choice offers a significant mix of electricity generated from renewable, clean, locally sourced energy. If not, please explain why not.
Yes, I will support a plan where the default choice available to Canton Electricity Choice customers offers a significant mix of electricity generated from renewable, clean, locally sourced energy, provided this is the recommendation of the Energy Advisory Committee to the Select Board based on its collective expertise and analysis of community support. Performing this community education, outreach and analysis was precisely the reason I supported the formation of the Energy Advisory Committee.
I plan to support the setting for Electrical Choice in Canton offering a mix of electricity generated from locally sourced clean renewable energy. I believe we need to start addressing this topic in a more serious manner and discussing renewable energy resources and the reduction of fossil emissions. Alongside that, I have come to recognize that technology is ever changing and as a community we need to start approaching the transition from a knowledge based standpoint. We don’t want to leave our town in a vulnerable position in terms of its energy requirements.
1b) If so, what % of renewable clean, locally sourced electricity above the required state minimum do you recommend as the standard (default) rate for Canton Electricity Choice? Note: The current required state minimum is 22%. For comparison, below are Sharon’s Power Choice defaults and opt-in choices and percentages.
The members of the Energy Advisory Committee are all persons with expertise and knowledge in this area greater than my own. I will look to the Energy Advisory Committee to recommend a specific percentage, and I will be strongly influenced by its research, community outreach and analysis. I will personally opt into the choice that offers the highest percentage of renewable, clean, locally sourced energy because I believe that if every person is intentional about taking measures that are environmentally friendly, we have empowered our community collectively to make a huge impact.
In terms of the percentages presented, I believe we can do better than the state’s minimum. I think it’s time we start cross-referencing surrounding communities' percentages and approaches, as you noted with Sharon, and see what the current trends are resulting in and see what we can learn from it. I think it’s important to look into other resources and information in conjunction with their sustainability and eco-footprint as well as its effect on homeowners and businesses in town in order to take steps in a direction that aids the general population of the community and not just a small percentage. As a Select Board member and someone who has been involved in many projects for the town, I believe it’s vital to listen to all sides of any proposal.
2) How will you ensure the Town of Canton adopts the state’s new Municipal Opt-in Specialized Stretch Energy Code? For more info, see info below and visit: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/building-energy-code.
Canton adopted the state’s Stretch Energy Code and amendments to its own zoning code at the 2017 Town Meeting, as part of a plan to become eligible for state designation as a Green Community, which it won later that year after complying with the 5 criteria: (i) adopting an Energy Use Baseline and Energy Use Reduction Plan, (ii) adopting a Renewable Fuel Efficient Vehicle Policy, (iii) adopting the state’s Stretch Energy Code (iv) zoning in designated locations for the as-of-right siting of renewable or alternative energy generating facilities, research and development facilities, or manufacturing facilities, and (v) allowing expedited permitting for renewable energy facilities in the designated renewable zone.
Obtaining Green Community status allowed Canton to obtain over $600,000 in state grants, which it put to excellent use predominantly in lighting and weatherization related projects. Currently, Canton is among the 299 Green Communities in Massachusetts whose Stretch Building Code was automatically updated, per state law, as to residential construction as of January 2023, and will be updated as to commercial construction as of July 2023.
The new Net Zero Specialized Stretch Code (that focuses on wiring for electrification) is an opportunity for Canton to demonstrate continued leadership and embrace the growing momentum for local policies and decision making that are environmentally friendly. I will support the same process for Canton to adopt this new Specialized Stretch Code that was used to adopt the initial Stretch Code, namely Town Meeting vote.
For question two, I recognize that there is a new stretch code that is about to be implemented and I have not yet reviewed the changes in it. With that being said, I would have to take time reviewing that information and engaging with the effects it could have on the building industry. I have concerns when it comes to the price thresholds with reference to remodeling and how that can have a considerable impact on homeowners and business owners. Any and all forms of change requires serious consideration about the repercussions it can have on a community. I recently participated in a Construction Supervisors continuing education course where energy codes were discussed amongst peers and I heard a multitude of opinions and reviews from all areas of the spectrum. My initial instinct would be to research the code and listen to what members of the community have to say to reach a consensus on what the best interest of the town is.
3) Will you support forming an interim Sustainability/Climate Action Planning Committee as a companion to Article 27? (Select Board is authorized to appoint such a committee).
