Carbondale trustees flexible on climate actions |

Carbondale trustees flexible on climate actions

Ryan Summerlin

Carbondale trustees are allowing broad flexibility on how to spend money set aside for green, Carbondale-specific projects — though the town hasn’t dedicated much money to begin with.

Trustees agreed that they want projects to focus upon municipal buildings, renewable energy and transportation sectors, but they are giving a lot of leeway to Clean Energy Economy for the Region and Community Office for Resource Efficiency on how to meet those goals.

CLEER and CORE were asked to come up with proposals for projects in those sectors to be reviewed at the board’s March 14 meeting.

However, this year the town only set aside $50,000 in capital funding to these Carbondale-specific projects. These are projects the town funds through CLEER and CORE, beyond what the town regularly pays for membership.

The most the town has paid into these projects in a year was about $125,000, said Town Manager Jay Harrington.

Last year the town dedicated about $100,000, though CORE and CLEER were able to spend only about $70,000 by successfully leveraging that money for their projects.

In recent years this funnel of money has funded work toward net-zero town facilities, an energy efficiency upgrade program for income-qualified residents, energy assessments for new homebuyers, an LED light bulb giveaway, smart thermostat rebates, a grant program to help businesses meet the new commercial green code and numerous projects in the transportation sector.

Richardson emphasized that he didn’t “want to pick a pet project” but allow CORE and CLEER to come up with best uses for the money — specifically for the most cost-effective uses.

From this year’s $50,000, trustees also agreed to set aside $15,000 for low-income grants for energy efficiency home upgrades.

Trustee Katrina Byars said she was uncomfortable handing the organizations a blank check without guidance. She initially pushed for the remainder to be spent on renewable energy, like solar, for town facilities.

Trustee Frosty Merriott said he didn’t want the board to lose sight of its long-term energy and climate goals. And he believes the town will eventually have to return to asking for a climate action tax, such as was defeated in last year’s election by Carbondale voters.

Trustee Marty Silverstein agreed that he didn’t want to tie the hands of these organizations, especially with so little money, by forcing them to pursue certain types of projects.

At a work session last week, trustees also reviewed Carbondale’s 2017 climate and energy plan, though most of that meeting was taken up by debate over how pragmatic is the plan’s central goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. That conversation is expected to continue in a future work session.

Trustee Heather Henry said she would rather set a 75 percent goal and know that the town has the funding and mechanism to achieve it, “instead of setting it so high that we can’t envision how to get there.”

Richardson said that the carbon neutrality goal, because it’s immediately difficult to define, should be used as a vision rather than an explicit goal.

Scott Mills, of the Carbondale environmental board, urging the board to set a concrete goal and arguing to take the strong stance toward carbon neutrality, said that until you “put your foot down and say this is the direction we’re going,” a vision is only good for saying “whatever happens, happens.”

Silt and Rifle have all their town facilities at net-zero, said Byars.

“They made that the goal and found the way,” said Mills.

Richardson said he wanted to set a goal “with as much common agreement” and with as many people as possible.

The town needs to reshape its energy goals to bring to a broader community, he said.

Trustee Ben Bohmfalk worried that carbon neutrality is so difficult to imagine that it’s easier for people to blow it off as unachievable.

“So I think there might be value in setting an 80 percent reduction in a timeframe, then taking aggressive measures to get there,” he said.

Bohmfalk also said the town should be planning for climate resiliency, which in rural Colorado “should probably focus on water and fire. I think we are past the point of preventing (climate change) and have to focus on reducing its severity and learn to deal with it.”

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