Our Opinion: Green Communities grants continue to pay dividends

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The designation of Sandisfield as a Green Community, enabling the South Berkshire town to qualify for state grants in exchange for committing to reducing energy consumption and lowering emissions, is noteworthy in itself, but the award also provides an opportunity to remind residents of a program that over eight years has enabled communities across the state and Berkshires to play a role in improving the environment.

The Baker administration announced this week that 30 communities, including Sandisfield, had qualified for Green Community grants under the Department of Energy Resources. Sixty eight percent of the state's 240 communities have now earned recognition as Green Communities, 15 of them in Berkshire County.

Sandisfield, which won a grant of $128,000, will now join Hinsdale and North Adams, two recent grant-winners, in designing and implementing specific programs that meet the grant requirements. Many of their Berkshire neighbors have blazed trails, including Pittsfield, which won its first of three Green Communities grants in 2010, the year the program began. Pittsfield has used its roughly $500,000 in grant money to improve or install new heating systems in City Hall, the Lichtenstein Art Center and the Berkshire Athenaeum. Lenox, which received the first of its four grants in 2010, has received about $750,000 and funded a variety of conservation measures around town and in its schools, including solar panels, upgrades to boilers and ventilators, and improvements to air circulation. The smallest Berkshire towns to receive grants, among them Clarksburg, Lanesborough, Egremont and Windsor, have generally used them to introduce a variety of energy conservation measures in town buildings.

"The Green Communities program is another example of Massachusetts' steadfast efforts to pursue clean energy initiatives, and I am proud Sandisfield will be joining other Berkshire communities in committing to reduce energy consumption and lower emissions," said South Berkshire State Rep. "Smitty" Pignatelli, a Lenox Democrat who chairs the Joint Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture. This effort by Massachusetts pays dividends for the economy as well, as the state added 1,500 new jobs in the renewable energy arena in 2017 according to a report released earlier this month by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Sector.

Towns receive grant payments in exchange for doing work that benefits them and their taxpayers under this program. That is a true win-win. We hope other Berkshire towns will become Green Communities in the year ahead.

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