Arcata, county look at ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

CLIMATE ACTION Connor McGuigan with the Humboldt County Planning Department gives a presentation during the Climate Action Plan workshop on May 20.
Freddy Brewster | Union

Freddy Brewster
Mad River Union

ARCATA – On Monday, May 20 the City of Arcata, along with representatives from the Humboldt County Planning Department, held a public workshop forum to brainstorm ideas to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Arcata. There was one central question posed to the nearly 30 attendants and that was “what can a small community do to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions?”

Connor McGuigan with the Humboldt County Planning Department gave a presentation on a draft of the Humboldt County Climate Action Plan that highlighted where most of the GHG emissions are being produced and what residents and county officials can do to curb future emissions. 

“With this project, we want community involvement to be the most important part of the process because it affects all of us,” McGuigan said. “We want to make sure our strategies reduce emissions and have benefits to our community beyond climate change.”

McGuigan looked at Georgetown, Texas as an example of how a small town can move towards a 100 percent renewable energy future. The Texas town has strong ties to the fossil fuel industry as well as a strong Republican voting base, but the mayor was able to sway the residents by framing the switch to renewable energy as a good business decision, McGuigan said during his presentation. 

To combat climate change and to move towards a future with renewable energy, Humboldt County began drafting a Climate Action Plan.

There are three components to the draft Climate Action Plan which consist of making a GHG inventory, making a GHG emissions target, and developing plans to meet that target.

 When it comes to GHG inventory, transportation is responsible for 48 percent of GHG in Humboldt County; livestock makes up 23 percent; building energy emits 20 percent of GHG; and industrial point sources and solid waste make up the rest.

According to a 2015 study, the unincorporated areas of Humboldt County are responsible for 63 percent of the emissions due to the large number of livestock in those areas. Eureka and Arcata are responsible for 17 percent and 11 percent respectively. When it comes to Arcata’s GHG emissions, transportation is responsible for 69 percent and building energy is responsible for 27 percent.

In the draft Climate Action Plan, Humboldt County set a goal to be 60 percent below 1990 levels of GHG by 2040. To meet that goal, six strategies were showcased during the Monday night workshop that focused on Arcata’s role in the GHG reduction. 

The six plans consisted of sustainable land use planning; low-carbon transportation; zero-net-energy buildings; renewable energy; zero waste; and carbon sequestration.

“We really need to concentrate on how we do housing and how it connects transportation to where we live and work,” said Mike Wilson, Humboldt County Third District supervisor. “Location and density matter and this is really important when it comes to addressing our housing shortage.” 

Part of the draft sustainable land use planning strategy is to develop mixed use buildings where apartments are located above store fronts, much like in Eureka’s Old Town district, and to allow the construction of taller buildings. 

This also ties into the renewable energy plan where a possible listed was to convert the heating source for building to electric instead of propane, natural gas or wood burning.

Arcata City Councilmember Paul Pitino was also in attendance at the workshop and said that it is important for him to be there because climate is a vital issue and that city council has the authority to implement a lot of the strategies laid out in the workshop. 

Pitino said he likes the strategies that were laid out in the sustainable land use planning and the low-carbon transportation because the land use planning has the opportunity to put people where they have quicker access to everyday needs, thus alleviating the need to drive.

“I think we need to make [public transportation] more effective,” Pitino said. “We need to figure out how to make it function for the residents, because the truth is, if it functions for the residents, it will function for the students too.”

Pitino also recognized the role that NIMBY-ism has played in preventing some projects from being built. 

He said that at times politicians have to be “courageous” in their decision making and have to look at what benefits the greater good.

“Part of it is understanding that there is always going to be resistance to any decision you make,” Pitino said. “You just have to say ‘what’s the best in the big picture for a majority of the population’ and make a decision and move on.”


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