Warned about federal $ loss, PPACG board OKs 4% greenhouse gas drop

       Told by the director of the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG) that failure to enact reductions could cost the region federal or state money, the PPACG board unanimously pledged Feb. 9 to reduce regional greenhouse gas emissions by 4 percent per person by 2015.
       The vote represented a compromise of sorts, because a volunteer workshop group, in conjunction with PPACG staff, had recommended a 10 percent reduction by then.
       The matter arose as part of the board's consideration of goals and performance measures needed to update its Regional Transportation Plan (RTP). The document is used to provide transportation policy guidelines for governments in El Paso, Park and Teller counties.
       The voting members of the board are elected officials from governments in those counties.
       A call for greenhouse gas emission reductions is 1 of 17 goals in the workshop group's draft, which includes an overarching “meta-goal” for increasingly fewer miles driven by Pikes Peak region cars over the next 25 years.
       No technical data about greenhouse gases was involved in the vote. There evidently is no such data, at least for the region. Jason Wilkinson of PPACG communications told the Westside Pioneer he is “not aware of any regional impact plan addressing greenhouse gas emissions.” (The Pioneer had asked PPACG the question: “Where is an impact study showing that cutting greenhouse gas emissions in this region will in any way improve our lives, economically or environmentally?”)
       A Wikipedia article states the theory that gases produced by human activity cause a “greenhouse effect,” resulting in global warming.
       A debate on that theory was not part of the meeting. Board decision-making involved picking a reduction number for 2015 that everyone could agree with.
       Rob MacDonald, the PPACG director, made his comments after board member Wayne Williams wondered if the region could really predict any reduction for 2015 because the weak economy has stalled some local transportation projects, meaning that emission-causing traffic congestion will continue indefinitely.
       “Only if you want federal transportation dollars,” MacDonald responded, adding that requirements for cutting greenhouse gas emissions are among many demanded by the federal government in exchange for monetary allocations. Others include mobility, safety, wildlife preservation and historical protection.
       He pointed out that the board had the option of not complying, but federal officials “will check if we've cleared all those wonderful hurdles.”
       Jim Ignatius, representing Teller County, suggested a 1 percent greenhouse gas drop for 2015, but never made a motion for that.
       Larry Small moved for the 4 percent number after a speech asserting that public support is needed for the reduction goals. He questioned whether citizens “understand what we expect them to do to accomplish these goals… If the public won't buy in, they're never going to happen.” He did not say why he chose the number 4 nor what steps he foresaw to gain such a buy-in.
       Agreeing with the workshop, the board vote also calls for percentage drops of 20 in 2025 and 30 in 2035.
       Before the vote, Williams checked with PPACG planner Brian Vitulli to verify that such was per capita and not absolute. The region's population is to increase 60 percent by 2035, so a 30 percent absolute emissions decrease would be difficult to achieve, Williams said.
       “We'd be walking,” Ignatius quipped.
       Vitulli told the board he was almost positive the number is per capita, but would check to be sure.
       Adding to the mix, Rich Muzzy, PPACG's environmental planning manager, advised the board that in July the federal Environ-mental Protection Agency plans to announce a new ozone standard. Indicating an expectation that the standard will be lower than the one at present, MacDonald added, “we [the governments in the PPACG] may all be in violation.”

Westside Pioneer article