Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hearing focusing on state and local officials’ efforts to combat the impacts of climate change. The mayors and county commissioner who appeared made it clear that in order to effectively mitigate the effects of climate change, emphasis needs to be placed on implementing proactive initiatives that work to help local economies become more sustainable.
Not one official promoted a litigious approach to climate change. They highlighted programs like the energy benchmarking of buildings, electrification of the transportation sector, and upgrading building infrastructure. These programs, they said, have proven to be simple yet effective ways to reduce local emission levels while boosting economic development. The leaders also explained how important it is to work with manufacturers to achieve meaningful results on climate change.
Midland, Texas Mayor Jerry F. Morales emphasized the contributions the fossil fuel industry has made to his city’s economic well-being:
“Property values have increased. Sales tax receipts are at record highs, and businesses have seen 15 to 25 percent growth in their respective businesses. Two years in a row Midland has been ranked third by Smart Assets as the best city in the nation for living the American dream.”
He also testified that many of Texas’ energy manufacturers have been leading conservation efforts in Midland and the Permian Basin at-large:
“Mr. Schiff, the CEO of Pioneer Resources stated that the sustainable operation could continue for a minimum of 10 to 15 years. With this recent announcement, Pioneer and the city of Midland entered into a public-private partnership where Pioneer will spend in excess of $130 million to rehabilitate the city’s secondary water plant. The city of Midland will then sell this treated water back to Pioneer to be used for operational purposes. This partnership will save taxpayers money, ensure that Midland has treated water in case of another drought and reduce truck traffic through transportation lines and for infrastructure uses.”
Columbia, South Carolina and current President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) Steve Benjamin focused on local infrastructure upgrades. He told the Committee that modernizing lighting systems, HVAC systems in city buildings, and installing solar panels on fire stations reduced greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption in Columbia and saved taxpayers about $337,000 per year.:
“We bit the bullet and increased storm water fees to fund a wide array of projects to improve our stormwater system using both gray and green infrastructure. We also issued our first ever green bond in December allowing the city to finance upgrades and improvements to our stormwater system, earning the first climate bond initiative certification of stand-alone stormwater project in the country. We’ve worked hard in Columbia, as cities have throughout the country.
Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski spoke of how, in 2017, her city passed an energy benchmarking and transparency ordinance for commercial buildings that made measuring and reporting energy cost-free and “…and is projected to eliminate up to 29 tons of air pollutants annually and even more carbon,” calling the action “a commonsense best practice.”
Last week’s hearing proved that there are many tangible actions public officials can take that will both result in meaningful progress in combatting the impacts of climate change and improve the livelihood of their constituents. What’s more, the testimony from these local leaders explained how manufacturers, from those producing natural gas to those building energy-efficient appliances, can be a great partner in accomplishing these goals. Public-private partnerships can provide cities with even more resources to pursue sustainability initiatives. Ultimately, the Energy and Commerce hearing served to highlight the fact that collaboration and innovation – not litigation – between municipalities, states and manufacturers is key to creating a more sustainable future.