Lake County News-Sun, September 11, 2020
More than two dozen residents, including members of environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and STOP EtO in Lake County, voiced strong support for a resolution passed by the Lake County Board that aims to attain net zero greenhouse gas emissions in phases.
On Tuesday, the Climate Action Plan Resolution passed almost unanimously, with only one “present” vote by board member Brent Paxton.
The motion is a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent from county operations, and attain at least a 60-percent diversion rate of recyclables and organics from the waste stream by 2030.
By 2040, the goal is to procure 100 percent renewable energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 90 percent or more, and achieve at least 90 percent diversion of recyclables and organics.
“Global climate change due to greenhouse gas emissions is one of the most pressing issues of our time, and it is incumbent upon us as government leaders to take local action to help address it,” Lake County Board Chair Sandy Hart said. “I’m proud that the board took this decisive step in committing Lake County to action, and I hope other municipalities and townships will join us.”
This month, a United in Science 2020 report put out information about record levels of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, stating that emissions are heading in the direction of pre-pandemic levels, following a temporary decrease during the stay-at-home mandates and the economic slowdown.
The multi-agency report from science organizations warns the world is set to experience its warmest five years on record, and highlights the impact of climate change, which will affect living conditions with oceans rising and droughts and flooding causing hazards.
A number of residents whose comments were read out loud by staff before the board took a vote touched on record flooding they’ve experienced in their homes, saying it’s become an occurrence they see more often than previous years and has negatively affected them.
In 2018, Lake County rivers went above flood stage during six separate storm events, which was triple the average number of flood events that went above flood stage over the previous 10 years — a record for the county. In 2019, Lake County rivers exceeded flood stage seven times, according to the Lake County Board.
“This brings Lake County into the 21st century in terms of climate science, the green economy and the new and evolving job market. Committing to net zero emissions not only makes good environmental sense, it makes good economic sense as well,” said County Board member Terry Wilke, chair of the Energy and Environment Committee. “While there’s an upfront cost to investing in renewable energy technology to allow us to achieve our goals, in the long-term, the money saved from reduced energy bills will outweigh any initial costs that are incurred.”
One method the county has already implemented to achieve goals set forth in the resolution is the installation of idle-reducing technology to 87 county vehicles, said board member Paul Frank.
At an approximate cost of $390 per vehicle, the reduction in fuel usage and carbon output is at least 6 percent annually per vehicle, but the county’s transportation director estimates that’s a low estimate, Frank said.
Frank called the software update a “significant step forward” for the county.
Adding that cost savings to the county is at least $60,000 per year, based on fuel consumption, after the cost of the software, Frank said, “Even more importantly, carbon output is reduced without impacting the functionality needed by these vehicles.”
“If we’re trying to bend the curve, we have to get to net zero as an industry, as individuals and as a government,” Frank said.
Other resolution points are to ensure all new county facilities constructed after 2020 be evaluated for their potential for net zero certification; that there is an annual public report of progress toward the goals, and that the county is inviting and encouraging municipalities and townships to join the effort to reduce the environmental impact of the operations required to provide public service to residents and businesses of Lake County.
The Energy and Environmental Committee was formed in 2019.
Although the pandemic prevented the committee from meeting regularly this year, Hart said the passing of the resolution is “a great thing” to achieve after the brief hiatus.
Officials said the resolution is a natural outgrowth of Lake County’s strategic goals, which include energy conservation, reducing emissions, promoting renewable energy, protecting natural resources, and implementing smart growth policies.
The Energy and Environmental Committee’s next steps are to develop plans for energy and waste-reduction.