Plan would put teeth in city’s Canary Initiative | AspenTimes.com
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Plan would put teeth in city’s Canary Initiative

A new proposal by the city of Aspen to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions examines everything from feel-good steps like urging residents to recycle to more Draconian measures like hitting energy pigs in the pocketbook.A draft document called the Canary Action Plan was unveiled Monday to start the debate. The public and City Council will review it before the creation of a final plan to reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to global warming.Global Warming Project Manager Dan Richardson said Monday the draft action plan definitely features as many sticks as carrots.”It’s necessary because of the urgency of the problem,” Richardson said. He said the free market would eventually address many of the issues that lead to greenhouse gas emissions, but not necessarily in time to reduce global warming and its effects on the environment.So his report lists scores of ways the Aspen city government and the community can address the issues. Richardson didn’t shy away from proposing tough steps that might strike terror in the hearts of elected officials.For example, he wants to take the recently hatched idea of expanding paid parking into residential neighborhoods a step further. He wants to raise prices by a greater amount and dedicate some of the revenues to getting people out of private vehicles and into buses.The proposal also advocates an overhaul to the way businesses and residences get charged for energy consumption. Currently, a small shop can be “grossly inefficient” but it doesn’t pay much of a penalty because of its small space, Richardson noted. He wants that small business to meet national standards for efficiency. If it doesn’t, it would have to pay a higher rate for electricity. He wants to apply that “energy intensity, target-based billing” to natural gas and propane gas usage.”The best thing that can come out of this report is a shift of priorities and a way things are counted,” he said.A study released last year identified the extent of Aspen’s greenhouse gas emissions problem. It showed total emissions of 870,880 tons of carbon dioxide in 2004. That means the mountain resort town that prides itself on environmentalism has a per capita emissions rate about double the U.S. average.”By 2015, if Aspen’s emissions were to increase at the same rate as what is projected for the rest of the U.S., they would reach 1,116,291 tons,” said the city’s draft action plan.Other proposals include a fee on all new development to raise revenues for programs like energy-efficiency; a garbage fee; and a “tourism-based tax.”Richardson said the idea behind the tourism tax is to make air transportation and, to a lesser extent, ground transportation, pay for their true impacts. The 2004 emissions inventory showed commercial air travel accounted for 22 percent of Aspen’s greenhouse gases, while private planes were responsible for another 19 percent.”We can’t really touch airline tickets or charge an airplane tie-down tax,” Richardson said. So he’s proposing alternative ways to tax tourism and apply revenues to greenhouse gas reduction programs. Aspen already has a bed tax; city sales taxes don’t apply to entertainment like Aspen Skiing Co.’s lift tickets or movie tickets.The draft Canary Action Plan was supposed to up for discussion by the Aspen City Council in a work session Monday night, but the meeting was postponed for a lack of a quorum. It was rescheduled for April 18. Extensive opportunities will follow for the public to examine the plan and comment.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com


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