Archive for the Government Category
On Tuesday, April 8, the Boulder city council held a study session to get up to date on the city’s progress toward meeting the goals of the Kyoto Protocol and Boulder’s climate action plan.
This was a great opportunity to see what each council member thinks of how Boulder’s doing so far on addressing climate change. I took lots of notes, and will be presenting in a series of posts what each council member had to say at this meeting.
First, here’s the big picture:
Falling far short, so far. According to presentations by Jonathan Koehn and Sarah Van Pelt of the Dept. of Environmental Affairs (backed up by the memorandum they submitted with the study session materials), as things now stand Boulder will not meet the Kyoto Protocol goals by 2012. In fact, at this pace we’ll miss it by nearly half (48%).
That explains why the council has been nudging the Climate Smart program team to get more aggressive.
|Memorandum, Boulder city council study session, Apr. 8, 2008
|At the current pace, Boulder will fall short of its Kyoto Protocol goal by 48%.
The good news is, DEA staff presented a catch-up plan intended to bring the city much closer to meeting the Kyoto goals, and council seemed mostly supportive…
This evening the Boulder City Council will hold a study session on the city’s climate action plan, transportation and renewable energy strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I’ll be attending.
A study session is a meeting of city council members and staff to go over current and upcoming issues, discuss topics, and give staff/consultants direction. The public is welcome to observe, but no public comments, questions, or statements are taken. However, the public may be asked questions. No formal voting takes place.
According to the 65-page memorandum from the Boulder Dept. of Environmental Affairs to the City Council, this session will provide an update on initiatives undertaken as part of Boulder’s Climate Action Plan (CAP, see backgrounder), and the Transportation Master Plan’s FasTracks Local Optimization (FLO) initiative (a planned transportation system in Boulder that will integrate regional rail and bus rapid transit, expected to be implemented around 2014-16).
Also tonight, Environmental Affairs will introduce its draft renewable energy strategy for the city.
Apparently, council has been pushing the city’s Climate Smart program to pursue emissions cuts more aggressively….
The folks at ClimateSmart tell us that their Climate Action Plan (CAP) is right on budget — they’ve spent about $860k and ended up getting just about the same amount from the carbon tax. That’s quite a feat in and of itself, as we can probably all appreciate here in the tail end of tax season.
They’ve also put out a progress report (PDF), which we’ve gone ahead and looked at. One of the interesting parts was a breakdown of greenhouse gas emissions by sector, which showed this:
- Commercial: 58%
- Transportation: 22%
- Residential: 16%
- Solid waste: 4%
Obviously, the commercial sector should be a big focus of the program. And it seems to have been. The progress report explained that the costs and average payback time — that is, the time after which infrastructure changes will have saved enough in energy costs to pay for themselves — have gone up because of “the inclusion of projects which tend to carry higher costs such as heating and cooling system replacements.”
Here’s the assessment of the building performance program, as found in the progress report:
It looks good — like businesses are starting to think more long-term. But the progress report carries on for much longer about residential programs than about commercial programs. While residential programs are important, if a business changes its ways, there’s a bigger impact. It would be great to go into more detail on just how green investments impact the bottom line, and outline some of the changes made by businesses listed in the project report.
We’d love to hear — in the comments or on the forum — from businesses who participated in the project report on how they convinced themselves or their accountants or whomever that they should spend now, save now and save later.
Boulder’s one thing. Boulder’s small. Boulder’s landlocked.
But affixing a carbon tax-like program to a heavily-populated port city like San Francisco is a whole different animal. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District wants to charge businesses a fee of 4.2 cents per metric ton of carbon dioxide. The draft regulation imposing the new fees would go into effect on July 1, 2008.
According to a fact sheet put out by the BAAQMD (PDF here), it would take stock of how much emitted greenhouse gases were reported over a year, and charge the fee before allowing a facility to re-apply for a permit to own and operate equipment that emits pollutants.
One example provided in the initial coverage of the proposal by the San Jose Mercury-News gives is that a Shell oil refinery in the affected area would be charged $186,475 a year for its carbon dioxide emissions.
That’s a lot of money, and even a huge corporation like Shell will take notice of it. But they’ll likely fight it, too. And they won’t be alone. (more…)
Yesterday I wrote about how a remark at a meeting by Boulder Environmental Affairs spokesperson Beth Powell implied that the city might be considering options for not meeting the Kyoto Protocol goals. I called Powell to ask for clarification on this.
In a voice mail, Powell explained that in fact the Climate Smart team is still committed to its original plan of meeting the Kyoto Protocol goals:
“There is definitely no intention to backpedal at all. We want to increase our aggressive approach to cutting greenhouse gas emissions. That said, the Climate Smart team doesn’t have any unilateral decisionmaking power. We aren’t necessarily even going to recommend to council a new goal. We’re just going to ask them if they would like to see another goal. The study session is when all the details will be revealed. We’re writing that council memo now, and are willing to share information on that.”
