By STEVE BOHNEL
After six months reviewing current climate policies within various organizations countywide, the Climate Emergency Mobilization Workgroup presented a 22-page midterm report to County Council members Tuesday.
The workgroup, which has four subcommittees, was formed after Councilman Kai Hagen (D) and Councilwoman Jessica Fitzwater (D) introduced legislation forming the body last year. The council passed that bill on a 4-3 vote, with Republican members opposed to the term “emergency” in the bill.
Co-chairs Kevin Sellner and Barb Trader said numerous groups have supported the group since it started, from the Frederick County Farm Bureau, Frederick County Chamber of Commerce and Frederick County Building Industry Association, among others.
Sellner and Trader emphasized Tuesday the work group does not have any formal recommendations yet, but the report states there are numerous opportunities for the county to implement inexpensive solutions to address climate change, and “climate solutions also help address the staggering costs and equity issues for poor and minority communities.”
“We’re not trying to start from ground zero, because there are so many lessons learned from other communities … we can go in and look at how other jurisdictions and areas have looked at [this],” Sellner said of the group’s goals.
Some actions have already been taken. Ron Kaltenbaugh, chair of the Energy, Transportation and Buildings subcommittee, noted that the county bus fleet shifting from diesel to electric, improving the air quality along bus routes countywide.
Councilman Jerry Donald (D) asked if there were any pressing policy recommendations after six months of work. Sellner, Trader and Kaltenbaugh all said they are still working on contacting numerous community groups and finalizing any type of final recommendation.
But Kaltenbaugh noted it is more efficient to conserve energy than it is to reduce energy use with regards to climate change solutions.
Councilman Steve McKay (R) asked about the use of solar panels on public school roofs and if the work group had contacted Frederick County Public School officials about that possibility.
Kaltenbaugh said they still needed to contact officials, but that one aspect that discourages those projects is up-front cost. But if schools allow other companies or organizations to construct the solar array and then buy back the energy long-term, they can avoid those, he added.
McKay also highlighted the need for the work group to really push council members and other county officials to improve broadband service—something the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted and which could get more cars off the road.
He said he’s heard from multiple constituents who live near new developments who have no access to broadband.
“There’s pockets of no broadband all over the county, it’s a very systemic issue,” McKay said.
Follow Steve Bohnel on Twitter: @Steve_Bohnel.