Clallam County has a relatively low contribution to the atmosphere's greenhouse gas load compared to other governments.
But according to its Climate Advisory Group, the county must do what it can to limit its carbon footprint while standing as an example for citizens to consider the impacts of their day-to-day activities.
"The conservation of energy, replacement of inefficient infrastructure and intelligent disposal and reuse of waste and recyclable materials are smart choices for a number of reasons, including reducing carbon emissions," said group facilitator and Clallam County associate planner Sam Fox.
"What stops a county like ours is often a funding gap. But we can institute some changes now without a dramatic impact to the budget and begin to look at larger changes as we move forward as a county."
Fox presented the group's draft action plan to the Clallam County commissioners in early December. He will bring back a final plan in late January that will include emissions reduction goals over the next 40 years, as directed by the commissioners.
It is not a prescription for what the county must do, but rather a collection of policy statements that will help guide future energy usage decisions.
The plan outlines ways emissions and energy usage can be reduced throughout the county's building inventory, vehicle fleet and other operations, such as the Clallam Bay-Sekiu Wastewater Treatment Plant.
Many of the suggested changes in county operations were what county administrator Jim Jones called the "low hanging fruit," such as educating employees on energy conservation, alternative employee commute opportunities and an on-site courthouse recycling system.
Other goals will need additional funding if they are to be implemented. The group would like to see a facilitator to oversee efficiency measures and improvements to the infrastructure including alternative energy sources, such as biodiesel and solar power.
"As we get more information and as some of these measures show an improvement, the momentum will catch on," said Jones, indicting funding would dictate what additional improvements come about.
"We already have a lot on the horizon regarding enhanced solar capabilities and biodiesel use in the county over the next few years."
Clallam County Commissioner Mike Doherty, D-Port Angeles, said he's heard from many people that a recycling program is needed in the courthouse.
Fox said it wouldn't be a problem to put out separate disposal bins, but the collection and disposal is a problem.
"There isn't commercial recycling in Port Angeles other than cardboard," said Commissioner Mike Chapman, I-Port Angeles. "But there are options. There are charity recycling collection bins across from our new building on Third Street."
The discussion will continue in months to come.
The action plan identifies four pilot projects that work toward its efficiency policies.
First, the plan identifies a Clallam County Fairgrounds efficiency project. The group suggests identifying local partners to move the fairgrounds and fair toward a minimal waste facility and event.
"These pilot projects are based on areas of county operations that have a public interface and are where we found clusters of potential efficiency improvements," Fox said. "For instance, the fairgrounds have pre-existing infrastructure that run east-west, so a solar element may be very beneficial there."
The second pilot project involves making the entire Parks Department a green agency within the county. The goal is to connect park lighting to solar panels, to create county vehicle use policies and equipment-sharing agreements.
"Solar isn't the only way to improve the parks setting, but it is an effective one," Fox said. "Even going so far as to insulate walls, wrap pipes and replace windows in areas like Camp David Jr. will make us more efficient."
Third, a pilot project could explore opportunities to refine energy consumption in the courthouse through collecting usage data, providing employees with educational material and searching for ways to replace outdated infrastructure or technologies.
"The plan also encourages more documents to go digital in the courthouse and, of course, the recycling element," Fox said.
Finally, the plan calls for a project to refine energy usage at the Clallam Bay-Sekiu Wastewater Plant and to search out co-generation energy options.
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