Tackling the footprint
Climate and Energy Action Plan moves ahead

Durango and La Plata County are turning green in more ways than one this spring. The Four Corners Office for Resource Efficiency recently launched the La Plata Climate and Energy Action Plan effort. The plan, which seeks to get a handle on and ultimately reduce the area’s carbon footrprint while preparing for climate change that has already taken place, will rely heavily on public input./Photo by Stephen Eginoire

by Missy Votel

Area residents concerned about climate change no longer have to feel like lone voices in the wilderness.

Thanks to the La Plata Climate and Energy Action Plan, known as CEAP, locals now can have their say on how the community tackles greenhouse gas emissions. Headed up by the Four Corners Office for Resource Efficiency, or 4CORE, the goal of the plan is threefold. The first phase, currently under way, is to review and complete the recent county greenhouse gas inventory. The second phase will set targets for greenhouse gas reductions, and the third will provide steps to achieve those targets.

According to Aileen Tracy, 4CORE executive director, the idea for a climate action plan was hatched a few years ago. She said 4CORE was chosen to head up the effort because it was unaffiliated with any other government, religious or nonprofit organization. Her group was also chosen over an outside consulting firm out of a desire to produce a truly grassroots document. “People really wanted this to be a community affair and build this plan from the ground up,” she said.

With that in mind, 4CORE is seeking local volunteers interested in taking part in formation of the plan, an effort that was launched last week in conjunction with Earth Day. Tracy said more than 200 people have volunteered to take part, but more are needed for the process, which is expected to take the rest of the year for a final, tangible document to be produced. “We need all kinds of volunteers and any level of participation is welcome. Some of that might even come from a technician who is available to give us information or take a phone call now and then,” she said.

Currently, CEAP is composed of a steering committee, made up of various government, tribal, business and nonprofit leaders, and eight workgroups. The groups, which meet on their own schedules, study everything from scientific data to agriculture, forestry and waste management. Tracy said she is hoping that by the end of May, the groups will have a list of proposed measures available for public feedback. “We have more than 200 possible measures right now,” she said. “The goal is to whittle that down to 20 and create the action plan from those.”

To make the formulation of measures easy, and to keep the workgroups from re-inventing the wheel, all measures will be evaluated using specially designed computer software. “Basically, you enter the measure and the program tells you how it will reduce greenhouse gases, by how much, and how much it will cost,” said Tracy.

The La Plata CEAP is similar to the statewide Colorado Climate Action Plan, but on a smaller, more local level. The word “energy” was added to the local version once planners realized it was an inextricable part of the climate change equation. “Energy is a huge part of this, so we decided to add it to the title,” Tracy said.

Another huge part of the plan also involves accepting the fact that climate change has already occurred. To that end, one CEAP workgroup is studying ways to adapt and prepare for the long-term effects of climate change, such as reduced run-off, drought and shifting animal habitat. “We understand that climate change has happened, and we can’t stop it. So, the next step is to ask ourselves how we can prepare and be resilient.”

Another workgroup is examining the 2005 county greenhouse gas inventory, also known as the Brendle Report. “We are fine-tuning it and making sure it truly is the baseline,” she said.

In addition, another workgroup is hammering away at establishing realistic greenhouse gas reduction goals. “We need to look at levels and make sure they’re attainable,” she said.

Tracy said she expects a draft document to be available late this year with a final version out in the first quarter of 2010. However, she noted that the document will be a flexible one, merely providing a framework. “It’s really going to be more of a snapshot than anything,” she said, adding that anything from new technology to scientific findings can change the way the plan is implemented. She also said forthcoming stimulus money could also play a role in achieving the plan’s goals, not to mention how her office operates in general.

Just last week, 4CORE found out it will be able to keep government funds earmarked for energy efficiency rebates, such as for solar/thermal installations and insulation retrofits. However, Tracy said the biggest role of her office continues to be education.

“A huge part of what we do is education and telling people what they can do in their daily lives and what to think about before they build,” she said.

In fact, the education component has been so important that 4CORE recently hired two full-time employees to keep up with the demand.

And while 4CORE is working to educate the public, Tracy urges people to repay the favor by participating in the CEAP process. “It’ll be so great when it’s done,” she said. “It’s really going to affect everyone, so it’s important to get your voice heard.” •

For more on the La Plata Climate and Energy Action Plan or to volunteer, visit www.fourcore.org or call 259-1916.



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