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Local governments launch studies to find ways to reduce energy use

Cities and the county studying ways to reduce their greenhouse gas emmissions

by Dawn Pillsbury - Sonoma West Staff Writer

ROHNERT PARK -- Saving money by using less energy was the subject of a meeting of city officials participating in the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives on Monday.

Ten governments in Sonoma County -- seven cities, Sonoma State University and Santa Rosa Junior College as well as the county government -- have joined the campaign to reduce their municipal greenhouse gas emissions. Representatives of many of the cities and the county met with ICLEI organizers, academics from Sonoma State University, activists and the seven interns who will help the cities meet their goals at the Environmental Technologies Center at SSU on Feb. 4.

"ICLEI was founded by city officials to address global environmental problems on a local level," said ICLEI director Abby Young. "We can improve the global environment through cumulative local action. We can have a measurable impact."

Ann Hancock, Graton environmental activist and project coordinator for the local campaign

Governments use much of the energy that generates greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide and methane, which have been linked to global climate change and warming, she said.

Young announced that the cumulative greenhouse gas reduction from the 560 municipalities participating in the program since 1998 is 10.5 million tons, resulting in 170 tons of air pollutants not discharged and a savings of $220 million in energy and fuel.

"We're showing that climate protection is connected to livable communities," Young said.

Young said Sonoma County's level of participation in the campaign is phenomenal.

"I live in Marin, where you can't get even five cities to agree where to have lunch, much less make a municipal priority of global climate protection," she said.

The campaign's goal is to reduce emissions by 75 to 80 percent, which is what the planet needs to avoid climate change, said ICLEI Outreach Director Susan Ore.

Supervisor Tim Smith said he is proud of the steps the county has taken to reduce its impact and he looks forward to doing more.

"Hopefully we can leave the planet a heck of a lot better than we got it," said Smith. "The baby boomers have been the champions of consumption. We need to leave a legacy we'll be proud of so our kids can say, 'Thank goodness someone did something about it.'"

Santa Rosa City Councilwoman Jane Bender said her city is looking into reducing energy used in water pumping and treatment and bringing climate protective technologies to private citizens too.

"Santa Rosa is looking at a green building plan through Austin Energy in Texas," she said. "They're working with builders, architects and construction workers to come up with plans that move from the experimental to the every day."

"It's good to see that something good in energy is coming out of Texas," said former West County Supervisor Ernie Carpenter, who has been advising the local campaign.

"I've heard George Bush has a solar-powered ranch house out there," said Sebastopol City Councilman Sam Spooner.

Spooner also said Sebastopol is in a good position to widen its climate protection campaign.

"People in the Sebastopol community are asking for these things," he said.

Cotati City Councilwoman Janet Orchard said her city is taking the lead in using green technologies to build their new police station as an example to developers.

"It's economically feasible," she said. "There's no reason not to use green building principles in any new building."

Ann Hancock, Graton environmental activist and project coordinator for the local campaign, said her concern about the impact of continued levels of greenhouse gas emissions moved her to action.

"It could greatly change our way of life," she said. "Every time I walk around, this December and January, people say, 'It's so beautiful, it's scary.' We're just starting to see the changes."

There will be a series of talks in the coming months at Sonoma State University on climate change. See "Find out what Gaia has in store for Sonoma County weather," page A4.

For more information about the local campaign, visit For more about the international campaign, visit


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