By Susan Gonsalves, Contributing Writer
WESTBOROUGH – The Economic Development Committee is not prepared to offer its support for a proposed Climate Action Plan without first getting substantial feedback from the business community.
Climate Action Plan Task Force Chair Peter Dunbeck has been making presentations to various Westborough committees to get letters of support for the comprehensive plan. On April 1, though, EDC members raised concerns.
Task Force drafts climate plan
The Climate Action Plan Task Force has been working on this document for roughly a year. It offers guidance on how to help achieve a state’s initiative to eliminate use of fossil fuels by 2050.
Although the measures would not initially be mandatory, Dunbeck said they would align with what will be state mandates in the future.
For example, goals include having 20 percent of cars and trucks be fully electric by 2030. All vehicles sold after 2035 would then be electric. The committee wants to see at least 25 percent of local households install electric heat pumps as their primary source of heat by 2030. Likewise, the Committee hopes Westborough can halve the proportion of its electricity needs coming from fossil fuel sources by 2030.
EDC concerned about current proposal
During his presentation at an April 1 EDC meeting, Dunbeck said it is important to be sensitive to community members, recognizing that these changes will impact everyone differently, including businesses.
He said his group’s plan will provide information about state incentives and regulatory changes that reinforce this transition to 2050 compliant equipment. The idea he said is to prepare businesses for the transitions that are coming.
The town could also later assist businesses through the process of improving buildings, transportation and energy supplies, Dunbeck said.
In response, EDC member Todd Alexander reiterated that the role of the EDC is to promote business in Westborough. He feared that landlords or tenants may have concerns about tackling the transition locally and regard the EDC as doing the opposite of its mission.
EDC member Fred Lonardo said he’s already heard “pushback” from commercial and industrial landowners who would be more prepared to accept the measures if they are done uniformly regionally and state-wide.
However, “they are not looking to be the forefront on this with their industry in Westborough,” Lonardo said.
EDC takes open-ended stance on plan
Dunbeck noted that the Climate Action Plan Task Force’s work is done and he did not see a need to wait any longer as “time is of the essence to move to the implementation phase.”
Initially, the idea was to get EDC feedback by the April 13 Board of Selectmen’s meeting when a vote is planned.
In light of concerns and discussion about dates and involving business stakeholders in the input, Dunbeck suggested the EDC keep its stance on the matter “open ended,” and do sufficient outreach over a period of six months.
EDC member and Town Planner Jim Robbins said that he expected the Planning Board to have a similar reaction to this plan when the Task Force presents again later this month.