City puts $1.5M to environmental efforts | AspenTimes.com

City puts $1.5M to environmental efforts

ASPEN ” More than $1.5 million in taxpayer money will be spent this year on environmental programs in the Roaring Fork Valley, funded by individuals who use the most resources.

The Aspen City Council on Monday approved a request from the Community Office for Resource Efficiency (CORE) to spend $1,505,000. The money comes from fees on new homeowners whose homes exceed 5,000 square feet, which significantly use more fossil fuel and burn more emissions.

Those homeowners also are charged another fee up to $100,000 if they exceed the “energy budget” allotted to their property by the local building code. Those excessive additions are typically found in noncomplying exterior snowmelt, pool, and spa systems.

The fees fund the Renewable Energy Mitigation Program (REMP), which has historically only funded the purchase of carbon offsets since its inception in 2000.

But as CORE director Randy Udall explained to the City Council, much more needs to happen if the city is going to reach its ambitious goal of reducing carbon emissions by as much as 30 percent in the coming years.

“To achieve those goals, it is going to take the participation of everyone in this valley,” he said. “We need more engagement at every level, every human being needs to be involved.”

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Udall, who just returned from an energy conference in Houston, said climate change might be the hot topic today, but soon oil production will become the focus.

“We are on the cusp of change in this country, and things will change dramatically over the coming 10 years,” he said. “We need to get ready in this valley, and we are not ready today.”

Both climate control and reducing oil consumption are important issues regionally, and CORE is dedicated to doing its part in the valley.

“These programs need to go deeper,” Udall said. “We aren’t going to reduce emissions without more human resources …

“If we are serious about this, we have to step it up,” he added. “We have to get to the school kids, citizens, the corporations.”

That means the creation of three new positions, amounting to $240,000 in new salaries. (See list of expenditures.) REMP also will fund more than a dozen grants to various projects throughout the valley.

Udall pointed to Palm Desert, Calif., which is spending $30 million on its environmental plan, compared to Aspen, which has budgeted $200,000 for its initiatives.

He asked the council to consider the funding as a “challenge grant” and CORE will make every attempt to raise money in the private sector and through philanthropic efforts.

“I don’t anticipate coming back for more money,” Udall said.

Since its creation, REMP has generated more than $6 million, and about $2.5 million has been spent. Monday night’s allotment leaves the fund with a $1,568,000 balance.

Carolyn Sackariason’s e-mail address is csack@aspentimes.com.

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