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Governor’s Commission Completes Two-Year Climate Change Report

MONTPELIER, Vt. —A governor's commission charged with making recommendations on how to curb greenhouse gas emissions recommended that the state expand energy efficiency programs, support renewable energy and team up with its colleges and universities to develop a "green economy" in Vermont.

In its final report released Friday, the six-member panel concluded the state could serve as a national model and urged the governor to extend the state's energy efficiency programs for electricity and gas to heating oil and other fuels and explore ways to boost investments in renewable energy, such as wind power.

After nearly two years of research, the climate change commission also recommended a long-term relationship between the state an its academic institutions, led by the University of Vermont. The partnership would oversee research and outreach on climate change and encourage the creation of innovations and jobs related to environmental technologies.

"This bridges two Vermont powerhouses, state government at all levels and higher education," said the commission's chairman, Ernie Pomerleau, a Burlington developer. "It creates a model for Vermont that can deliver on the governor's ambitious climate change goals. If Vermont is going to be successful in creating a new green economy, developing a sustainable partnership and delivery system is essential."

Two years ago Gov. Jim Douglas set goals of reducing Vermont's greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels by 2012 and 50 percent by 2028.

To reduce vehicle emissions, the report suggested incentives for reduced travel or low emissions vehicles and expanding public transportation. It also recommended keeping open Vermont's farm and forest land "to sequester carbon from the atmosphere" to reduce greenhouse gas pollution and creation of a state division to coordinate climate change efforts in state government.

Douglas was pleased the commission was able to come to a consensus, his spokesman said.

"He is looking forward to reviewing the recommendations and expects to make an announcement regarding next steps in the near future," Jason Gibbs said.

Renewable energy advocate James Moore of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group called the report a "road map to support our economy and reduce global warming pollution at the same time."

But he said his group would act as a watchdog to see if the governor takes the recommendations and actually acts on them.

He said the first recommendation is for an all-fuels utility that will help Vermonters reduce heating and electricity bill, which the governor vetoed in the last legislative session.

But Gibbs said the governor didn't oppose expanding efficiency efforts; he opposed the funding model.

"So as a matter of policy he certainly supports efforts that are going to help Vermonters reduce the cost of heating their homes and therefore their CO2 emissions," Gibbs said.

The second recommendation calls for support of renewable energy, such as wind power, which the governor has opposed on a large scale. But Gibbs said the governor supported other forms of renewable energy such as biofuels or solar power.

"I sincerely hope the governor is open to listening to this independent commission and the diverse stake holder group that put together the original policies," Moore said.

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