Friday, December 13, 2019

Crested Butte begins five-year journey to cut half its greenhouse gas emissions

Looking to craft a plan with a “lasting impact”

by Mark Reaman

What was described as an “ambitious goal” to cut significant greenhouse gas emissions in Crested Butte in five years got its official start Wednesday, June 26 with a public meeting. About 50 people gathered at the Depot to hear the initial foray to cut town-generated emissions 50 percent by 2023 and cut the total community emissions footprint by 25 percent during the same period.

The Boulder-based global consulting firm Navigant is guiding the planning process to come up with a plan that can be implemented to work toward accomplishing these goals. Associate director of Navigant’s Energy Division Nicole DelSasso said the company would work with more than a dozen members of a local stakeholder group to whittle down the plan to something managable. The idea is to have the stakeholders meet monthly and streamline the initial 13 strategies to the top three or four by this fall.

Navigant hopes to have a complete plan to present to the community in October and a final plan to come before the Crested Butte Town Council by its November 4 meeting.

During the June 26 meeting, Crested Butte mayor Jim Schmidt went over many of the things the town had done toward improving the environment and cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions over the decades. He cited the purchase of $8 million in open space near town, the electric vehicles including electric motorcycles that the town has purchased for the marshals, the improvements in lighting efficiency in town buildings, the partnership with the Gunnison County Electric Association for a solar farm on the town wastewater treatment plant (which the GCEA pointed out still has availability) and the embracing of the GCEA “Green Power” program that helps supplement renewable energy sourcing, among other initiatives.

Town manager Dara MacDonald said the five-year goals set by the Town Council “were rather ambitious. I’m not sure we can get there but we will try. And we are excited the council has set these goals and is willing to put in the time and money to accomplish this. We are here tonight to see how we can reach these ambitious goals.”

DelSasso explained that the working group would be looking at greenhouse gas emissions generated in town, those that come from “grid-supplied energy” and emissions that impact town but are generated outside of town such as travelers coming to Crested Butte and waste produced in Crested Butte but shipped to landfills not in town.

DelSasso said in most cases 90 percent of the emissions in a community are generated from buildings and transportation. She said Crested Butte has some unique factors to contend with, because of its location in the high mountains and the fact the much of the town is designated a National Historic District with many single-family homes.

“We want to look at everything and create a plan that makes a lasting impact and isn’t just a one-off,” DelSasso said.

DelSasso reviewed the initial draft strategies to attack the emissions and, based on her initial charts, indicated one of the biggest impacts could be if the town adopted a stringent green building code. She said it would make a big difference if the council adopted a “net-zero” building requirement but emphasized that was just one of many suggestions to discuss.

Crested Butte Open Space/Creative District coordinator Mel Yemma said this initial meeting was just the first step in a very public process. “We want input on how to do this from the whole community,” she said. “Anyone should feel free to contact the town with their thoughts and ideas.”

The crowd was then given the task to use stickers to identify strategy priorities that were listed. Yemma said the top priority from the June 26 meeting turned out to be “Install renewable energy through onsite generation, community generation, power purchase agreements and renewable energy credits, as well as sell GCEA’s renewable capacity through solar gardens or other local renewable projects,” followed by “[D]iscourage single occupancy vehicle use and support strategies such as increasing no-car zones and down valley bike and bus networks,” and expanding feeder networks to primary bus stops.

Third was to “work towards the adoption of green building codes such as net-zero standards for commercial and residential developments.” The least supported strategy of the initial suggestions was “[I]ncrease the adoption of carbon-free vehicles for Crested Butte residents through education, increased number and visibility of charging stations and prioritized parking for carbon-free vehicles.”

Some of the other ideas submitted to the working group included “[B]uild down valley paved rec paths & incentivize e-bikes, enforce the town idling ordinance, ban all plastic bottles and Styrofoam and offer compost bins for the community garden.”

The working group will meet once a month through the fall with the goal to craft a strategic plan for the town to adopt in November.

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