Basalt council members propose ‘aggressive’ action on climate emergency |

Basalt council members propose ‘aggressive’ action on climate emergency

The Basalt Town Council is preparing to discuss taking some “aggressive” actions on the climate crisis at its Aug. 13 meeting.

Councilwoman Katie Schwoerer proposed that the council pass a resolution endorsing the declaration of a climate emergency so that the town can take aim at global warming in future actions. The declaration is being introduced around the world from the local to national level.

“I can’t imagine why we wouldn’t do this,” Schwoerer said. “It is purely just establishing our priorities and then allowing us to move forward on action that matters.”

As of mid-July, more than 750 governments worldwide had declared the climate emergency, she said. About 20 governments in the U.S. had signed on. Boulder was the first municipality to do so in Colorado on Tuesday evening. Basalt can be on the leading edge of the movement, Schwoerer said.

“We’ve done some climate leadership but we haven’t done really aggressive stuff.” — Councilman Auden Schendler

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders have introduced resolutions on the climate emergency in Congress. Basalt’s resolution would include similar language.

“What this would do is set the tone of the town and our government to make climate action our first and foremost priority and set the groundwork to let our communities know this is the greatest challenge that human civilization has ever encountered and we must act immediately,” Schwoerer said.

Councilman Auden Schendler expressed his support and upped the ante on the proposal. He outlined two steps that he wants Basalt to take immediately to act on the climate crisis.

“We’ve done some climate leadership but we haven’t done really aggressive stuff,” Schendler said.

“(A)nother thing I think the town ought to do is we ought to put a ballot question on the next ballot that asks if the community would be willing to switch all households to renewable power through Holy Cross Energy,” Schendler said. “There aren’t that many towns or cities that have done this. It would make us among the first 10 to do this. It would highlight the issue, it would support Holy Cross Energy and its efforts.”

Holy Cross Energy is among the most innovative and aggressive energy providers in the country. It’s set a goal to provide 70% clean energy by 2030. It’s currently allowing customers to purchase 100% of their energy from renewable resources for an extra fee.

Schendler said residential customers in Basalt would be able to go 100% renewable for between $9 and $14 extra per month on their electricity bill. As the energy cooperative increases its renewable energy mix, the premium paid by customers will decrease and ultimately disappear, he said.

Schendler said he would propose at the Aug. 13 meeting that Basalt prepare a ballot question on mandatory renewable energy purchases.

“I think we should go for it. If people vote it down, great, but this is really important to bring the issue to the fore, to support Holy Cross and it would put another stake in the ground for Basalt,” Schendler said.

His other suggestion was changing Basalt’s building code “down the line” to require new construction forgo natural gas for electricity for heating. Going entirely electric is desirable because Holy Cross continues to increase renewable energy in its mix.

“I’m just floating that as the kind of thing you could do under a climate emergency declaration,” Schendler said.

Councilmembers Bill Infante and Jennifer Riffle spoke in favor of Schwoerer’s proposal for Basalt to endorse declaration of a climate emergency, though no vote will be held until Aug. 13. Mayor Jacque Whitsitt said she wants an in-depth discussion of the idea with advance notice so members of the public can weigh in.