Eco-Friendly Initiative Proposed For Fairfax

Gerald E. Connolly, chairman of the Fairfax supervisors, said the county can do more to combat climate change.
Gerald E. Connolly, chairman of the Fairfax supervisors, said the county can do more to combat climate change. (By Mark Gong -- The Washington Post)
By Amy Gardner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 15, 2007

Fairfax plans to become a "cool" county, where wind power, hybrid vehicles and environmentally friendly building techniques would reduce emissions of greenhouse gases to combat global warming, Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerald E. Connolly will announce today.

Connolly (D) said that he is developing the program with the Sierra Club and a few other large counties across the nation and that he wants it to be a model for communities everywhere.

Connolly, who will outline the multimillion-dollar initiative in his televised State of the County address at 6:30 p.m., said his plan has the support of the Board of Supervisors. The board is dominated by Democrats.

For Fairfax's 1 million residents, Connolly's proposal would mean rides on ethanol-burning buses, tax breaks for owning hybrid cars and new neighborhoods with more trees and green space. Residents might also grow accustomed to seeing green on public buildings -- vegetation planted on the roofs of schools and firehouses to consume carbon dioxide, Connolly said.

Such measures are in place in Montgomery and Arlington counties, which are generally supportive of progressive environmental policies. In business-friendly Fairfax, Connolly's plan would not impose regulations, but it would establish incentives for private-sector energy conservation.

If the Board of Supervisors carries out Connolly's initiative, it could place Fairfax in the vanguard of U.S. efforts to curtail emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases widely believed to contribute to global warming. But it will take millions of dollars -- to plant trees, buy parkland and vehicles and construct or retrofit "green" buildings to be more energy-efficient and less polluting.

"There are over 3,000 counties, and this could have an enormous impact across the nation," said Connolly, who is scheduled to announce his bid for reelection tomorrow. "We've got an administration that until very recently has denied the reality of global warming, denied the science that is overwhelming and compelling. So what we're trying to do here is lead by example."

That is something many other jurisdictions are already doing -- without the fanfare.

Last year, Montgomery became one of only two jurisdictions in the nation requiring private and public buildings to meet strict energy-conserving criteria promoted by a nonprofit group. Also, Montgomery obtains 10 percent of its energy from wind power and is committed to increasing the number to 20 percent in the next five years.

Arlington is considering a higher tax on electricity and natural gas bills next year to help pay for $1.5 million in energy-saving initiatives such as solar-powered projects and energy audits for homes.

Arlington Board Chairman Paul Ferguson (D) praised Connolly for putting forward a "positive environmental agenda" for the region and the nation. But Ferguson noted that establishing precise, measurable goals for reducing emissions is the key to a successful program.

"Otherwise, you know you're doing positive things, but you don't know how far you're going in the right direction," he said.

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