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Missoula County could join city in plans for carbon neutral operations

Posted at 4:47 PM, Mar 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-12 18:48:15-04
Missoula Current photo.

 — Story by Martin Kidston – Missoula Current

Citing convincing science, Missoula County could join the city this week in setting a goal of carbon neutrality by 2035, with all three commissioners already voicing support for the measure.

The county completed an inventory of greenhouse gas emissions in 2017 and added more complete utility information last year.

The results found that county operations alone emitted more than 7,500 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2016, with nearly half coming from county-owned buildings..

“The science is clear: We have a narrow window of time to reduce carbon pollution in order to avoid massive disruption from climate change,” said Commissioner Cola Rowley. “While Missoula County can’t solve this problem on our own, we have an obligation to do our part.”

The inventory also found that 27 percent of the county’s CO2 equivalents came from its fleet of vehicles, while 19 percent came from community employees. Less than 10 percent was emitted by the county’s water and wastewater treatment facilities.

Commissioner Dave Strohmaier said the county has joined the city and Climate Smart Missoula in looking for ways to achieve 100 percent clean electricity over the next 15 years.

“In contrast with some of my other local government colleagues across the state or others in higher office, I believe climate change is real and happening right now and of urgent necessity to address,” Strohmaier told the Missoula Current in January. “We’re poised to take the next step, which is something the city has already done.”

An inventory of carbon emissions released by city officials found that in 2009, municipal government emitted more than 8,600 metric tons of CO2 equivalents.

The city has already set a goal of carbon neutrality, and in 2017 it signed the “We Are Still In” pledge, joining hundreds of other U.S. cities in citing the “scientific consensus regarding the reality of climate change.”

The county is looking to follow suit, and commissioners are expected to vote on the resolution this Thursday at 2 p.m.

“The power of our actions here in Missoula County is not limited to the reduction of our output of greenhouse gases, and we can and should serve as a model and inspiration for other municipalities,” Commissioner Josh Slotnick said. “Together, our collective impact could actually begin to address this crisis.”

The vote will be held at the Missoula County Courthouse Annex. If passed, it would direct the county’s energy conservation and sustainability coordinator and county staff to create a Climate Action Plan to achieve the targets.