Group unveils county’s pollution levels

Work of reducing levels to commence with conference

If everyone used compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs to light up their homes, would it really make a difference? Public officials now know that 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in Gunnison County are caused by energy use in residential buildings, according to the Upper Gunnison Watershed Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory.


Since CFL bulbs use less than half the energy of standard light bulbs, it’s safe to say: Yes, it would make a difference.
The emissions inventory is intended to serve as a baseline of the area’s current pollution levels, from which future emissions reductions can be measured. The report is a joint effort between Gunnison County, the city of Gunnison, Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte, which each signed an Intergovernmental Energy Efficiency Resolution in September 2007 that mandated the inventory.
The Office for Resource Efficiency (ORE), a non-profit organization, has been overseeing the production of the report. After each entity had a chance to edit the report this spring for any omissions or errors, the report is now available to the public.
On Tuesday, August 5, members of ORE presented the final report to three of the four government entities involved: Gunnison County, Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte. The city of Gunnison was given a presentation on the report on July 29.
The inventory encompasses much of Gunnison County and part of Saguache County, and closely follows the contours of the Upper Gunnison River watershed. Within this boundary, approximately 512,000 tons of greenhouse gas pollutants were emitted in 2005, according to the data. On average, a vehicle emits the equivalent of 19.5 pounds of greenhouse gas per gallon of gasoline used, according to the report.
The report also breaks down the carbon footprint by each source or activity creating carbon emissions.
Thirty-nine percent of the inventoried emissions comes from transportation and automobiles, 30 percent comes from residential buildings, 21 percent comes from commercial buildings, 6 percent comes from landfill waste, and 4 percent comes from agriculture and other sources.
ORE board member George Sibley told the Mt. Crested Butte Town Council that each community will face its own unique challenges. Mt. Crested Butte‘s numerous residential buildings, even though they may sit vacant for parts of the year, contributed to more than half of the town’s emissions. In Gunnison, Western State College accounted for over a quarter of the city’s emissions. “I think each community is going to have to work out their own set of answers (for reducing emissions). It depends on the nature of the community,” Sibley said.
Sibley told the Crested Butte Town Council that the Crested Butte Community School building was a huge consumer of electricity. Certain emissions caused by tourists visiting the area were not counted, he said. “We didn’t count the carbon needed for tourists to come in and out of the community because we didn’t think that was fair to Crested Butte, but that could be addressed later,” he said.
Town building and zoning director Bob Gillie pointed out that Crested Butte had a per capita emissions figure that was much lower than many towns.
Mayor pro tem Leah Williams said that was a good thing to note. “We still have a lot of room to improve, but we are off to a good start,” she commented.
With the emissions data finalized, local officials can now proceed with figuring out ways to reduce key emissions areas. The inventory is part of a larger scope of work that ORE calls the Energy Planning Process. That process includes several steps, the first being to conduct an inventory, then set reduction goals and form recommendations and strategies for town officials to consider.
Sibley told the Mt. Crested Butte council it could be many years before communities would be able to meet their own emissions reductions goals. “We’re talking about a multi-generational process. For something like that having the local governments on board seems absolutely critical,” Sibley said.
ORE is now organizing a countywide energy summit for September 10-11, to be a meeting place where experts and community members can come together to analyze the findings and begin to create action plans to reduce emissions in each community.
“The energy summit scheduled for September is the real start of figuring out what to do in the 40-year process to reduce green house gases 80 percent from the state’s current emissions,” Sibley said.
ORE director Gesa Michel hopes community action plans will be developed and passed by March 2009.
A copy of the full report can be obtained by calling ORE at (970) 349-9673.

Please CLICK HERE for a the complete 2005 Emissions Inventory document 

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