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Sustainability report provides update on Durango’s effort to meet 2030 and 2050 goals

Energy use accounts for about 67% of communitywide greenhouse gas emissions
Dozens of residents brought signs and provided comments in August 2019 in support of the city meeting a 100% renewable energy goal by 2050. (Screenshot)

Durango’s year-end report from its sustainability program recognizes about $16.7 million in upcoming projects that will help the city work toward its goal of being completely carbon neutral by 2050.

One of the key sustainability goals set by City Council in its strategic plan is to pursue opportunities to support and increase renewable electricity generation in line with community and municipal goals that achieve 50% renewable electricity by 2030 and 100% by 2050.

Durango’s sustainability program is paid for through a $2.30 fee attached to residents’ utility bills.

The sustainability program’s operating budget is about $180,000 annually. But there is about $16.7 million dollars in upcoming projects and plans across different departments that benefit the city’s sustainability goals.

Sustainability efforts in Durango are broken into six sectors, including water, energy, transportation and land use, sustainable consumption and waste, natural systems and ecology, and economic vitality and quality of life.

Energy use accounts for about 67% of communitywide greenhouse gas emissions and 73% of local government greenhouse gas emissions in Durango.

“We need to increase the amount of renewable electricity generation, and decrease energy consumption by working with our electricity provider,” said Marty Pool, sustainability program manager for the city.

The city has worked to lessen its consumption of nonrenewable energy by doing things such as upgrading lighting to LEDs and installing more efficient heating and cooling systems.

In 2022, the city is working on renewable energy projects such as a 150kW solar photovoltaic array at the water treatment plant. The array will generate clean energy to be used on-site, and is expected to result in long-term financial savings for the water fund and increase resilience to future changes in electricity prices.

Transportation emissions account for about 28% of communitywide greenhouse gas emissions in Durango. Actions to reduce transportation emissions are aimed at increasing multimodal transportation over single-occupancy vehicle use and helping facilitate the widespread transition to electric vehicles.

In the coming year, the city hopes to begin replacing municipal fleet vehicles with electric alternatives and installing required fleet charging infrastructure at city facilities. The hope is that by the year 2050, the entire city fleet will consist of zero-emission vehicles.

Five percent of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions come from solid waste disposal.

In 2021, one of the key things the city did to reduce emissions from solid waste was entering into a public-private partnership with Table to Farm Compost. The partnership is working on outreach and education efforts about composting and waste diversion, but partners hope to look into the feasibility of citywide composting in the next three to five years.

“Part of sustainable consumption waste is continuing what we do well, in terms of recycling, but also expanding into organic diversion and continuing to find ways to improve our recyclable diversion rates,” Pool said.

Pool said that maintaining a resilient water supply will be critical in the future, particularly as climate change is predicted to impact the reliability of snowpack and precipitation in our region.

In 2022, the city has budgeted to update its stormwater master plan to manage stormwater runoff and water quality before it is discharged into the Animas River.

Part of the city’s sustainability plans include maintaining natural lands and ecosystems in Durango to contribute to the sequestering of carbon.

Currently, the Parks and Recreation Department maintains more than 5,500 acres of parks, open space and trails inside city limits. The Parks and Recreation Forestry Division maintains 11,328 trees in Durango.

The city has budgeted additional municipal and grant funding for wildfire mitigation on city-owned lands. The city is also a founding member of the Wildfire and Watershed Protection Fund, a partnership between the city of Durango, La Plata County and the Durango Fire Protection District to scale up wildfire mitigation on private lands in La Plata County.

When looking at sustainability, the city also considers economic vitality and quality of life for Durango. The report says that strong economic vitality will create resilience from projected climate impacts.

In 2022, the city hopes to bolster economic vitality by continuing to implement the housing plan adopted in 2021. Durango budgeted for a new city division this year to work on implementing housing solutions in the community.

The city’s sustainability report said more than 83% of Durango residents spend more than 45% of their income on housing and transportation combined. The generally accepted threshold for housing affordability is no more than 30% of household income.

njohnson@durangoherald.com

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