With Climate In Mind, Legislators Focus On Energy And Transportation
02/04/11 5:50PM By John Dillon  Download MP3
(Host) House Speaker Shap Smith says climate change remains a focus of the Legislature as it works on energy and transportation issues.
Smith says measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will benefit the taxpayer and the environment.
VPR's John Dillon reports:
(Dillon) With subzero temperatures and a deep blanket of snow, February in Vermont may not seem like the best time to make the case for climate change.
A day of climate activism at the Statehouse this week came just after an epic snow storm. But House Speaker Shap Smith told the crowd that it's more import to look at long-term trends.
(Smith) "Oftentimes people will say, ‘It was cold yesterday. How can we be having global warming or climate change?'" Well, we can't think day by day. We have to think about what's been happening over the last several decades."
(Dillon) There is evidence that Vermont is getting warmer. The National Weather Service has kept track of the dates that Lake Champlain freezes over. For many years in the early part of the last century, the lake closed over with ice in January or February. But in more recent years, it's rare for the big lake to get completely covered with ice. And when it does, it's usually later in the winter.
Smith told the climate activists in the Statehouse that lawmakers are committed to reducing Vermont's greenhouse gas production.
(Smith) "We use that as a filter for the decisions that we're making here. Those decisions are decisions that we're making in the Natural Resources and Energy Committee around where we're going to put our power supply and where we're going to find our power. It is something that we are taking into consideration as we advance our transportation policies and try to move towards more efficient vehicles, but even more making sure that we more public transport."
(Dillon) Smith is also backing another policy initiative geared at reducing emissions. He is pushing a program to make state buildings 20 percent more energy efficient.
(Smith) "We should set those as individual goals as well. Collectively if we set those as individual goals, we will make a difference."
(Dillon) Smith says many of these steps should be taken anyway to save money and resources. He says the added benefit is that these measures may also help the planet.
For VPR News, I'm John Dillon in Montpelier.