Mayor, local officials to announce carbon credit revenue distribution

WEST SPRINGFIELD- Mayor Brian P. Sullivan and other state and local officials from nearby cities will convene at the Bear Hole Watershed at 10 a.m. on Monday to announce a revenue distribution as part of the Tri-City Public Carbon Sequestration Program.

Officials from Holyoke, West Springfield, and Westfield, all of which abut the watershed, will gather to announce the revenue distribution from sale of carbon credits by all three cities. The three communities will realize revenues between $350,000 and $1 million from the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

The program was started by former West Springfield Mayor Edward Sullivan and Conservation Officer Mark Noonan in 2015. Current West Springfield Mayor William Reichelt had seen the program through. Previously, a study had been conducted in the area of the watershed to see how many acres could be preserved from harvest. The announcement on Monday will detail approximately how much money each city will receive from carbon credits.

“By committing to maintain forest CO2 stocks above the regional baseline, this program will provide significant climate benefits through carbon sequestration, while at the same time generating revenues to maintain these pristine areas,” said Reichelt. “We will be preserving our urban forests for future generations, reducing carbon dioxide levels and improving air quality in western Massachusetts.”

The program is designed to lower the local need to harvest forests and timber and remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. Trees respirate by removing CO2 from the air and converting it to biomass, a process called sequestration. This helps to lower the effect of the greenhouse gas and combat the resulting climate change.

Protecting trees in the watershed from harvesting allows the trees to mature further, which then allows them to pull even more carbon from the atmosphere. The protection for the watershed between the three communities’ totals to approximately 15,000 acres. Over the next 10 years, it is estimated that the three communities will receive more the $2 million in carbon credits. Those funds are expected to be used for further environmental conservation efforts.

One carbon credit is the equivalent of the removal of one ton of CO2 from the atmosphere. The project is designed to eliminate the carbon equivalent of the emissions of 13,000 cars. The number of carbon credits for each city is calculated by the acreage of land being preserved and the biomass of trees in that land. According to Sue Spiry of Market Mentors, the agency that put together the press release for the event, the cities will receive money from the federal government based on their contribution to the preservation.

Joining Sullivan at the event on Monday will be state Senators Donald F. Humason Jr. and James Welch, state Representatives Aaron Vega and John Velis, and Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse.

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