…I’m relieved to learn that I misunderstood Powell’s remarks in the context of that event — and to get a clear statement that the city (at least at this point) does not intend to take advantage of the apparent wiggle room in the language of the 2002 council resolution that committed the city to meeting the Kyoto goals. Clarity about targets and achievements would seem to benefit everyone involved in this issue, in Boulder and elsewhere.
Many thanks to Powell for clarifying this matter.
(UPDATE Mar. 21: The city has clarified that it does not intend to backpedal on Kyoto.)
Last night’s Climate Smart community meeting at the West Boulder Senior center was well attended, energetic, and constructive. Over 40 community members and city and county employees attended. I took extensive notes and will be writing much more about the event later.
But first, I was a bit surprised to hear city Environmental Affairs spokesperson Beth Powell note that her department may recommend to the City Council, “that we go beyond Kyoto to a 2020 or 2050 goal.”
…A little bit of background: Boulder’s major municipal efforts to address climate change began in 2002, when the City Council passed resolution 906 adopting the goals of the Kyoto Protocol — which would require the city to cut its greenhouse gas emissions reducing greenhouse gas emissions 7% below the estimated 1990 level. The Kyoto Protocol calls for that goal to be met by 2012 — which is when the current carbon tax sunsets.
Actually, the wording of the resolution included some wiggle room…
Tonight, Boulder’s ClimateSmart team will be hosting a community dialogue on the city’s response to climate change (get the details here). Boulder Carbon Tax Tracker plans to be at the event, which appears aimed at generating some grassroots support, using volunteers to leverage community action and help change behaviors that contribute to Boulder’s carbon footprint.
The city plans to document the ideas that come up and share them with those who attend, or who take an online survey. That sounds like a great way to encourage dialogue about the effort by, as ClimateSmart’s Beth Powell suggested in a comment on our site last week, bringing people together both in virtual terms and in real, physical ones.
Another way to encourage dialogue is to provide as much information about the scope of the program as possible, to help the community understand how well it has succeeded. So, for instance, we’ll be asking the city to provide up-to-date data about how much revenue Xcel Energy has raised for the city so far through the carbon tax, as well as request an account of how this money has been spent so far.
Another important question: Now that Gov. Ritter has proposed a climate action plan for state, we’re wondering how the city’s existing plan might fit in with the one being developed for Colorado as a whole?
While tonight’s gathering might not be able to get deeply, if at all, into these questions, we think they’re ones that need to be asked, and answered, in order for the community to understand and participate in the program more fully.
Boulder’s initative to cut greenhouse gasses has a fabulous-looking public face in the ClimateSmart web site launched last September. Only trouble is, behind the handsomely designed and info-rich site, it appears there’s virtually no “community” in this community effort!
We here at Boulder Carbon Tax Tracker certainly understand that problem. Cultivating a vibrant online community is a real beast. You may have noticed that we’ve been having a hard time with that ourselves. Still, it’s a beast that must be tamed if educational programs like Climate Smart that rely on participation and buy-in from local citizens are to truly succeed.
The Colorado Carbon Fund (a new carbon offset program from the Governor’s Energy Office that will fund energy efficiency, renewable energy and greenhouse gas mitigation projects throughout the state) is ramping up. On Feb. 14 the state issued a request for proposals seeking a “third party administrator” — a company that will manage the CCF on behalf of the state.
Interested parties will have to move fast. Inquiries are due 5 pm, Feb 29 (this Friday).
Recently I spoke with CCF program manager Susan Innis, who explained the process of deciding which projects will get funded — and who will buy the offset credits to pay for the projects…
|One of the lucky ones: I’ve got my Ecopass. Where’s yours?
I’ve been chatting with Boulderites about energy, transportation, and CO2 emissions issues, and I keep hearing a recurring plea: “I’d love to get an Ecopass. I’d use it. Why can’t I get one?”
The attraction of an RTD Ecopass, which provides a lower-cost annual pass good for unlimited rides on all regular RTD transit services, is obvious. The cost savings are enormous.
How cheap is it? My neighborhood (Greenbelt Meadows, in the SE corner of Boulder), participates in the Neighborhood Ecopass (NECO) program. This year I contributed $120 for my pass, since I’m car-free so my RTD usage is high. My neighbors contributed an average of about $75-85/household. If I was to buy 12 one-month RTD passes (at $144/each, to cover the same transit options as Ecopasses), I’d pay a whopping $1728 per year!
The catch: Currently, Ecopasses are available only to employees of participating companies, or to neighborhoods that can generate sufficient participation among residents. Unfortunately, most Boulderites are not eligible for Ecopasses — which has led to significant levels of “Ecopass Envy” in some quarters.
This program appears to have succeeded in generating significant interest in using public transit more. However, if so many of the people whose interest has been piqued by Ecopasses cannot get them, the question becomes: Is this program undercutting RTD’s mission by creating more frustration than ridership?
Conflicting priorities at RTD may be hobbling the Ecopass program — thus preventing it from achieving its full potential to cut carbon emissions, relieve traffic congestion, and other benefits.
Here’s what I’ve learned about this problem so far, and what some Boulderites are doing to try to expand access to Ecopasses…