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On October 6, 2020, I received an email invitation from the Vermont Legislative Climate Solutions Caucus to submit a letter requesting that I be considered a member of the newly appointed Vermont Climate Council.

The email was specific: “contact my office (Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman) with a cover letter expressing your interest, your related experience, and why you would like to serve. Please also supply one reference.” The time frame was quite short — 5 p.m. Thursday, October 8.

I did not respond to the request because I believe I can be more useful to the 23-member council in other ways. Once fully staffed, the council has a tight timeframe given to it by the Legislature (which overcame Governor Scott’s veto) to have Vermont free of its dependence on fossil fuels by 2050, if not sooner.

In following the development and final adoption of the legislation that created VCC (H.688), I did not see any ideas, suggestions, or plans on what will happen to the tens of thousands of oil storage tanks that are now in the basements of Vermont homes. Added to this are the propane tanks that many use, which has become a major substitute for oil and kerosene in recent years.

From information obtained from a reliable fossil fuel distribution expert, approximately 43% of Vermont’s 110,700 residences (47,600), along with 42,000 other residences, are currently heated with oil and propane gas. Therefore, if it is decreed by the VCC, Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, and the Legislature that fossil fuels will be discontinued as heating fuel, there will be disposals of quite a few oil and propane tanks.

Recognizing this, I have decided that of my 17-acre parcel of land in Arlington, where my wife and I have lived since 1986, 10 acres can be designated to help VCC with the potential problem of fuel tank disposal.

My idea would be to provide an orderly, clean, and environmentally accepted site for the home heating fuel tanks’ disposal—but only oil tanks for the time being.

Of course, I will require approval for this venture by filing with the Arlington Planning Commission a site plan showing the tank dispersal locations and screening from Vermont Route 313 West. This can be easily accommodated by planting a mature line of arborvitaes, balsam, and Frasier firs.

When you lay a 275-gallon home heating oil tank on its side, it measures 43 inches across and 60 inches in length (two feet in height). If I provide a 24-inch clearance buffer around each tank, an individual tank will require 59 square feet of space.

So how many separate tanks will take up one acre of land? The answer is 738 (43,560 square feet divided by 59 square feet). If I stacked the tanks six high per pallet, each pallet of tanks would be about 12 feet in height. An acre will accommodate 4,428 tanks. By designating 10 acres (my former hayfield), I will accommodate 44,280 oil tanks (4,428 tanks per acre times 10 acres).

For the present, I will not consider the disposal solution for the thousands of propane tanks, oil/propane fuel delivery truck tanks, or the thousands of linear feet of piping that will no longer be necessary.

I can only assume that all of Vermont’s gas station pumps will be converted into electric charging stations and that station tanks will remain in the ground. What happens to the 10,000-gallon gasoline delivery trucks? I just don’t know.

What could really save me from filing a site plan to obtain approval for the tank disposal field would be if the VCC mandates that all heating fuel be derived from biodiesel, more specifically biodiesel refined from soy crops.

If there is to be such a conversion, maybe I should nix the idea of a tank disposal field for my 10 acres and grow a soy crop?

Don Keelan writes a regular column for the Banner.


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