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Make the Affordable Housing Development on Seminary St. Ext. in Middlebury Fossil Fuel Free

June 2022
Submitted by  the Climate Economy Action Center of Addison County.

The Seminary Street project presents an important opportunity to address affordable housing needs in Middlebury and Addison County in ways that also address climate change by creating an affordable fossil-fuel free housing development.  We welcome the opportunity to work in partnership with the developer to pursue this goal.  Here’s why:

  • There are urgent housing needs for low and moderate income families, both locally and statewide, and green solutions are the affordable way to do so. 
  • The climate crisis demands that we transition away from burning fossil fuels as soon as possible.
  • Experience demonstrates that net-zero, high-efficiency, and low/no carbon designs are not only possible, but affordable. They are also healthier, safer, and more comfortable. Importantly, such buildings have lower operating costs over time, lowering the total cost of ownership while also contributing to efforts to combat climate change. 

Reaching our state’s and our country’s ambitious goals for reducing or eliminating greenhouse gas emissions requires that we install no new fossil-fuel burning equipment.  This means no fossil-fuel heating devices, no fossil-fuel hot water heaters, and no natural gas stoves.  There are a growing number of developments in Vermont and nationwide that demonstrate this can be done, and prove that this approach does not result in a significantly higher construction cost than a conventional approach, and  actually results in a lower total cost of ownership over the life of the building, a particularly important consideration for an affordable housing project.

We have some specific suggestions. When we consider the opportunity to build a new affordable housing complex from scratch today, here are some of the suggestions that we hope are seriously considered. 

  • Design and build according to Passive House, IgCC/ASHRAE 189.1 (International Green Construction Code and The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning), LEED v4.1 or similar stretch green building codes or green building rating systems.
  • Design HVAC systems as electric-only active systems that use no fossil fuels. Cold-climate heat pump technology is now proven, well-understood, and steadily improving. Backup heating can be provided by battery storage and/ or electric resistance heat options. We also encourage the consideration of district heating and geo-thermal options as part of heat pump systems for the development. 
  • Discourage wood burning.  
  • Install solar or other renewable energy technology, so that the complex produces at least as much energy as it consumes.
  • Even more specifically, we suggest that the complex incorporate features such as:
    • Daylighting design with low U-factor (high R-value) insulated glass in windows and door frames, and shading systems.
    • Super-insulated and air-sealed building envelope with filtered tempered fresh-air supply and operable windows designed to use stack-effect cooling.
    • Mudroom entry that can be used as an airlock during very hot or very cold weather. 
    • High efficiency water, waste, and lighting systems
    • On-site solar panels either attached to individual homes or free standing
    • Whole-house battery systems used to store the solar, wind, small hydro, or geothermal site generated renewable electricity.
    • Site design to encourage walking, biking, and other alternative transportation options
    • EV Charging stations, including multiple Level-2 and at least one Level-3 fast charging stations.  
    • Create a bus stop with enclosed shelter (for inclement weather)

If we are committed as a community to environmental justice, building green affordable housing along the lines we have suggested above is one concrete way that we can demonstrate our commitment to this principle. 

Vermont Elders Protest Chase Bank’s Fossil Fuel Investments

by Greg Dennis

June 2022

Over two dozen senior citizens with Third Act Vermont gathered last month at Chase Bank in Burlington — as part of the national campaign against Chase’s massive investments in fossil fuel projects.

Third Act is a new national organization co-founded by longtime CEAC supporter Bill McKibben, who lives in Ripton. The rapidly growing group organizes elders to focus on climate change and voting rights — a proud organization of “fossils against fossil fuels.”

This first-ever climate protest by Third Act Vermont elders highlighted the bank’s role in fueling climate chaos by continuing to finance new coal, oil and gas projects around the world. 

“Chase investments fuel a climate emergency that is affecting Vermont more than most states. We now have higher-than-average temperatures — witness near-record heat this May — and greater, more destructive levels of precipitation,” said Sudbury resident Ross Eisenbrey, an organizer of the protest.

“Chase’s way of doing business threatens Vermont farms, traditional businesses such as maple sugaring, and the future of those who will inherit the crisis when we elders pass on.”

Among the event organizers were Greg Dennis, a founding board member of CEAC,  and Weybridge resident Fran Putnam.

“Elders offer a unique voice against climate change,” Putnam said. “We have a direct stake in slowing global warming to protect the planet, our children, our grandchildren and our financial investments.”

Mike Pieciak, a Democrat running for state treasurer, briefly visited the event while campaigning nearby. He told organizers he supports working with pensioners and the state pension funds to eliminate fossil fuel investments from the Vermont portfolio. UVM, the state of Maine and many other institutions have committed to divestment, but Vermont so far has not.

A group of Burlington High School students also dropped by the event as part of the school’s City & Lake Semester — making the gathering one of both high school seniors and senior citizens.

A letter delivered to the Chase bank manager stated that if Chase does not stop funding new climate-wrecking projects by the end of 2022, Third Act Vermont will join with thousands of customers “and close our checking, savings, and credit card accounts” with the bank. 

You can get more info about the national campaign and climate pledge here: https://bit.ly/3MlpQuj.

This Burlington action was one of many held and planned around the U.S. at four banks (Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Citi) that are the world’s biggest bank funders of climate-busting coal, oil and gas projects.