County Joins Area Green Initiatives

By Sandhya Somashekhar
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 17, 2008

Loudoun County officials pledged Tuesday to help reduce the region's greenhouse gas emissions and encourage more environmentally friendly buildings, which they said probably will save taxpayers money and cut the county's contribution to global warming.

The Board of Supervisors voted to join three regional environmental initiatives. One of them provides tools and guidelines to help the county adopt green building standards. A second would grant Loudoun the label of "green county" if it meets certain requirements.

The third measure signs up Loudoun for the Cool Capital Challenge, which aims to reduce the Washington region's carbon dioxide emissions by a billion pounds by next April. The coalition in the program includes Arlington, Fairfax and other counties in the Washington area, as well as dozens of churches, businesses and individuals.

The votes do not commit Loudoun officials to making immediate changes in policies. But they set laudable goals and put the county on track toward adopting stricter environmental standards, Supervisor Andrea McGimsey (D-Potomac) said.

Moreover, "because we're in such a fast-growing jurisdiction and we're on the edge of the nation's capital, there's a lot of opportunity to do things right from the beginning," she said. "We really have a fantastic opportunity to do things the right way."

The resolutions passed 6 to 1, with Supervisor Eugene A. Delgaudio (R-Sterling) voting no. Chairman Scott K. York (I) and Supervisor Sarah R. "Sally" Kurtz (D-Catoctin) were absent.

In his remarks, Delgaudio lashed out broadly at environmental initiatives, including energy-saving compact fluorescent bulbs because they contain a small amount of toxic mercury. He also condemned hybrid vehicles and mocked fears related to global warming.

Delgaudio criticized what he said would be unnecessary costs to implement policies. In particular, he said, the initiatives could undermine the county's effort to reduce the cost of constructing schools by 10 percent.

"My taxpayers are tired of these artificial costs imposed on them caused by an overbearing, environmentalist-minded government," he said.

In a written report presented to the board, county staff members said that stricter building standards could initially be more expensive but that the county could save money in the long run because of reduced energy costs.

Supervisor Lori L. Waters (R-Broad Run), a fiscal conservative, agreed with that analysis, noting the rising price of electricity, gasoline and other sources of energy.

"I am glad that the county is buying hybrid vehicles instead of regular gasoline guzzlers," Waters said. "That saves the taxpayers money."

The green building program endorsed by the board, initiated by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, requires the county to aim for a high level of energy efficiency and air and water quality in government buildings. The program, known as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, includes goals for private construction.

The Cool Capital Challenge, also a COG program, asks council members to develop a plan by October to significantly cut their carbon dioxide emissions by next year. Fairfax County, for example, expects to prevent a million pounds of emissions by planting trees, buying wind energy, using hybrid vehicles and other methods.

The green county program, developed by the Virginia Municipal League, allows counties to gain that status by meeting 100 of 200 environmental criteria. So far, Loudoun officials estimate, the county has met 75 criteria by encouraging telecommuting and using energy-efficient outdoor lighting, among other practices.

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