‘Green’ isn’t always clean
The headline of the recent article “Vermont loves renewable energy, except when it arrives” is somewhat misleading. As the leading organization working to improve lung health and prevent lung disease, the American Lung Association strongly supports policies and incentives that encourage the development of clean, renewable resources that aren’t combustion-based. Noncombustion-based renewable energy sources include solar, wind and geothermal. The key word here is “clean.” We know that our volunteers in Vermont support clean, renewable energy and want more of it. While all energy sources, renewable or not, are imperfect, the impact on Vermonters’ health must be the determining factor in whether a particular energy source is given the green light.
A good recent example of an energy source that on the surface appeared to be “green” but wasn’t “clean” is the proposed biomass plant in North Springfield, which the American Lung Association opposed. Even though the plant received an air quality permit from the Department of Environmental Conservation due to its state-of-the-art emissions controls, the increased pollution that would have resulted from the heavy truck traffic associated with the proposed plant wasn’t even considered.
The bottom line is that energy that is clean is critical to protecting the health of our most valuable resource — Vermonters. We need to consider the health impact in all energy planning, and that includes the entire life cycle of the process. State residents deserve to know that when it comes to conversations about renewable energy, the protection of their health is in front position.
The writer is director of health education and public policy for the American Lung Association in Vermont.
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