Friday, May 16, 2008

Hailey gets its carbon footprint

Small steps taken to prevent global warming

Express Staff Writer

Susan McBryant

Despite a steadily growing population, the city of Hailey is making progress toward its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from city property and vehicles to meet or beat international Kyoto Protocol standards. The worldwide emission of greenhouse gases is blamed for global warming.

The goal was set when former Hailey Mayor Susan McBryant signed the U.S. Mayor's Climate Protection Agreement in February 2007, joining more than 700 other municipalities in the United States committed to meeting or beating 1990 greenhouse-gas emissions levels. The United States has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol—an agreement designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions—which became binding in February 2005 for the 141 countries that have.

"Hailey spearheaded this whole effort in the Wood River Valley," said Environmental Resource Center Climate Protection Coordinator Kyle Livingston. "Now we are establishing programs in Ketchum and Sun Valley and the county as a whole."

Livingston worked with the Hailey Environmental Leadership Program (HELP) over the last six months to establish the city's carbon footprint. He presented an inventory of municipal sources for greenhouse gas emissions to the City Council Monday night. These sources included fuel used for the city vehicle fleet, natural gas consumption for building heating, and the use of electricity for lighting and other operations.

According to Livingston's data, the city saw a decrease of 3.3 percent in overall greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 to 2007. Although the decrease is significant, the study's primary value is in establishing the city's carbon footprint. This footprint will be used to measure the city's success in the future as it crafts a plan for further reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Hailey began reducing its carbon footprint three years ago in anticipation of the inventory. From 2005 to 2007, the city saved $25,000 by retrofitting light bulbs in all city buildings. The installation of programmable thermostats in all city buildings drastically reduced consumption of natural gas, while the Street Department used less fuel from 2005 to 2007, due mostly to a low snow year. Employee commuting by walking, biking, carpooling and taking the bus resulted in a 23 percent decrease in carbon emissions.

Yet Livingston said it would take the city "some time" before it approached even 2001 emission levels.

"It's not enough to expect carbon emissions to decrease on their own with Hailey population increasing," he said. "You can expect an increase of 300 citizens per year until the city reaches a population of 10,000 in four years. With more people there will be more need for city resources, whether that be more police or other department staff and facilities."

Hailey's wastewater treatment facility continues to be the biggest source of greenhouse emissions in the city's overall carbon footprint. Natural gas use at the facility actually rose 40 percent from 2005 to 2007. City Engineer Tom Hellen says the source of the spike in gas use is unknown. The wastewater treatment facility is the largest industrial operation in the city and requires natural gas to heat five buildings on the site of the facility.

"This is one of the reasons we conduct a baseline survey," said Livingston. "To find out where the energy consumption is taking place. The greatest opportunities the cities have to further reduce greenhouse gases is to increase alternative employee commuting, decrease vehicle-fleet fuel consumption and increase incentives for efficient building construction."

Livingston said aggressive water conservation techniques, such as Hailey's planned odd/even watering restrictions this summer, will decrease the need for electricity for the city's wells for pumping water.

Mayor Rick Davis spoke in support of the efforts of HELP to reduce carbon emissions.

"We are saving the city taxpayers money at the same time," he said.

In other Hailey News:

- Former P&Z Commissioner Elizabeth Zellers was appointed to the Hailey Arts Commission.

- Davis signed a letter granting the city authority to call for emergency aid from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in case of flooding during the next 60 days.

- The City Council voted to amend city ordinance to allow members of the public to pull items from the consent agenda for individual discussion during council meetings, as council members can do.

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