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Ben Martin of the Energy Conservation Commission Has Some Energy-Efficient Ideas

The Wallingford Energy Conservation Commission chairman stood up for environmental and energy-related causes while promoting what's best for the town.

Deputy Fire Chief Richard Heidgerd recalls a meeting where Ben Martin, who chairs the Energy Conservation Commission, asked if energy efficiency were part of the new North Farms station’s plans. Learning that it was, Martin expressed his approval.

Increasingly, Martin, who graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology and works in quality assurance in the software field, has advocated for energy conservation and the use of clean energy in all manner of forums.

He authored two petitions on the cause-oriented website Change.org. One sought support for a state Senate bill whose energy provisions included assistance to low-income residents to permit their more efficient use of fossil fuel. The second petition he authored last year when the federal government was reviewing the Keystone XL pipeline. 

The pipeline, ardently supported by persons like former senatorial candidate Linda McMahon, would run from Canada to refineries in this country as far South as Texas. “Guaranteed to leak” and so pollute, according to Martin and others, the pipeline would also carry oil extracted from tar sands.  This is a process Martin and other environmentalists say would use more fuel than the fuel it would produce. 

“Worse than coal,” he quoted one environmentalist as saying of the scheme.

With members of the national grassroots climate group 350.org, Martin went to Washington on Aug. 20, 2011 to stand in front of the White House. The aim was to protest the pipeline whose Southern portion President Barack Obama later approved.

In Washington, Martin found he couldn’t stand in front of the White House because the police removed him and others to a holding facility. “It wasn’t pleasant,” he said of his 52 hours there.

Martin said he gained his own sense of safeguarding the environment growing up in the tiny hamlet of Roscoe, N.Y.  “I was brought up with the belief that we take care of the environment that supports us and gives us life.”

He said that the Genesse River he later saw flowing through downtown Rochester was never clean. Then, of course, there were the city’s smokestacks.  Now a Connecticut resident for 14 years, he recently protested a coal-fired power plant in the city of Bridgeport.

“You go so far with personal action and then you have to go further,” he said.

In Wallingford, he has served on the Energy Conservation Commission for five years and as its chair for three. In addition to his forays to municipal meetings where such structures as the new fire station are discussed, he has stopped by the Department of Public Works to suggest it switch the town’s trash bins to a model with a solar panel in its lid that composts the garbage. 

Although he met with no success, he still supports the introduction of the bins.  Composted garbage would occupy less room in alandfill, he observed, and the bin’s use would save the taxpayers money because
the garbage would need less frequent collection.

Some measures resulting from one commission initiative — an energy audit of the school system — have won acceptance. The commission continues to support the ongoing multi-building energy audit of municipal buildings. 

And while the town has no solar landfill or extensive solar panelling on its
buildings, Martin can point to small victories.  One was the installation by Public Utilities of geothermal heating in its building, because, he said, officials saw it as an opportunity to lower costs. 

The Wallingford Water Department, he noted, took advantage of grants to pay the difference between regular and hybrid vehicles when they purchased two cars.  Martin said the water department is now looking to purchase two more.

“Wallingford has a lot of potential,” he said of energy conservation efforts. He invites anyone who wishes to volunteer on the commission to do so.

As for the holiday lights that emerge at this time of year, Martin noted he haslights with small solar panels for his home. He said LED holiday lights exist as well.

And as for the lights on the Christmas tree the town will see at the end of this Saturday’s Season of Celebrations event, Martin was emphatic.

“I don’t want to ruin anyone’s fun,” he said.

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