Mayor Patterson: Benicia needs to plan for the declining role of oil and gas

An E-Alert from Mayor Elizabeth Patterson
[Editor: Mayor Patterson has been falsely accused of wanting to run Valero Refinery out of town.  A careful reading of her position shows that she wants the City to plan jointly with Valero and economic advisers for a stable future as we face into the predicted and inevitable decline in carbon-intensive industries.  Other California cities are planning ahead.  Patterson urges Benicia to do the same.  See below.  – R.S.]

New state laws’ and policies’ impacts on Benicia’s future

By Mayor Elizabeth Patterson, Benicia, California, October 2, 2018
Elizabeth Patterson, Benicia Mayor 2007 - present
Elizabeth Patterson, Benicia Mayor 2007 – present

Does the city monitor economic trends to forecast the future revenue necessary to operate city services of public safety, road maintenance, safe drinking water, parks and recreation, library and community services?  To some extent, yes.  To the extent that there is an understanding of shifting economic activity such as declining role of oil and gas, no.  We have not done an in depth analysis of the impact of state policies and the law to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045.

Brown is calling for the entire California economy to become carbon-neutral by 2045. That would mean deploying a combination of new technologies to vastly reduce the release of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, plus the widespread implementation of methods to capture the rest, so that the state’s net release of emissions already altering the climate in devastating ways would be zero.  [from KQED, Sept. 24, 2018]

What are the opportunities for the city to benefit from this carbon-neutral goal?  Should there be a working group with the city, Valero Refinery, economists and planners to think about 20 years from now?

What are other cities and counties doing to achieve carbon-neutrality?  Will we be on the leading edge or play catch up?  I will continue to advocate for thinking beyond tomorrow and seizing opportunities for Benicia’s economy to evolve for the future so that we continue to have what I think is the best small town in California.

Below is an article about what San Luis Obispo is doing to meet the challenge of carbon-neutrality by 2045.

Elizabeth Patterson, Mayor, City of Benicia


SLO wants to be carbon neutral by 2035, ahead of California

The Tribune, sanluisobispo.com, by Nick Wilson, September 25, 2018 03:06 PM

The City Council wants San Luis Obispo to be carbon-neutral by 2035, an ambitious target that’s 10 years earlier than Gov. Jerry Brown’s statewide goal of 2045.

The council last week directed staff to move forward with a climate action plan that could mean new building codes and ramping up citywide electrical vehicle charging stations, among several other initiatives.

Carbon neutrality, or net-zero energy, is the concept of reducing as much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere as possible, with the overall goal to achieve a zero carbon footprint. It is achieved largely by replacing fossil fuel energy sources that emit greenhouse gases with renewables like solar and wind.

Greenhouse gases are emitted from cars, homes and businesses, as well as from livestock, among other sources.

An example of an electric vehicle charging station designed by Recargo, a Los Angeles-area company that’s planning to build four new DC fast-chargers in San Luis Obispo.

“This is aggressive,” said Councilwoman Andy Pease. “It’s a really big goal. I think we can do it. But I think it should be a goal within our Climate Action Plan development.”

The specifics of the city’s Net Zero 2035 commitment haven’t been formulated yet, pending the Climate Action Plan update next year.

But efforts undertaken by the city already have reduced greenhouse gas emissions in the city by 10 percent since 2005, with a goal of reaching a 15 percent reduction by 2020.

Ideas to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions, based on California Energy Commission recommendations, include:

▪ Reducing solid waste (including making sure people recycle and reuse items they consume, and compost food scraps), eliminating the need for landfills;

▪ Using carbon-free electricity, while transitioning from fossil-fuel based appliances and technologies (such as phasing out internal combustion-based vehicles in place of electric ones, and ratcheting down natural gas-fired furnaces or water heaters in favor of high-efficiency heat pump models that run on clean electricity, for example);

▪ Creating new laws around building codes to ensure efficient, clean energy uses rather than natural gas ones (pending legal and practical study of that possibility to be reconsidered by the council in 2019);

▪ Finding ways to attain carbon sequestration, meaning strategies to manage city forests that convert carbon dioxide into nutritional benefits for tree growth, and other means;

▪ Encouraging efficient use of water and cars (walking and biking whenever possible, versus driving, for example).

Despite its commitment, the council will wait until its Climate Action Plan Update next year to formally decide on the 2035 goal, but it’s united in trying to implement policy to set that timeline in motion, which council members acknowledge is ambitious.

The council was divided on whether to adopt a formal resolution to set the 2035 Net Zero target – immediately creating a formal policy directive to work from, rather than waiting to formalize that goal after more research on how it would affect city residents, builders, existing policy, land use and other considerations.

Mayor Heidi Harmon argued in favor of adopting a resolution, saying that a formal, “bold” statement targeting a 2035 Net Zero goal could make it harder for a potentially new council, after this November’s election, to roll back that policy.

“I think this is so important, and I know how tough culture shift is,” Harmon said. “But this is one of the main reasons I got elected was to be a champion on climate and have real, actionable things that we’re doing.”

But Councilwoman Carlyn Christianson said that an “action plan” will better inform the council before it signs off on a 2035 policy.

“There are large numbers of people who emotionally react one way or another on these issues,” Christianson said. “We need to know exactly what we’re talking about, and we kind of don’t (without further staff research).”

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