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State designates 35 Green Communities

By Beth Daley
Globe Staff / May 26, 2010

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Getting cities and towns to shift toward clean energy was such a cornerstone of the state’s 2008 energy legislation that the law is named the Green Communities Act.

Municipalities that meet five clean energy goals are eligible for millions in local aid under the law. State officials had not expected many communities to qualify right away, because the rules are tough.

But Governor Deval Patrick designated 35 cities and towns yesterday as the Commonwealth’s first official Green Communities, making them eligible for $8.1 million in grants for local renewable power and energy-efficiency projects.

“These pioneers are notable not only for their commitment to a cleaner, greener Massachusetts, but also for their diversity,’’ Patrick said in a statement.

Towns and cities had to adopt local zoning bylaws to encourage and speed up permitting for renewable energy projects. They had to agree to purchase only fuel-efficient vehicles for their municipal fleet whenever possible.

And the communities had to require all new residential construction over 3,000 square feet, as well as all new commercial and industrial real estate construction, to save energy by adopting new building codes.

The communities are Acton, Arlington, Athol, Andover, Becket, Belchertown, Cambridge, Chelmsford, Easthampton, Greenfield, Hamilton, Hanover, Holyoke, Hopkinton, Kingston, Lancaster, Lenox, Lexington, Lincoln, Lowell, Mashpee, Medford, Melrose, Montague, Natick, Newton, Northampton, Palmer, Pittsfield, Salem, Springfield, Sudbury, Tyngsborough, Wenham, and Worcester.

The communities’ deadline to apply for a piece of the $8 million is June 4; the grants will be awarded in late June.

The grants will help the communities “go further, saving energy costs for their residents, reducing the environmental impact of municipal operations, and validating the Commonwealth’s reputation as a national clean energy leader,’’ said Ian Bowles, the state’s secretary of energy and environmental affairs.

Each community will also receive a Big Belly solar waste compactor to be delivered in time for the summer parks and beaches season.

Beth Daley can be reached at bdaley@globe.com.

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