CEAC: Climate Action Policy Intern
Over the course of the summer, I engaged in a variety of tasks that allowed me to delve deeply into the most prominent climate issues facing Addison County at present. Thanks to the fantastic work of CEAC board members and interns prior, I was able to utilize the Climate Action Plan and the pre-existing Greenhouse Gas Inventory to guide my efforts and more fully understand the largest leakage points for emissions in our county. While there is still significant work to be done in identifying and implementing CEAC’s vision and role in county-wide efforts to reducing our emissions, we have taken meaningful strides this summer in building out next steps for our organization to take regarding finding our feet in our fight against the climate crisis and more effectively establishing ourselves as a force for change in the county.
At the outset of the summer, I was given three primary tracks to follow that would likely guide much of the work I would be undertaking in my time with CEAC. The first, which we quickly coined as the “Electrify Everything” Campaign, was identifying the best ways to coordinate outreach with commercial and industrial property owners seeking to invest in electrification services in their buildings. By encouraging these individuals to consider the long-term climate implications of their decisions, as well as the energy savings and resilience that efficiency investments provide, our hope was that more owners would begin to transition to electrified HVAC systems and thereby reduce their building emissions. Through meetings with the ACRPC, ACEDC, Efficiency Vermont, Nathan Hill of Collins Aerospace, as well as individual data analysis work using housing data from the Middlebury, Bristol, and Vergennes Town Offices, we were able to build out the beginnings of an implementation plan for the Buildings & Energy section of our Climate Action Plan. This work, ultimately culminating in early stages of a commercial property inventory for Addison County, which can hopefully be built upon and utilized to focus our efforts for outreach in the coming months. This project was also bolstered by meetings with Rose Wall of Efficiency Vermont, Nathan Hill of Collins Aerospace, Madison Shropshire of the ACRPC, and Fred Kenney at the ACEDC, all of whom have provided guidance and access to materials that will continue to contribute to our efforts to spread commercial utilities electrification across our county.
The second project I was initially involved in was helping Lindsey Berk at ACORN with information for a grant proposal, specifically focusing on electric delivery vans. This led me to doing extensive research on the various EV incentives available to Vermont residents and business owners, as well as the availability of EVs generally in today’s market. I compiled this research into a succinct recommendation document for ACORN, and compiled a larger matrix of soon-to-come electric delivery van options that are emerging into the market in coming years.
The third initial project was providing support to John Barstow in his pitch to Middlebury College regarding the provision of on-campus EV charging stations, of which we have very few. In this support, I conducted research on the number of EV charging stations on the campuses of partner institutions and cross-referenced these with the respective institutions’ sustainability commitments. In building out this reference matrix, it became abundantly clear that while Middlebury has some of the most robust sustainability commitments of any top-tier colleges and universities nationally, it has some of the fewest EV charging stations of its NESCAC and NESCAC-adjacent counterparts. This research similarly revealed state-wide trends in EV charging availability, such as the apparent lack of chargers in Connecticut in comparison to Massachusetts and New York.
These three projects allowed me to understand the types of work CEAC was prioritizing in these early implementation stages of their Climate Action Plan, but also showed me how malleable this work was. Upon completion of aspects of these projects, I began to think more deeply about the overarching role that CEAC hoped to play in Addison County’s emissions reduction journey. In participating in and analyzing the process by which CEAC articulated our desire for the new Summit Properties development in Middlebury to be fully electric, I began to observe the stated desire for emissions reductions to be central to any development projects in the county, but also the limited reach of a local non-profit like CEAC. This realization is what prompted me to build a series of questions for an interview process, during which we would ask individuals who had previously engaged with CEAC how they viewed CEAC operating in our county, and what kind of value and services our organization could provide to organizations, businesses, and individuals in our community. While this interview outline was not eventually utilized, my hope is that it will be included in an outline for our Community Advisory Board meeting in September, and the questions I wrote would be utilized to help us more concretely understand the role that CEAC will play in our county in months and years to come.
I supplemented this work also with generating visual content for CEAC, with early drafts of resource toolkits for Weatherization, Commercial Electrification, and Residential Electrification completed, as well as deliverables and branding for the Addison County Field Days Event. I hope to continue to work on these into the fall, to hopefully have more developed toolkits to be distributed by the time a CEAC Summit or other event could be held.
My final summer contribution to CEAC was deciding on two grants for CEAC to apply for in the coming months. Both the VHCB Rural Economic Development Initiative Grant and the Vermont Community Foundation Non-Profit Capacity Building Grant have relatively easy applications and approval processes, and feel like concrete steps towards securing funding for part-time paid staffers that would allow CEAC to move beyond the fully-volunteer stage of non-profit formation. The VHCB grant specifically provides funding for grant-writing assistance, while the VCF grant allocates funds more generally for strategic planning and implementation, both of which CEAC requires in the coming months. Hopefully we can begin to execute on these processes to secure more funding for future implementation projects that we identify as high-priority.
On the whole, I am incredibly grateful for my time with CEAC this summer. I am happy to have built stronger connections to Addison County and relationships with its residents and, more specifically, the members of the board with whom I worked so closely this summer. While there were points that my internship felt unguided, it was rewarding to feel as though I was contributing to the establishment of our organization’s identity, and feel as though I was asking helpful questions regarding how those of us internal to the organization feel CEAC will continue to progress. I think that future Climate Action Policy interns by default will have more structure than I did, because CEAC will be further along in its awareness of its goals as well as its boundaries, which will make deciding on tasks for the intern easier and more narrowly focused. This is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the free-flowing nature of the internship, but is more a comment on the stage at which CEAC is located as an organization in my eyes.
As I see it, CEAC remains at a crossroads where we must decide whether we would like to become a public advocacy organization, working closely with local government to incorporate sustainability into local development ordinances to codify our goals into local legislation; a facilitator of public or non-profit efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that does little to engage with elected town officials and focuses heavily on individual action; the organizer of a network of volunteers who we can utilize for our own implementation projects in a way that is independent of other sustainability organizations in our county; or some combination of the three. While we have taken meaningful strides in creating an implementation plan and have begun to make decisions along these lines, in my time as an intern it became clear that solidifying our role in the community around our mission of reducing emissions is imperative to moving forward as an organization. Taking more steps such as the establishment of Climate Action Teams and the coalition model are essential, and I am excited to continue to build out CEAC’s role in our community for the rest of my time at Middlebury.