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Conference calls addresses Charlottesville environmental leadership

Dominion Power seeks to close coal-fired plants

	<p>Charlottesville City Council meeting, 2012.</p>

Charlottesville City Council meeting, 2012.

Several environmental representatives held a conference call Thursday to discuss Charlottesville’s carbon footprint-reduction programs. Charlottesville has made great strides in recent years to reduce carbon emissions which contribute to climate change.

Currently, Charlottesville is a leader in minimizing its carbon footprint, Environment Virginia Campaign Director Sarah Bucci said.

“The point we were trying to make [in the conference call] was that cities like Charlottesville are leading the way in Virginia, and others need to catch up to what they’re doing,” Bucci said.

The City of Charlottesville is relatively unique in having a staff member whose job is entirely to focus on reducing energy use and the city’s carbon footprint. Charlottesville has also reduced annual energy bills for about 1,500 local homeowners by $490 since 2010.

“One of the greatest programs is increasing the funding options,” Bucci said. “They’ve created a program that helps loan funds for clean energy through the U.Va. community credit union and the Local Energy Alliance Program to finance the clean energy program and help pay back their loans with the energy savings they see from efficiencies.”

Recent storms, such as Hurricane Sandy, have cost the country several billion dollars, and Bucci said these storms are related to the changes in climate.

“The science is really clear that climate change is increasing the severity and frequency of these storms,” Bucci said. “This is a problem that has a solution, and we need to tackle it now to avoid the worst impacts of global warming.”

To this end, Charlottesville created the Climate Protection Program to continue reducing the city’s emissions.

“Energy efficiency programs are reducing pollution, creating jobs and saving consumers money right here in Charlottesville,” Vice-Mayor Dede Smith said in a press release.

The different programs are looking to reduce the rate of pollution the city produces. One of the most important reductions would come from power plants, which account for about 40 percent of total emissions in the country.

“There are limits on other kinds of pollution, but we don’t have a federal policy that deals with carbon pollution right now, so we think it’s an important step forward,” Bucci said. “All of the policies at the local level will help Virginia step up and meet these goals.”

Dominion Virginia Power spokesperson David Botkins is also looking to reduce emissions in Virginia.

“We have plans to close nine different coal-fired power stations over the next few years and have converted three power stations from burning coal to burning waste wood, making them carbon-neutral power stations,” Botkins said.

The University has a coal-fired power plant, which various student groups have called for the University to shut down.

Dominion is also looking to test different wind turbines in the ocean to see if they pose a plausible option economically.

Environment Virginia said it hopes Charlottesville’s efforts will spread across the state to help reduce its overall carbon footprint.

“We want our leaders in Richmond and Washington to pay attention to what we’re doing in our city,” Bucci said.