Note: Lana Cohen is a Report For America fellow covering the environment & natural resources for TMV & KZYX. Her position is funded by the Community Foundation of Mendocino, Report for America, & our readers. You can support Lana’s work here or email [email protected]. Contact Cohen at LCohen@mendovoice.com. TMV maintains editorial control.
UPDATE 7/21/20 — This morning the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors voted to approve the climate emergency, after Supervisor John McCowen (District 2) pulled it from the consent calendar for a few adjustments to the language. It was passed unanimously.
MENDOCINO Co., 7/20/20 — The Mendocino County Climate Action Committee (MCAAC) met Friday, about making renewable energy more affordable by removing regulatory barriers, their successful efforts to decarbonize the expansion of the Ukiah jail, the county’s overall contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions, and the MCAAC’s declaration of a climate emergency in Mendocino County.
The two hour zoom meeting started off with committee member Cathy Monroe discussing a July 9 report outlining the Climate Action Advisory Committee’s findings in their baseline study — an inventory of the county’s greenhouse gas sources and sinks. The MCAAC (pronounced muh-KAH-ak) is working with a variety of consultancies to assess the greenhouse emissions and forecasts. They are still in the planning stages for most sectors — getting cost estimates for completing the actual greenhouse gas accounting. Ultimately, they hope to use this information to develop a plan to reduce emissions and increase natural greenhouse gas absorption.
“You don’t know where to focus your energy unless you know where your biggest contribution to greenhouse gases is,” said Marie Jones, president of the Climate Action Advisory Committee.
Next, committee member Michael Potts discussed his work on the decarbonization of the Mendocino County Jail expansion project. The new section of the jail was initially supposed to use fossil fuel as its energy source, but after a request from the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors, the architects looked into alternative energy options. Ultimately, they came up with four options which Potts along with a few others analyzed and organized into a four-page brief which is publicly available here. The advisory committee found that the first alternative provided by the architects, all-electric air-source heat pumps would be the best choice for environmental and economic reasons.
Rather than using combustion to create heat air, heat pumps move air around to satisfy climate control needs. According to the federal Department of Energy (DOE), heat pumps can supply an energy efficient alternative to furnaces and air conditioners in areas with moderate heating and cooling needs. MCAAC hopes the environmental considerations taken in this project will set a precedent for future county building projects.
Marie Jones, president of MCAAC, then discussed her goals to make renewable energy options more accessible by removing regulatory barriers. She hopes to make environmentally friendly energy solutions such as solar panels, water storage tanks, and electric car chargers more affordable by working with the County to remove expensive California Coastal Commission permits and replace them with cheaper, generic permits that would be preemptively approved by the Coastal Commission for projects that comply with set standards. Were such accommodations made the permits would then be handed out by the County.
If the Supervisors endorse MCAAC’s declaration of a climate emergency at their meeting on Tuesday, July 21, the County of Mendocino will officially declare “that a climate emergency threatens humanity and the natural and built environments,” as reads the declaration. They would not, however, be making a formal declaration of a state of emergency as occurs during wildfires. In endorsing the climate emergency declaration, the County of Mendocino would pledge to make sure that their actions remain in alignment with the latest science on climate change, encourage full public participation of Mendo residents and address “the climate implications of all policies and actions that come before the Board.”