A Montgomery County Council member plans to introduce 13 environmental and energy reform proposals to address the consequences of climate change — an area where he says the federal government has fallen short.
Some of the ideas from Roger Berliner (D-Potomac-Bethesda) are adapted from laws passed in New York state, California, Chicago, the District and other places. They include a requirement that commercial and residential building owners publicly disclose the energy-efficiency ratings of their properties. Other provisions would require new commercial buildings to meet a more stringent level of construction — Silver LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) — set by the U.S. Green Building Council and to have at least one electric automobile charging station for every 50 parking spaces.
Berliner also wants the county government to establish a goal of buying 50 percent of its energy from renewable sources, such as wind, solar or biomass, by 2015 and 100 percent by 2020. Currently, about a third of its energy is from renewable sources.
In a letter to council colleagues, Berliner said he was “inspired” by last year’s passage of a local minimum wage higher than the federal minimum, which has not been adjusted since 2009.
“I think all of us appreciate that the federal government has become so dysfunctional that we can expect little progress on many of the issues that we deeply care about,” Berliner wrote. That includes climate change.
“It is obviously not a hoax and we know we need to address it. We need to use less energy and cleaner energy. Period,” he said.
A public hearing is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Feb. 11.
Berliner successfully sponsored 2008 legislation that codified the county’s goal of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions 10 percent every five years through 2050. It also created a Sustainability Working Group tasked with researching a range of other steps, including establishing a carbon tax on major emission sources, such as power plants.
That idea did not survive a court challenge by the owner of a generating plant in Dickerson.
The working group, co-chaired by the county’s environmental protection director, Robert Hoyt, made more than 50 recommendations in a 2009 report. But Berliner said that County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), who requested that the group be formed and chose its 26 members, did not follow up with specific legislative proposals.
“The expectation I had was that the county executive would forward recommendations,” he said.
Leggett has been “very active” in carrying out recommendations through non-legislative rulemaking, said his spokesman, Patrick Lacefield, adding that it includes such areas as recycling, tree canopies and storm-water management, as well as millions invested in mass transit, bicycle and pedestrian facilities.
“We’ve been working through the list of things,” Lacefield said.
Berliner appears to enjoy broad council support for the package. Five other members of the council are listed as co-sponsors: George L. Leventhal (D-At Large), Nancy Floreen (D-At Large), Marc Elrich (D-At Large), Phil Andrews (D-Gaithersburg-Rockville) and Nancy Navarro (D-Midcounty).
The council is likely to get pushback from building industry groups on some proposals.
Shaun Pharr, senior vice president of government affairs for the Apartment and Office Building Association of Metropolitan Washington, said that many commercial buildings already make their efficiency ratings available to the public and that mandates are not necessary.
Pharr also said that the county might want to explore financial incentives, rather than mandates, for developers to install charging stations for electric vehicles. The cost of such stations, about $3,500 each, would probably be passed along to tenants, Pharr said.
But Pharr added that his organization was willing to sit down with Berliner and the council to work through the issues, as they did in the District, where some of the provisions are in use. He said the process took about three years.