City Needs Stronger Environmental Ethic

RECEIVED Wed., April 23, 2008

Dear Editor,
    Your Green Crush issue was welcome and overdue. It may be the only time an enviro has made the cover.
    Katherine Gregor's Austin Climate Protection Plan story [“Cool Austin, Cool Planet,” News, April 18] references welcome local progress on the issue, but Austin Energy and the city face many internal challenges on program implementation. First, many city field employees don't have an environmental ethic and needlessly idle vehicles and leaf blowers and wastewater without any consequence. Second, the city does not promote their own programs well enough. I have worked closely to support AE, the Parks & Recreation Department, and the Fleet Department initiatives, and progress is uneven. An activist mentality is needed. The plug-in hybrid initiative does have an activist element to it. The standard and unimaginative promotional efforts of tabling and direct mail will not be enough. Third, there are rarely economic incentives and never disincentives for managers and employees based on the effectiveness for environmental programs. Fourth, the CoA should only help facilitate ACPP's community plan and then quickly refocus their attention to municipal operations.
    The Municipal Buildings – Sustainability update states: "Initiative to ensure minimum Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Silver (level) for city buildings, greater consistency, etc.” This was already accomplished by Council Resolution (No. 000608-43) passed in June 2000. An update from the city manager's office last year said every CoA project since then has met this mark and some such as City Hall have exceeded it.
    The Energy Efficiency Retrofit Task Force is meeting bimonthly instead of the stated biweekly. The second part of what the ordinance will do is uncertain based, in my opinion, on a lack of commitment to the original goal setting and unfamiliarity among the task force participants to each other.
    Finally, the fleet component of the Municipal Plan is flawed. The CoA had in their possession dedicated compressed natural gas garbage trucks well before they had a fueling station for them. Currently, they are waiting on an ethanol (E85) refueling station for already received E85 capable vehicles.
    Most importantly, the adoption of corn-based ethanol (E85) as a major fuel source for Austin Police Department cruisers last year will help wreak havoc with world food supplies. Buying APD cruisers that are dedicated to run on gasoline, but which get greater miles per gallon, would have been a better decision for the climate, as I advocated to the city in 2007.
Scott Johnson
Original member, Green Building Task Force (1999-2001)
Alternate, CoA Energy Efficiency Retrofit Task Force (2008)
   [Editor's note: Scott Johnson's lawn mower program was also featured in the Green Crush issue. See "The Outdoorsy Type" for more.]
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