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State College Commits to Achieving 100% Renewable Energy, Net Zero Greenhouse Gas Emissions

by on June 04, 2019 6:40 PM

State College has become one of just a handful of municipalities in Pennsylvania to pledge to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions and 100 percent renewable energy usage by 2050.

Borough council on Monday adopted a resolution, introduced by councilman Jesse Barlow in May, setting the goal to be accomplished "as quickly as feasible" but no later than within the next 31 years.

The commitment to 100 percent renewable energy makes the borough the 17th municipality in the commonwealth and first outside of southeastern Pennsylvania to become a Sierra Club "Ready for 100" community. It also is the 127th community nationwide to adopt the goal, joining cities as small as Greensburg, Kan., to as large as Los Angeles.

"A lot of responsibility for dealing with climate change falls upon the federal government and the state government, but they’re not going to be able to accomplish it without large buy-in from local governments all across this country," Barlow said. "A strong coordinated effort by local governments is definitely a necessity."

The borough took its first major step toward reducing its environmental impact and transitioning to clean energy back in 2007, when then Mayor Bill Welch signed Resolution 944, which set forth 21 goals to achieve over a 10-year period for energy conservation, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and more sustainable construction practices.

Most of those goals have been achieved, including the borough buying all of its electricity from wind-generated power by purchasing renewable energy certificates. In 2018, council approved a sustainability plan that identified specific ways to begin immediately further reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Barlow's resolution commits to further building on the 2018 plan, as well as to advocating for state regulations and legislation supporting the borough's energy goals. 

The borough also will "lead by example to rapidly pursue these goals in a manner that is transparent, fair, and economically responsible," and engage other local governments and institutions to identify ways to reduce the impacts of climate change.

Pat Vernon, a College Township resident who owns properties in the borough, said he believes the initiative needs to be implemented across the Centre Region Council of Governments.

Barlow said at least one supervisor from a Centre Region township has reached out to him about the resolution. Ferguson Township and Harris Township also both passed resolutions in 2017 committing to the Paris Climate Agreement and to strategies for achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

COG municipalities also have been working toward an intergovernmental purchase agreement for solar power.

State College's resolution, meanwhile, also calls for the clean, renewable energy "to be produced from environmentally sensitive technologies. Resources will be evaluated for carbon impact, public health, and environment justice implications."

The plan is expected to have positive economic implications as well.

"The transition to 100 percent renewable energy will promote employment opportunities and sustainable growth in the Borough of State College, the Centre Region, Centre County,and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, facilitate local control and ownership over energy options, and bring tangible benefits to low-income residents and others who have historically been disadvantaged by fossil fuel-based energy systems," the resolution states.

Dorothy Blair, president of the Nittany Valley Environmental Coalition, applauded council's decision and recommended setting interim goals, such as achieving 80 percent by 2030.

"I think that it’s really brave of you to do this and that you do stand as an example for the rest of the community," Blair said. 

Chloe Selles, Ready for 100 action organizer for the Pennsylvania chapter of the Sierra Club, said the group is ready to support State College achieve the goal. Sierra Club will host a kickoff meeting to discuss ways the community can support the effort at 7 p.m. on June 12 in the Municipal Building.

“The Pennsylvania Chapter of the Sierra Club is very excited to celebrate this success with the community of State College tonight," Selles said. "We look forward to supporting the work of community members in the borough of State College and throughout Centre County as they move towards a cleaner, more equitable future.”

Other borough council members were unanimous in their support of the resolution.

"The very things that caused the earth to warm are harmful to the water, to the air, to our lungs and to life itself," Council President Evan Myers said. "I think it’s past time we took this action."

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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