Glenwood, New Castle ponder future climate-protection moves

Dennis Webb
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” The Glenwood Springs City Council tonight will consider creating an energy efficiency commission to help follow through on the commitment the city made in signing on to the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement.

Meanwhile, the town of New Castle is due to decide whether to enter into the mayors agreement. However, Mayor Frank Breslin said he doesn’t support the idea, and thinks the town should pursue a more homegrown approach that focuses on improving the environment at both the townwide and individual levels.

“I feel that it’s more of a political action without the people who are endorsing it actually taking action,” he said of the mayors agreement.

Glenwood’s council voted in December to sign on to the agreement. The agreement has been adopted by more than 330 cities nationwide.

It is nonbinding and lets communities tailor their own climate action plans. However, it suggests specific approaches such as working to reduce sprawl, buying energy-efficient equipment and appliances, boosting recycling rates, and converting diesel vehicles to use biodiesel.

In an early test of Glenwood’s new commitment, council unanimously agreed in February to spend a total of $18,000 extra for three police vehicles because they get about 3 or 4 miles per gallon more than another vehicle the police department also was interested in buying.

A local “Cool Communities” citizens group that is urging local communities to sign on to the mayors agreement also has called upon Glenwood to create an energy efficiency commission.

Under the recommendation to be considered tonight, the commission first would look at city government itself, examining how much city facilities and vehicles contribute to greenhouse gases and developing a plan to improve energy efficiency.

Later it would focus on carrying out that plan. It also would consider looking at greenhouse gas emissions throughout the area served by the city’s electric utility, revising the city’s building code so new buildings and major remodels incorporate efficiency and renewable energy “to the maximum extent possible,” and promoting conservation and renewable energy among residents and business owners.

Glenwood resident Bob Millette, chairman of the Cool Communities group, called the energy efficiency commission “the next obvious step in the process” for Glenwood. He said he expects that some of his group’s members will volunteer for the commission.

The mayors agreement is on the New Castle’s town board agenda for March 6. Breslin said he’s not sure which way the board will decide, but if it doesn’t sign on to the agreement it will pursue steps to make New Castle a greener place on its own. Breslin fears wasting resources on consultants rather than action, and said he’d rather pursue a more localized than top-down approach.

He said town employees are aware of some steps the town can take to promote energy efficiency, recycling and other actions. He’d like to see people start with taking actions at their own homes, including through eliminating use of lawn chemicals.

An independent environmental advisory committee is working with the town to make recommendations and help with efforts such as educating the public.

Millette said Basalt already has signed on to the mayors agreement. Carbondale has not but has a solid energy efficiency and climate protection program of its own in place, he said.