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Green machine ahead?

ASPEN ” Two groups focused on saving energy are contemplating a merger that could result in a well-funded and well-organized green machine that promotes conservation from Aspen to Parachute, according to sources.

The Community Office for Resource Efficiency, better known as CORE, and a newer, lesser known nonprofit called Clean Energy Economy for the Region (CLEER) are engaged in talks to see if they can meld missions, according to Carbondale Mayor Michael Hassig, who is also on CORE’s board of directors.

“Everybody I know thinks it’s a good idea,” said Hassig. “It’s the kind of step that needs to be taken.”

If the merger goes through, the new green machine could play a big role in issues such as trying to get an expanded bus system called Bus Rapid Transit approved, according to a source familiar with the concept. Another possible goal would be lobbying counties and municipalities throughout the region to approve aggressive energy efficient regulations in building codes, the source said.

In addition, the green machine might seek permanent funding, possibly through a special taxing district, said the source. The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority is currently the only regional taxing entity. It levies a sales tax to operate the bus system. Another potential source of funding is a “carbon tax” on residential and commercial producers of carbon dioxide.

Revenues for a regional green group could be used to improve energy efficiency in buildings throughout the region.

According to some observers, the merger seems to be a natural fit: CORE isn’t capable to expand its duties without CLEER’s organizational help, and CLEER doesn’t have the resources to expand those duties without funding from CORE.

CORE has been around for 14 years. Its primary source of funding for various conservation programs is Renewable Energy Mitigation Plan fees. Homebuilders in Aspen and Pitkin County have an energy budget for new structures. If they exceed the limits, for items such as a snowmelt driveway, they must pay a fee.

Revenues from the program fund special projects and rebates for Roaring Fork Valley residents who purchase energy-efficient appliances.

CLEER has a slightly broader mission in a slightly larger area. Its focus includes promoting mass transit in the region, encouraging “smart growth,” recycling and local production of food as well as energy efficiency and renewable energy.

CLEER exists this year thanks to a $100,000 grant from CORE.

Most people tied to the organizations agree it wouldn’t be efficient to have two nonprofit groups working on such similar missions, Hassig said. But turning the concept of a merger into reality will take some time.

“It’s very much a work in progress,” said Hassig. A committee exploring a merger must consider a name, mission, structure, staff and funding for the new organization.

Some members of both organizations’ board of directors are participating in a subcommittee to resolve some of those issues. It was anticipated that a merger would be announced Monday, but some issues popped up that could affect the deal, said Heather McGregor, a staff member for CLEER. She wouldn’t elaborate on the issue.

“I’m not sure what’s going to happen yet,” she said.

Other board members declined comment because they weren’t authorized to speak about the effort.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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