Climate plan’s suggestions may re-emerge

Commissioners open to individual proposals to curb greenhouse gas

La Plata County commissioners this week declined to adopt a plan that aimed to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in the county by 80 percent between now and 2050, but at least one commissioner indicated an interest in looking at the individual recommendations in the plan.

Commissioner Wally White moved to adopt the plan and have staff evaluate its contents after organizers requested action on the Climate & Energy Action Plan, which took more than two years, tens of thousands of dollars and an estimated 10,000 volunteer hours to produce.

Commissioners Bobby Lieb and Kellie Hotter voted against the measure, but Lieb said he would be “all ears” if individual recommendations were brought to them for consideration.

Few of the plan’s recommendations were discussed during the meeting. But at least one recommendation to implement emissions rules for automobiles was mentioned.

Lieb said such a policy would involve creating a new county department, hiring multiple employees to implement and enforce the rules and likely would provide a declining return on the taxpayers’ investment as technology in new cars continues to reduce vehicle emissions over time.

The plan makes a total of 42 recommendations for local officials to consider. Here’s a look at some of them:

Because the natural-gas industry is responsible for the vast majority of the county’s emissions, the plan recommends bringing solar power to well pads and development sites. Solar power placed on the well pads could provide enough power for auxiliary equipment, and large solar farms near gas development work could power extraction efforts and generate excess energy that could be exported for use elsewhere in the area.

The plan suggests locally distributed renewable energy also could be a larger piece of the county’s energy portfolio to reduce emissions and environmental impacts associated with fossil fuels.

Because transportation is the second-largest contributor to emissions in the county, the plan makes several recommendations for addressing its impacts. It suggests expanding multimodal transportation, encouraging mixed-use development and localizing community infrastructure. It also recommends community education on low-carbon transportation options, car-share programs, expanded bicycle paths and school buses that run using compressed natural gas.

Homes and businesses in the county also account for significant emissions in the county, the report said. Some recommendations the plan offers up for dealing with this are adopting lights-out-at-night policies; instituting residential square-footage offsets; weatherization programs for low-income housing; and installing lighting occupancy sensors in homes, businesses and government offices. The plan also suggests consideration of adopting water-conservation ordinances and requiring energy audits when a property is sold.

Waste emissions from local landfills also contribute to La Plata County’s emissions inventory. Suggested solutions include wastewater treatment; methane capturing; zero-waste or pay-as-you-throw-away programs; expanded recycling facilities; and countywide composting.

Hotter pointed out that many of the plan’s suggestions already are being implemented voluntarily in the community and within local government.

The county provides hazardous waste-collection programs, holiday tree recycling, internal government recycling incentives, paper-free practices and energy-conservation initiatives in public buildings that address lighting, waste and heating. The county also has worked with state officials to identify and plan park-and-ride facilities.

They’re leading by example without regulation, she said and added, “I think all of us have been trying to do that in our homes, as well.”

hscofield@durangoherald.com

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