In Fayetteville, AR, New Energy Plan ‘Creates Protections’ from Trump Clean Energy Rollbacks

A call to action from residents, a threatened rollback of environmental protections by U.S. President Donald Trump,  and a coal-heavy energy grid have prompted the city of Fayetteville to develop a road map to higher energy efficiency, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported on March 20.

The City Council on February 7 voted 7-1 (Resolution 45-17/file No. 2017-0033) to create an Energy Action Plan that would include:

  • Greenhouse gas mitigation – Achieve greenhouse gas emissions reductions throughout the community.
  • Greening the energy supply – Move the local energy supply for transportation and non-mobile sources toward renewable, less carbon-intensive and less-toxic alternatives.
  • Energy efficiency –Minimize energy use and demand in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors as a means to increase efficiency in the community.
  • Local government greenhouse gas and resource footprint – Lead by example by reducing local government greenhouse gas emissions and minimizing energy and water use in local government facilities and specified local infrastructure.

The plan is based largely on guidelines set by STAR Communities, a national nonprofit that helps evaluate and improve municipalities, and rates them on their environmental efforts. Only a handful of five-star communities exist – among them, Seattle and Baltimore. Fayetteville already has a three-star rating.

Sustainability and Resilience Director Peter Nierengarten told the local news outlet that the city previously has taken steps to become more energy efficient, such as retrofitting the Yvonne Richardson Community Center for energy efficiency, putting LED lighting along trails, and using fuel-efficient heating, ventilation and air-conditioning units at city buildings.

Fayetteville became the first city in the state to adopt Property-Assessed Clean Energy financing in 2014. The national program pays to retrofit homes and businesses with energy-efficient doors and windows, and installs solar panels. The homeowner pays back the loan, which ends up being less than the combined savings in utility bills over a maximum window of 20 years.

The city revved up its environmental efforts in 2009, the Democrat-Gazette reported, with the adoption of an energy code that set benchmarks for energy efficiency in buildings. The new plan will review those benchmarks and set goals to become less dependent on fossil fuels, Nierengarten explained.

What the plan might entail or what regulations, if any, could be imposed is part of ongoing discussions, Nierengarten said. The intention is to guide policymaking.

“We’re not going to propose regulations that don’t make sense from an economic perspective,” he commented to the local news outlet.

Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan and about 70 other mayors of American cities signed a letter in November to Trump asking for support and partnership in tackling the climate crisis.

The city has said that it will continue to make its voice known with another letter if Trump follows through on executive actions to gut the federal Clean Power Plan or pull out of the Paris Agreement, a United Nations accord signed in 2016 to curb greenhouse-gas emissions, according to Nierengarten.

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