By Brett Buonamici
Bozeman, Mont. — A local environmental task force has been assembled to make recommendations for emission controls that could potentially impact private businesses and area households.
Bozeman is one of a handful of cities in the state to sign on to a movement that seeks to voluntarily comply with environmental standards proposed in the controversial Kyoto Protocol. Other communities that have signed on include Billings, Missoula, and Red Lodge.
Current Bozeman city commissioner and mayor-elect Sean Becker said he would favor more environmental regulation as the economy improves.
“Personally, I would love to see more regulations but because of the economic climate, the regulations have to come up from the community,” he said.
A Seattle mayor launched the nation-wide movement after President George W. Bush refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol into law in 2005. Bozeman signed on to the Mayors Climate Protection Agreement in 2006.
Seattle has subsequently enforced “car-free” days, bonfire bans, enacted stricter construction regulations, passed “green” light bulb subsidies and purchased a new city fleet of Prius’s in order to meet their goals under the plan.
Former Bozeman city employee Hattie Baker recently assembled a roster of representatives from public and private organizations to serve on the task force. The mayor and city commission recently approved the selections and the first meeting of the task force is scheduled for November 12. Baker said the monthly meetings will be held in Bozeman’s city hall and they will be open to the public, but the amount of public participation they will allow has yet to be determined.
Baker’s official title will be sustainability consultant. Her salary will be paid by a grant from the New Priorities Foundation, a now defunct organization whose website lists their mailing address in Half Moon Bay, CA. The CCAP is scheduled to be completed by November 2010. However Baker’s grant will expire in February 2010. City officials are exploring additional grants to bridge the gap.
The Mayors Agreement that Bozeman signed in 2006 led to the city writing a Municipal Climate Action Plan (MCAP). The MCAP was aimed at targeting city emissions from buildings like City Hall. The MCAP set the goal for the city to reduce CO2 emissions by 15% below the 2000 levels by 2020. The goal for the city to reduce emissions does not take development or population growth into account.
Todd Myers is Director of the Washington Policy Center for the Environment, a non-partisan research center headquartered in Seattle. Myers said Bozeman would likely have to take “extreme measures” to meet the goals of the Kyoto Protocol.
“Bozeman will have a much harder time to meet the goals of the Kyoto Protocol than Seattle,” Myers said. “Seattle already gets 95% of its energy from renewable sources, mostly hydroelectricity. For Bozeman to meet the goals in the Kyoto Protocol, they would have to take drastic measures in regards to their coal usage.”
Missoula has signed the mayoral agreement as well, and Missoula mayor John Engen has said the agreement has set a tone for the city more than anything. Pushing for awareness and basic conservation efforts has been the main focus so far.
“It has been more symbolic than anything. We need to be as responsible as we can in tempering emissions.”
Engen also said there is not currently a “green” budget, or a taxpayer funded pool to promote new city initiatives.
Missoula has created an advisory board to promote sustainable “green blocks” and the city has worked with Northwest Energy to audit the energy use of homes in the city. The city has been promoting the use of green technologies like higher quality insulation for homes and buildings, low flow toilets and more efficient light bulbs, but no mandatory measures have been implemented.
Commissioner Jeff Rupp supports Bozeman’s current environmental initiatives such as recycling and “green” construction, but would not necessarily support more intrusive measures. Rupp said he would “not vote for something that forces people to do something.”
Rupp also said he is familiar with many members of the task force and does not foresee any extreme environmental measures being introduced. He said, “I don’t think (the taskforce) will put forth a lot of regulations.”
Bozeman commission members Eric Bryson and Jeff Krauss did not respond to an email request for comment.
Once the CCAP is written, the Bozeman Mayor and City Commission will review the task force recommendations and make decisions on what, if any, measures to take to reduce emissions.
The Montana Policy Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan policy research center based in Bozeman. To find out more visit us on the web at www.montanapolicy.org.
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