Officials Oppose Participation in Environmental Pact
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Fairfax County officials have recommended against joining a nationwide effort by local governments to reduce carbon emissions that contribute to global warming, saying more study is needed to determine a realistic goal.
Since early last year, more than 300 cities -- including Baltimore, Richmond and Alexandria -- have signed on to the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement. The initiative, modeled on the Kyoto Protocol and the Sierra Club's Cool Cities program, calls for the communities to reduce production of carbon dioxide to 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.
At the request of the Sierra Club's Virginia chapter, the Board of Supervisors asked county staff in July to study the agreement and make recommendations. County Executive Anthony H. Griffin told the board's environmental committee yesterday that although Fairfax takes climate change seriously, 1990 is not the right year for a baseline. Because many county offices were in leased buildings that year, he said, it would be difficult to gather the required information. He said the county's enormous population growth since 1990 also makes the year a questionable benchmark.
"We recognize that there is a problem," Griffin said. "What we're a little concerned about is setting goals when we don't know what the data is." He said the county needs a more detailed picture of carbon sources before a rational plan can be pursued.
Board Chairman Gerald E. Connolly (D) said that he agreed with the sense of caution but that it is important for localities to move into the vacuum he said was created by White House inaction on climate change.
"It's an incredible story when we have a national administration that disregards credible evidence of the problem," Connolly said. "Local and state governments will have to pick up the slack."
Sierra Club members said that they were encouraged that the county is pursuing the issue but that they were disappointed by the delay.
"I'm not sure I understand the reticence," said Roger Diedrich, Virginia chapter chairman.
Supervisor Penelope A. Gross (D-Mason), chairman of the environmental panel, said the county might set a baseline year. "We may end up doing our own thing," she said.
Griffin said that regardless of the Conference of Mayors plan, the county has been working actively to reduce carbon emissions. It began buying hybrid vehicles for its fleet in 2002, has purchased wind energy from a West Virginia farm and has used gas recovered from landfills to help heat government buildings, he said. "We were doing these things before it was cool," Griffin said.