PORTSMOUTH — 1st Ward Councilman Sean Dunne feels that Ohio trails behind in the implementation of renewable energy, which proponents argue is a cleaner and more sustainable way to meet energy needs.
Portsmouth, however, may not follow suit and take action in the battle against Climate Change.
Not waiting for action from Columbus, Dunne is suggesting City Council take a pledge to only use renewable energy by 2035 for city properties and 2050 for the entire city.
“I think trying to make sure people are able to use renewable, clean, and inexpensive energy is a pressing issue,” he said, the price of particular interest after state lawmakers did not take any action on the scandalous Ohio House Bill 6.
HB 6 passed in July 2019 and along with collecting $150 million annually to bailout two nuclear power plants, lowers Ohio’s renewable energy requirement from a 12.5% goal by 2027 to 8.5% by 2026 without a standard beyond that year.
Council, if legislation is born out of this discussion item first mentioned during the Dec. 14 City Managers meeting, would build an Environmental Action Plan similar to one passed by the Harrisonburg, Virginia City Council in November.
The dates for Harrisonburg, former home of Dunne and a Census-estimated population of over 53,000, are the same as Portsmouth’s and became the tenth local government in the state to commit to 100% renewable energy.
With a focus on sun, hydro, wind, geothermal, and other forms of energy, Harrisonburg’s EAP would transition the city from fossil fuel dependency while advocating for modernized infrastructure and social justice reform.
Dunne sees positive ramifications with a Portsmouth EAP, one that could provide jobs through building redesigns and encourage job training.
“If we become the first city in our region to really show we are committed to sustainable energy, then different companies that make products for sustainable energy use could possibly see Portsmouth as a place to locate,” he said.
Unlike Harrisonburg and other Virginia municipalities, Dunne does not want the city to bring-in a sustainability planner but rather more of an internal review.
“We should have a general road map of different ways in which it can be accomplished,” he said. “What I was hoping within in our early discussions on City Council, we can request different departments to indicate how they can help.”
In May, City Council passed an ordinance which appropriated $4,500 to create a Pace Financing Zone in the city limits. That legislation came on a busy evening, Council’s first session in over two months due to the coronavirus, where seven items passed.
“That was one of the main things I think we did for the environment this year, joining municipalities and helping developers finance energy-efficient projects,” said Dunne, that legislation requested to be passed as an emergency.
While propositions in Washington, such as the Green New Deal, have met strong resistance and ultimately fail to pass, Dunne does not sense a similar trajectory locally.
“We are at a point where renewable energy is not just good for the environment, it is good for the wallet,” he said, arguing that this switch would help lower the city’s utility bills. “I think people in our area are pragmatic and we can debate certain issues on the environment, but showing the cost-effectiveness of this is something that would appeal to the mass majority.”
The City Managers will revisit this item on Monday, Dec. 28.
Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3501 ext. 1931, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.
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