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Salem Hangs Out the ‘You’re Not Welcome’ Sign
It should give pause to other cities

Cities are looking at new legislation and looking over their shoulders at Governor Brown’s Executive Order 20-04 of 45% reduction in GHG emissions from 1990 levels by 2035, and 80% by 2050. HB 2021 then enshrined the goals into law for retail electricity providers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with electricity sold to Oregon consumers to 80% below baseline emissions levels by 2030, 90% below baseline emissions levels by 2035, and 100% below baseline emissions levels by 2040. HB 2062 establishes new energy efficiency standards for appliances and certain water fixtures, and HB 2180 requires certain newly constructed buildings to be electric vehicle ready.

What the city of Salem -- run by Mayor Chuck Bennett -- is doing should give pause to other cities. Salem unveiled its Climate Action Plan after a year-long process by a 35 member task force. They started by collecting residents’ vision for a climate-smart city of the future by 2050. A vision of utopia gave way to recommendations to tackle climate change locally by proposing major changes in how we travel, design neighborhoods, and use energy, among other approaches to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, prepare the community for impacts, and ensure a transition to an equitable and climate-smart future. The plan is a roadmap to exceed Governor Brown’s Executive Order 20-04 to reduce community-wide GHG emissions by 50% by 2035 (from the baseline year of 2016) and to be carbon neutral by 2050.

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

To measure the impact of local GHG reduction efforts, the plan forecasts future emissions with and without local action. Changing the American Dream into the American Nightmare takes drastic action. There are a few good ideas, like carbon sequestration of plants and trees. Of course, onsite solar and halt growth in natural gas is what HB 2021 is all about. But no thought is given to how this will impact business and discourage new startups and thus affect growth.

How long have we heard walk or bike more and drive less? The goal is to increase walkways, and bike paths. Then double electric vehicles and quadruple transit ridership on electric buses to reduce traffic in Salem by 10 percent. Traffic measurements are taken from before the pandemic in 2016, so there should have already been a reduction through working from home and lockdowns. While you’re limited from using your vehicle, don’t invite out-of-town guests or hold business conferences. The goal is a 40 percent reduction in traffic coming into and out of Salem. Businesses that depend on tourism will have a harder time staying afloat.

All those goals are only halfway to the target. To meet the remainder, they propose halting all combustion engine traffic, remove all fossil fuel-derived from natural gas in existing homes and buildings, and ensure a 100% renewables-only electricity grid. Achieve a zero waste through circular economy, compost and recycling, including capture of wastewater emissions and halt septic emissions by joining wastewater treatment.

Financing proposed will assess as many areas as the goals – parking fees, gas tax, and residential energy audits are at the top of the list. They also propose a trip reduction ordinance for employers to reduce single-occupancy trips. Revise land use plans to allow for more dense development promoting walkable neighborhoods. Implement a reward system that requires property owners to improve low-performing buildings.

If you envision the city plan on a smaller scale one could visualize a gated community where only one electric vehicle is permitted per house and there is a checkpoint at the gate to limit those coming and going. Each vehicle is monitored for use. The houses would be on an electric grid with limited watt and water use. Waste water and garbage monitored for what you are consuming. The behavior change will get you to compete at reducing your emissions, which means your every move will be tracked. If you don’t go along, there are programs to change your behavior. The new behavior is to buy less stuff or buy second-hand. Actions for individuals are to reduce driving trips and avoid unnecessary air travel, eat a plant-based diet, conserve energy and water and reduce waste. And while you’re feeling confined, like a slave, they suggest you pursue actions that address intersectionality and integrate social justice into your environmental work and daily actions.

The work was done using Verdis Group, out of Omaha, Nebraska. It is curious why the URL reads “California.” Is this simply a rewrite changing a few details? They use the EPA’s Local Greenhouse Gas Inventory Tool to gather inventory from the 2016 calendar year. It seems that gains Salem has made already during the pandemic aren’t being measured, perhaps to give a more compelling picture? They also use U.N. models for climate change, which may explain the more than 100% jump in warming from 2040 through 2069. How free can you be when every move is measured?

The public comment period is open until November 5, 2021, at 5 p.m. Comments will be accepted online at the Salem Climate Action Plan website.


--Donna Bleiler

Post Date: 2021-10-20 06:46:59Last Update: 2021-10-20 10:05:27



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