Yes I will. I continue to believe that Canton is blessed with many residents with enormous talents and subject matter expertise who can complement the work of our dedicated municipal employees. A Sustainability/Climate Action Planning Committee comprised of volunteer members with specialized competencies would support the coordination and future development of sustainability and climate adaptation (and mitigation) measures. The Committee would also help with community education and help stretch our municipal budget by gathering data, identifying best practices adopted by other communities and making recommendations to Canton’s municipal leadership and policy makers. Ideally, this work should be performed with the assistance of paid municipal staff such as a Town Planner with experience in this area.
In respect of question three, I have every intention to support a sustainability and action committee as long as the parameters of the committee are straightforward. I believe in a transparent approach to getting things done. This committee would have my support as long as it remains upfront about the information including cost association and maintains the appropriate relationship approved by the fin-com and finance department.
In my previous experience, I have too often encountered committees that were formed, and the cost would be highly underestimated or gradually increase without the discussion about its necessity. It is important to me that this committee presents its needs upfront to ensure that the community has the transparency it deserves in order to create progress within our town. From the information presented with the narrative of the committee in the warrant article it seems appropriate and beneficial to the community.
4) What other steps will you take to help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Canton?
I will support ongoing efforts to strengthen communication and collaboration between Town departments related to management of our municipal buildings (including a new centralized building maintenance function), the police and fire departments, and the schools. Transitioning over time to hybrid and battery fleets and retrofitting our buildings are opportunities for long-term gains. Moreover, new construction of municipal buildings, including for example, the Galvin Middle School, if that project is supported by the community, offers an excellent opportunity to design in greenhouse gas emission reduction.
Community surveys continue to report that residents are hungry for education and guidance about how to make their own contributions to greenhouse gas emission reduction. In my view, Canton’s future climate action plan should include focus about how specifically to support residents who wish to retrofit their homes, and other incentive programs to deliver greenhouse gas emission reductions, including for example, more community charging stations for personal electric vehicles and educational resources for adding solar panels to private residences.
Concerning question four, I would like to see what the current board has seen in the form of proposals and initiatives to understand the direction the community in leaning towards in terms of levels of interests in different eco-friendly developments. I would also like to interact with information that presents what may be on the horizon when it comes to different forms of technology that is being designed in order to aid greenhouse gas emission and other climate control initiatives.
I know that with the upcoming tick in electric vehicles that charging stations will be something the town needs to discuss in a serious tone to create the availability necessary for the average commuter to use in efficient ways. I would also be interested in having conversations about solar panels and what the current literature about that form of technology is resting at this current moment and what the potential of those would be in our community.
ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND FOR REFERENCE
Question 1 -- Sharon Power Choice Standard is the default program offering. It provides an additional 20% renewable electricity from New England, over and above the minimum amount required by state | Sharon Power Choice Green, which provides 100% clean, renewable electricity from New England (100% MA Class I RECs) |Sharon Power Choice Basic, which provides only the minimum amount of renewable electricity required by state law.
Question 2 -- “40 percent of Massachusetts’ emissions come from buildings,” Energy & Environmental Affairs
Secretary Rebecca Tepper (from the Healey Admin)
“The building sector is a large contributor to the Massachusetts Greenhouse Gas Inventory, and it is critical to reduce emissions from this sector to meet our greenhouse gas reduction requirements,” Acting MassDEP Commissioner Gary Moran.
“Efficiency and electrification of buildings is one of the most cost-effective strategies to achieve greenhouse gas emissions reductions in existing residential buildings and provides significant opportunities for cost-savings for residents,” Department of Energy Resources Commissioner Patrick Woodcock (from the Baker Admin)
Adopting the Specialized Stretch Code allows for all new construction and major renovations to buildings to be all-electric or wired to transition to all-electric in the future. It maximizes energy efficiency, reduces heating demands, and promotes efficient electrification. Buildings that use only electricity as an energy source, versus fossil fuels, can eliminate their emissions when the electricity comes from renewable sources.
Municipalities may choose to adopt the Stretch Code in lieu of the Base Energy Code. Stretch code adoption is mandatory for designation as a Green Community under the Green Communities Act passed by the Legislature and signed into law in 2008. Find the DOER’s official stretch energy building code language here:
Summary Document Explaining the Stretch Energy Code and Specialized Opt-in Code Language
Residential Low-Rise Stretch Energy Code and Specialized Opt-in Code Language (red-line of applicable code sections)
Commercial and Other Stretch Energy Code and Specialized Opt-in Code Language (red-line of applicable code sections)
Town Meeting Warrant 2023: https://www.town.canton.ma.us/DocumentCenter/View/10337/2023-ATM-Warrant
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