Natives help green the Democratic National Convention

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DENVER - Planners of the Democratic National Convention are limiting the party's carbon footprint through a unique partnership with an Indian-focused environmental business.

The Democratic National Convention Committee began working with NativeEnergy Inc. this spring to purchase carbon offsets for the dozens of convention staff who are flying, driving and otherwise polluting Denver as they carry out the big event.

Party organizers are now asking that delegates, members of the media and other political officials who will be attending the late August gathering do the same.

Delegates to the convention with the highest percentage of members offsetting their carbon emissions will be recognized in their seating section on the floor of the Pepsi Center, the site of the first three days of the event. If they offset their travel, they are also expected to receive a ''green item'' to distinguish themselves during convention week.

The effort, called the Green Delegate Challenge, is intended to encourage friendly competition among state delegates and to offer special rewards for the delegation or delegations that show the highest level of commitment to offsetting their carbon footprints as a result of attending the Denver convention.

To date, the average carbon footprints of all delegates from California, Vermont and Nevada have been accounted for through delegate participation in the program.

The partnership is believed to be the first time that convention planners of any political stripe have teamed with a Native-focused business to purchase carbon offsets.

At a media preview of the convention site July 8, Democratic organizers said convention activities like air and ground travel, accommodations and waste will produce an average of 1 ton of CO2 pollution per person.

Leah Daughtry, CEO of the convention, said the partnership has helped the DNCC create ''a unique portfolio of carbon offset projects at special book rate prices.'' The discounted prices amount to an average of $12 per ton, which company officials said is the market rate for carbon credits.

NativeEnergy, based in Vermont, has become well-known in recent years for supporting American Indian, farmer-owned and community-based renewable energy projects that create social, economic and environmental benefits. The company has helped generate funds for the Rosebud Sioux Tribe Wind Turbine; it also operates under a partnership with the Intertribal Council on Utility Policy and has some Native staff members.

''The relationship with the DNCC has been great,'' said Billy Connelly, marketing director of NativeEnergy. ''We have a tremendous amount of respect for what their officials have done here ... we hope it can be a model for conventions in the future.''

The offsets specific to the convention have resulted from a number of domestic community-based clean energy projects, including the Wray School District Wind Turbine in Wray, Colo. The utility-scale wind turbine at the site was built in January in reliance on exclusive carbon funding from NativeEnergy. Ten percent of the DNCC's carbon portfolio stems from this site.

Other sites that have created energy offsets in the DNCC's portfolio include the Hillcrest Saylor dairy farm methane project, located in Rockwood, Pa.; the Des Plaines Landfill Gas-to-Energy Project, located in Cook County, Ill.; and the Focus the Nation Wind Turbine at the Williamson Family Farm in Rosedell Township, Minn.

Connelly said he sees no reason for the support of carbon offsets to be partisan, although he said he wasn't aware of any similar efforts this year by the Republican National Convention Committee. Officials with the GOP group have said they are committed to environmental sustainability efforts, including emphasizing recycling at their own Minnesota convention in early September.

Members of Congress, including Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain, have expressed interest in creating a federally supported carbon cap and trade program to help give incentives to entities that employ carbon capture techniques.

American Indians and others who plan on attending the convention can purchase carbon credits under the DNCC's rate online at www.nativeenergy.com/pages/dncc/330.php?afc=DNCC.