The Clallam County Climate Action Group has made strides in estimating the government's carbon footprint.
With each step the group takes, county leaders begin to realize what the impact of local government is on the atmosphere and start to look at ways to lessen that impact.
"While Clallam County itself is but a small piece in a global problem, it will take efforts from everyone, especially government, to make a difference in the amount of greenhouse gas emissions released and to serve as an example to others," group coordinator and Clallam County planner Sam Fox said.
The group emission levels in three areas of the county from 2006 as tons of carbon released into the atmosphere - about 6,459.
The county's buildings topped the list, contributing about 53 percent of the total, while transportation came in a close second with 45 percent.
"The buildings' estimates are a bit off because we are at about 80 percent hydro (power) and the method we used assumed a higher percentage of coal power," Fox said, indicating the courthouse was the main contributor. "The pattern should remain the same, however, which is comparable to the state and Jefferson County on a percentage basis."
The transportation estimates were a bit more concrete, although some assumptions were made regarding county employees' commutes to work. Heavy machinery and trucks used in the Public Works Department were the main contributors in transportation, with law enforcement and employee commutes also making an impact.
"We received employee personal transportation survey responses from about 156 out of 422 workers," Fox said, indicating the survey determined commutes and identified barriers between employees and alternative transportation.
"We had some really great suggestions. These and other ideas will be proposed as part of an action plan that will begin to address ways to lessen our carbon output."
The Clallam County board of commissioners authorized the group to form the study and create an action plan to comply with the long-term goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent from the base year.
The base year has not been determined for Clallam County and will continue to be discussed at the group's meetings. The group chose 2006 as its first year to study because it was when many of the records it needed were recorded digitally.
"Jefferson County is a bit ahead of us. They have already calculated back to 1990," Fox said. "It will be something we will continue to discuss because there are benefits and problems with setting your start date that far back. Plus, we are also spending a lot of time on the action plan."
The action plan will be based on the group's findings and will identify possible ways for the county to reduce its emissions.
The group will propose pilot projects to determine if certain actions will have a positive impact on emissions as well as a positive impact on county operations.
"We're making sure county operations will not be hindered as a result of any proposed changes, which is why we would test plans before looking to make them the standard," Fox said.
One project Fox mentioned would install meters on different areas of the courthouse to track which departments, such as the jail, use the most electricity. The courthouse presently has one meter for all its usage.
Other plans include creating a cogeneration system at the Clallam Bay/Sekiu sewage plant, starting an education outreach program or teaming with other agencies to purchase bulk amounts of biodiesel, which already is used in some diesel trucks.
Eventually, if successful, a project could become the standard in county operations.
"To determine our footprint we are using software from (the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives), which is the same Jefferson County and other local jurisdictions are using. That way we have comparable results," Fox said.
"With similar goals in mind on a regional level in an area that is rural and dependent on varied types of transportation, we can all work together on mechanisms that would be more difficult to do alone," Fox said. "Plus, who knows what will happen with a national or state carbon cap and trade economy. By having things prepared now on a regional level, we will be a much more viable competitor in that type of market."
Fox and the group will bring the action plan and updated carbon footprint to the commissioners later in November, at about the same time a state-level panel doing similar work is due to make its report to the governor.
The emissions Clallam County operations released in 2006, which are relayed in tons of carbon dioxide, are split into three categories:
Source Tons of carbon dioxide Percentage
• Buildings 3,409 53
• Transportation 2,873 45
• Other 177 >3
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