Dec. 9, 2008
GO GREEN? NO SWEAT, LOCAL LEADERS SAY
AS FEDERAL STIMULUS PLAN TAKES SHAPE
Charlotte, N.C. ¨C If the federal government wants to help Mecklenburg County in its efforts to become cleaner and greener, local officials have one thing to say: They¡¯re ready.
President-elect Barack Obama and federal lawmakers are developing an economic stimulus package that would pump billions into the development of sustainable energy practices. Mecklenburg County has already implemented a variety of green-practices programs ¨C and has many more on deck that are simply awaiting the funding needed to bring them to fruition.
Mecklenburg County and the greater Charlotte metropolitan area are not alone. As part of Local Climate Action Week, Mecklenburg County officials and other local leaders are joining local governments nationwide in showcasing initiatives that save energy, reduce waste and emissions, preserve land, and embrace sustainable building practices.
Jennifer Roberts, chairman of the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners, attended a regional partnership forum recently at which she learned that the Charlotte metropolitan area is particularly well-positioned to retool around alternative energy.
¡°Sustainable development is one of the three target industries the region has recognized,¡± Roberts says. ¡°First, it¡¯s a growing industry. Second, it¡¯s good economics, which comes from job growth. Third, it¡¯s the right thing to do for the environment. We¡¯re working in a 16-county region to identify the resources we have that can be redirected to help us reduce our carbon footprint and increase jobs.¡±
Mecklenburg County sustainability initiatives that have already been implemented include:
¡ñ A policy that prioritizes Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification or better for all new and retrofitted County facilities, including Freedom Mall, the Medical Examiner¡¯s Office and Revolution Sports and Learning Academy.
¡ñ The Green Permit Rebate Program, which offers incentive for area builders to develop projects in an environmentally sustainable and energy efficient way.
¡ñ Adopted an energy plan with an energy savings goal of 50 percent below 2006 levels.
¡ñ The Fleet Management Program that includes the purchase of low-emission vehicles (including hybrid and electric vehicles).
¡ñ Incentive for employees to reduce their vehicle miles traveled. As a result, the County has been recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency as a ¡°Best Workplaces for Commuters¡± employer.
Mecklenburg County sustainability initiatives that are unfunded include:
¡ñ The Grants to Replace Aging Diesel Engines (GRADE) project, which would help businesses replace aging construction equipment, install new engines in old equipment, or retrofit equipment with auxiliary pollution control devices. In fiscal 2008, GRADE funded $400,000 in projects in Charlotte¡¯s ozone nonattainment region. These projects removed 43 tons of nitrogen oxide from our air over five years.
¡ñ Clean Air Works! is a project of the Regional Air Quality Board, in collaboration with the Regional Planning Alliance, the City of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County Air Quality, Charlotte Area Transit System, the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, the Centralina Council of Governments, and the Catawba Regional Council of Governments. The project would help employers improve air quality by developing employee commute alternatives, and by assisting in retooling operations and maintenance activities to reduce emissions.
¡ñ Greenway trails are an increasingly important part of the County¡¯s transportation infrastructure. The trail networks connect schools, shopping areas, public transit, libraries, parks and retail destinations. Several projects would be viable candidates for federal economic stimulus funding.
¡ñ Toby Creek Greenway, a two-mile trail that would link residents to the UNC-Charlotte campus and the University Place shopping district to the future Northeast light rail extension from downtown Charlotte.
¡ñ Irwin Creek Greenway. Located in western Charlotte, Irwin Creek Greenway will run from West Boulevard to the existing trails off of Barringer Drive. Just more than a mile long, Irwin Creek Greenway will provide access to the new Revolution Sports and Learning Academy (which is currently seeking LEED certification), Revolution Park, Revolution Golf Course, and Clanton Park. The trail would also provide a connection to Barringer Elementary School.
¡ñ Sugar Creek Greenway. Located in southwestern Charlotte, Sugar Creek greenway would link to CityPark, a new pedestrian-friendly development with a mix of residential, retail and office space. This greenway would also offer access to the State Farmers Market and Renaissance Park.
Participants in Local Climate Action Week ¨C including many local governments in the Carolinas ¨C have joined with Climate Communities, a national nonprofit, and Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI ) to endorse ¡°Empowering Local Government Climate Action: Blueprint for the New President and 111th Congress,¡± a resource for the federal government that illustrates how local governments can contribute to economic recovery while helping save the environment. To read the blueprint, go to