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Vermont Gas launches climate-friendly rebranding effort

(WCAX)
Published: Nov. 14, 2019 at 6:05 PM EST
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Vermont Gas announced a major effort Thursday to focus on combating climate change, but climate activists say that fossil fuels like natural gas, the company's bottom line, make the rebranding effort no more than a big distraction.

A new logo, new sweatshirts and a new message for Vermont Gas. "We are sending a message that we are more than a traditional gas utility," said company president Don Rendall.

At a press conference Thursday, Rendall said they plan to transform the company and eliminate green house gas emissions by 2050. "We are all in the fight against climate change," he said.

The three-part initiative starts with investing $20 million up front to help their customers double energy efficiency savings and burn less gas to heat their homes. "With this plan we can weatherize more than 3,300 homes by 2025, saving those families an average $200 a year on their energy bills.

They also plan to expand the use of so-called renewable natural gas to meet 20-percent of customers fuel needs by 2030. "By capturing methane from places like farms, landfills, wastewater treatment plants -- we can develop sources of renewable natural gas that have a positive environmental and economic impact," Rendall said.

And there is a focus on creating partnerships with local organizations like Burlington Electric and the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity to develop other zero-carbon solutions, like helping customers move away from gas boilers to electric heat pumps.

"We can move smarter and faster moving towards zero-carbon solutions that fit our customers energy needs," Rendall said.

Environmental groups, including 350.org, are skeptical of the utility's plan to reinvent itself. "We need to be rapidly transitioning away from anything to do with emitting methane," said the group's Julie Macuga.

The group was instrumental in protests against Vermont Gas during its recent construction of a $165 million gas pipeline expansion to Addison County and Macuga feels this is just a coverup.

Reporter Ike Bendaivd: They say for those who oppose us, we are fighting climate change as well?

Julie Macuga: I am not sold on that at all... Until and unless they stop selling a fracked-gas product and stop emitting methane these solutions are false.

But Rendall and Vermont Gas says they are working for the planet. "VGS is all in. We share the conviction. We must, we must drive carbon out of our economy.

As Vermont Gas moves forward with these ideas, they say they still have to get approval from the state's Public Utility Commission, so there will be plenty of opportunity for the public to question their motives. And as Rendall points out, cutting carbon will not be free. He says the average residential customer can expect to pay about $3 more a month on their bill.

But Rendall and Vermont Gas says they are working for the planet. "VGS is all in. We share the conviction -- we must. We must drive carbon out of our economy.

As Vermont Gas moves forward with these ideas, they say they still have to get approval from the state's Public Utility Commission, so there will be plenty of opportunity for the public to question their motives. And as Rendall points out, cutting carbon will not be free. He says the average residential customer can expect to pay about $3 more a month on their bill.