Colorado is just starting to assess the damage from devastating floods on the Front Range; before that were forest fires. Climate change events are now a constant in headline news.
Last week the International Panel on Climate Change released its long-anticipated report, confirming more convincingly than ever that our planet is warming to very dangerous levels and that humans must take action to reduce the emissions that are warming the atmosphere. While the report is grim, it does give hope that if humans take drastic action we might be able to curb the trend.
It’s hard to believe that, as individuals, we can do much to effect change. But residents of San Miguel County have taken the lead before and we can do so now. We’re in a good position because our sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are some of the easiest ones to reduce: Namely those from residential and commercial buildings.
Many residents and business owners in our county take climate change seriously and have taken some steps on their own, changing light bulbs, turning down thermostats, choosing local food when possible, recycling, driving less and taking other proactive measures. Governments in the County have reduced our GHG emissions significantly with energy retrofits. Much work has been done on assessing our baseline energy use, mostly through a study conducted by University of Colorado at Denver (see report at sanmiguelcounty.org) and by EcoAction Partners. The next – and much more difficult task – is using these results to determine goals for energy reduction and staying focused on energy retrofits and other programs throughout the County to reduce our region’s energy use.
Citizens have clearly asked local government to take this challenge seriously, so your elected officials have been looking into programs that work. We’ve also looked into ways of raising some funds to pay for effective programs that would be very inexpensive to residents yet would be reliable each year and would be dedicated solely to GHG reduction programs. To that end San Miguel County is putting forth ballot question 1A, the Energy Fund question, on November 5.
The question asks voters to approve one cent on every dollar of utility bills toward GHG reduction programs. If your monthly utility bills total $100, you will pay $1 for that month. It will only apply to residential ratepayers because commercial utility accounts already pay the 1% sales tax on utilities.
If passed, about $170,000 will be generated the first year, with subsequent years varying dependent on the region’s energy use; the number could go up or down. This money will go directly into a special Energy Fund in the County budget.
The money can only be used for programs or projects that reduce GHG generated within San Miguel County.
The money generated could pay for any specific residential or business project that meets the criteria of measurably reducing GHG emissions. Examples include energy audits, energy efficiency retrofits and renewable energy projects.
We may not be able to influence the U.S. Congress to take immediate action on climate change, but with this commitment by SMC voters, we can make a difference in our GHG emissions; a difference that might inspire other communities across the country to take their own steps toward solutions. We have the power.