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Missoula Mayor John Engen said at Friday’s City Club Missoula discussion that since cities produce 73 percent of all greenhouse gases, he believes it is his duty, as mayor, to catalyze a significant reduction in emissions in Missoula. “When it comes to global warming," Engen said to the audience in the Florence building, "cities are both the problem and the solution.” Engen described anti-sprawl, urban forest restoration and public information campaigns as being crucial in achieving greenhouse gas levels in line with the Kyoto Protocol, which calls for a reduction in emissions to seven percent below 1990 levels by 2012. He also cited energy conservation and efficiency.

Mayor Details Plan for Reducing Missoula’s Global Warming Emissions

Missoula Mayor John Engen said at Friday’s City Club Missoula discussion that since cities produce 73 percent of all greenhouse gases, he believes it is his duty, as mayor, to catalyze a significant reduction in emissions in Missoula.

“When it comes to global warming,” Engen said to the audience in the Florence building, “cities are both the problem and the solution.”

Engen described anti-sprawl, urban forest restoration and public information campaigns as being crucial in achieving greenhouse gas levels in line with the Kyoto Protocol, which calls for a reduction in emissions to seven percent below 1990 levels by 2012. He also cited energy conservation and efficiency.

Engen is continuing a plan started by his predecessor Mike Kadas, both of whom signed on to the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement.

One feature of the city’s plan involves the use of methane-powered boilers at the wastewater treatment plant. These boilers will make the plant more energy efficient, and “green” in another way, too: a poplar farm will soon be planted there. The fast-growing poplar trees will help suck up excess nitrogen and CO2. Engen also said a local eco-compost company will take the sludge, or run off, and convert it into compost.

Other items on the city’s agenda include getting GMC hybrid pickup trucks for the city and the fire departments, and more efficient diesel vehicles fueled by recycled oil at the police station pump.

Also, the police department will be getting a face-lift as it pursues a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. It will involve solar paneling of some kind, automatic shut off and laser sensors for water faucets, energy efficient lighting, and more.

Recycling, of course, is a component of the plan as well. However, Engen said because of low volume and high cost of transportation, glass recycling in Missoula is still, sadly, impossibile.

Where will the money come from to make these improvements? Perhaps a two percent tax on expenses such as hotel lodging, restaurant meals and liquor by the glass, Engen said. In defense of this idea, he quipped, “I’ve eaten at restaurants and had liquor by the glass and after a couple that (tax) could go up.”

It’s an ambitious plan, but the mayor walks the talk: he drives a 40 MPG Toyota Prius. And yes, he assured the audience, he can fit into it.

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4 comments

  1. This is a well written article by Anne Meyer. The mayor deserves kudos for all he is trying to accomplish.

  2. Nice job Anne. As someone who was there (I was the guy sitting next to you), I appreciated a lot of what the Mayor had to say, and think you did a great job of covering his comments.

    One of the thing that was interesting to me – when a gentleman asked whether or not we have an “inventory” yet of what our current greenhouse gasses are here in Missoula. Answer: nope (and even if he can get one, Engen added, it’d really only cover what the city is producing). So how do we get a handle on what the public / private sectors are producing? Hmm… no one asked that. As someone who spent 14 years in the software industry, one of the things that you learn about optimization is that you need to be able to benchmark something before you can actually begin to improve it. And even then, you also need to know what the improvements are going to cost (the old cost-benefit ratio). It would have been nice to hear more along those lines.

    Another thought – one thoughtful young woman at our table raised a question like this: “What if solving the GW problem takes more than just flourescent lights and electric cars – what if it takes redefining our whole culture?” I thought that was a great question – these discussions sometimes seem to assume that our American lifestyle (materialism, hedonsism, consumerism) are fundamentally compatible with a clean earth. And I just wonder if maybe we need to reconsider that presumption. What if the two are really incompatible? What would it take to change people’s hearts to the point that they’d actually be willing to give up a culture of consumption? I don’t hear many people asking these questions…

    Final question – this was a great meeting. So what’s next? What’s the forum for continuing (and fostering more of) this kind of dialogue w/in the community of Missoula? As much as I like to feel good about myself for being part of the discussion for an hour and a half on Friday, I know I would really benefit from pusuing these kinds of discussions on a regular ongoing basis. If anyone knows of anything like this, I’d sure like to hear about it (christian.cryder@gmail.com)

  3. Hooray for Mayor Engen and crew! It will be GREAT to have a LEED certified City building and have that methane from the sewer plant harnessed to do something more productive than stink up whole neighborhoods. And all the other good stuff…

    Yeah, knowing your environmental footprint is important. If you don’t know where you start, you can’t measure progress. It’s not tough to get a rough environmental footprint together, but it takes time. You need your utility and fuel bills, odometer readings, real property records…stuff that the City already keeps records on. I’d sure not want to discourage the City from doing the right thing by suggesting that they postpone their plans until they do the paperwork exercise to determine the current footprint, however!

    For those who are interested in doing something about sustainability in Missoula, check out the Sustainable Business Council (http://www.sustainablebusinesscouncil.org/). It’s not just for-profit businesses, it includes HomeWORD, Missoula in Motion, and lots of other non-profits that are always looking for volunteers to help further sustainability. For those interested in web resources for the build environment, check out the SBC sub-page the Committee for the Built Environment has put together at http://www.sustainablebusinesscouncil.org/built/builtenvironment.html.

    Lots of sustainable things are happening right here in the Garden City – lots more could be happening if more people were involved.

  4. I just read where Australia is requiring the switch from incandescent lighting to fluorescent. Now if Missoula would couple such a program with requiring that present hot water tanks be replaced only with the instant hot water types there would be real progress for decreased power usage.