Meeting summary by Kevin Stearns
The Air Quality Advisory board has been meeting on the 3rd Monday of each month since its first meeting on September 1st, 1994. The agenda for this hybrid meeting, which was in person and online, contained 3 main items for discussion:
1. Our Climate Future and Sustainable Revenue
"We did achieve that 2020 goal of being 20% below our baseline from 2005. Since then we are holding a bit steady. We haven't been making that, you know, rapid progress towards the 2030 goal and we know that progress is not linear in this space. We can talk more about that."- Honore Depew, Climate Program Director
2. Regional Community Air Quality Monitoring Advisory Committee
"There's a specific element of this grant that is a city county partnership and it's to pull together a regional air quality monitoring advisory committee. We know the grant hasn't been awarded but we have D'angelo on board doing our outreach and engagement for air quality." - Emily Olivio, Air Quality Lead Specialist
3. Board Member Reports
"The project I'm involved with is a statewide indoor air quality and ventilation assessment and facility improvement project and we are starting to run out of uh sites that have signed up for the program". - Gavin McMeeking, Board Member
Meeting Notes by Kevin Stearns:
Our Climate Future
Honore Depew presented data on the city of Fort Collin's progress towards its climate goals, which were focused on being carbon neutral by 2050. The first milestone was in 2020 for being 20% of the way to carbon neutrality. Currently, in 2023, the city is at 24%. The next milestone, in 2030, is 80% carbon neutral, which the city is not making rapid progress towards. If nothing more is done than the current strategies, then the city will only achieve 21% carbon neutrality by 2029, having lost progress due to estimated growth in the city.
Currently, Our Climate Future is working alongside city planning, transit, and housing to achieve their goals. Their philosophy is focused on mitigation, resilience, and equity (starting with race inequality) to respond to risks affecting people, buildings, watersheds, and ecosystems. Core values of the program are that responsibility is shared, injustices have the same root problem as environmental problems (caused by the extraction and exploitation of people and resources), governments are accountable for the response, people know what they need, and common solutions are the best. A response requires city led, co-led, and community-led action.
Specific areas of focus are the electric, building, industrial manufacturing, transportation, waste management, and land use sectors. Of those categories, each represents a percentage of the total impact on achieving the carbon neutral goals of the city, with electricity representing the largest segment at 24.5%, buildings at 15%, industrial at 4.5%, transit at 4%, waste management at 0.9%, land use at 0.1%, and a final 10% left undetermined. The last 10% represents community action.
In order to meet the city's goals, change has to start now. This includes actions such as shutting down coal plants and converting to renewable energy, introducing incentives to make homes more energy efficient, and increasing outreach to get more people involved. Specific planned goals include items such as Rental Registration (2022), Building Performance Standards (2023), Land Use Phase 2 (2024), Energy Code (2025), West Elizabeth Bus Rapid Transit (2026), Net Zero Energy Code (2027). Strategic 2-year plans keep plans from being too broad or abstract.
Currently, the annual revenue gap to meet these goals is $40-46 million. These expenses are divided between Parks and Recreation, the Transit Master Plan, the Housing Strategic Plan, and Our Climate Future (with each of these representing just above or under $10 million).
Current funding includes about $15 million for utilities (which is reducing energy usage from the city by 20%), $1.5-3 million for housing, and $22 million for transit. More funding is needed to progress towards the city's goals. A proposed package would increase city revenue by $20-45 million annually primarily through franchise, property, and sales tax.
The proposed franchise fee of 3% wouldn't need voter approval, but the other items would all have to be placed on the ballot for approval. They include a substance tax of 5% (which is currently the least popular item on the list), an increase in property taxes, an additional quarter of a cent on sales tax (which is in effect in Boulder already), a large emitter tax (which would charge $51 per metric ton of CO2 emissions), and a utility occupation tax of 4.5%. This revenue would provide $14.7 million to transit, $1.5 million towards the Active Modes Plan, $2.85 million towards building efficiency, $1.85 million towards electric vehicles, and $2 million towards zero waste.
It's not known how these increased revenue taxes would affect people by income bracket and thus how much of the burden would be placed on low income families. Measures which might burden low income brackets are the least popular. Also, funding obtained should be used to reduce costs for buying sustainable technologies and increasing household efficiency rather than rely on rebates, which are far less attractive. It would also be beneficial to seek more federal funds for these programs.
Air Toxins Monitoring Grant
Larimer County working with CSU obtained a $0.5 million 3 year grant from the EPA to use for air toxics monitoring. The board discussed setting up a Regional Air Quality Monitoring Committee made up of about 14 members who would oversee the use of these funds. The committee itself would not use any of the grant funds.
While the Air Quality Advisory Board is just for the city of Fort Collins, a Regional Air Quality Monitoring Committee would cover the entire county. The two would work together, but the regional committee would be focused on funneling information to grant receivers as well as communicating to the public. The grant was primarily for air toxins relating to oil and gas, but the committee should also cover particulates, precursors, and ozone because they are closely related.
Communication with the public was discussed by the board as an important role for the committee. Since the topic of air toxins is complicated and scary, qualified opinions and information are important. The goal of communication is to motivate people to do something, as individuals play an important role in responding to these issues. Many people don't have attitudes or opinions about a subject until you ask them, and how you ask a question can determine the response. Many don't care about data and just want to know what to do and why to do it. A regional air monitoring committee should communicate with the public in a way that helps foster individual action.
Board Member Reports
A statewide indoor quality and ventilation project is running out of sites who have signed up for the program. They are looking for more non-residential sites in the state willing to be a part of it.
Super Issues had a meeting over land use and affordable housing, but the audience didn't have much opportunity for questions or discussion.
Councilmember Julie Pignataro wants to know what air quality priorities the board wants the council to adopt.
The city needs to get the Inflation Reduction Act money distributed effectively in order to meet climate goals.
A 60% reduction in carbon output is needed from the 2020 target to get to the 2030 target, yet despite being 30% of the way to 2030, the city has only made a progress of 4%, meaning there needs to be a 66% reduction in the remaining 7 years. How close does the current plan get us to getting back on track for 2030?
If the concern about revenue generating strategies on these time critical issues is about how it affects low income residents, is there any discussion about what kinds of revenue could be generated entirely from large businesses and wealthy individuals who would be the least affected ?
What is the contribution to poor air quality in Fort Collins done by industry in Larimer County but not in the city? Could action like Our Climate Future be taken at a county level?
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