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The New Park City Environmental Sustainability Manager is Down for Net-Zero

As the new environmental sustainability manager, Luke Cartin takes on net-zero.

Luke Cartin said the city’s goal to be net zero by 2022 and the entire community by 2032 won’t be easy. As he’s settling into his new job, he said his focus will first be around municipal operations - basically everything from bus fleets to the ice arena – and getting them to be net-zero. That is, basically any of the carbon that is released from city operations will be offset by new trees, solar power or purchasing energy credit.

“And then on top of that we have the 2032 community-wide goal," Cartin said. "So it’s trying to figure out how we can get the community to become a net-zero community and that’s, just to let everyone know, it’s really aggressive. It’s an extremely aggressive timeline. I believe we can definitely hit it but it’s awesome to see. Talking to other cities across the country – a lot of folks have like a 50 percent by 2050 or a 2050 goal or 2075 goal but with 2032 there’s actionable pieces that people will start seeing tomorrow.”

The city is still in the process of defining what net-zero actually means but he breaks it down in simple terms.

“So net-zero, it deals with carbon, the energy you burn and that side of it," Cartin said. "So if you think of it almost like a bank account – you’ve got withdrawals of carbon – you know – you’re going up in the air – either burn for you – through your electrical grid or your vehicle using fuel so you can view that as one side of the equation.  The other side of the equation is things like open space or renewable energy – that side that help bring that number back down. The hope is, annually, that number will equal zero. So the amount of carbon going up and the amount being drawn back down will equal zero by the end of the year. “

Because of the trees and vegetation that’s found in open space, he said that helps draws carbon out of the air. With more than 8,000 acres of open space in Park City, he says that’s a great carbon-sink that will help reduce climate change..

“The thing we’ll be looking at this year is how to quantify the amount of carbon that is pulled down," Cartin said. "There’s a lot of schemes out there that can help tie a number to that and our goal is to – as we go down that path of understanding - is to share that information.”

Cartin said the city is talking with Rocky Mountain Power on how to make Summit County’s grid truly carbon-free.

“And these are very interesting conversations to have with a company that - 80 percent of your power is coal-fired," Cartin said. "So we’re saying, ‘We want to see a change in your business model.’ The interesting thing is Salt Lake City has aligned their goals with us with the 2032 piece. And Rocky Mountain Power – they’re interested in this.”

He said right now the focus is on Rocky Mountain Power because they provide a very large utility piece.

“The gas side to be honest – we’re going to have to be creative," Cartin said. "Natural gas is actually kind of the interesting one out there that truthfully - we’re still trying to nail down – that one’s a tricky one.”

He said once natural gas is figured out – it will be on the cutting edge.

As  a newcomer, Cartin thinks there are some things locals may overlook.

“The transit system – really understanding the short-term strategic plan for the transit between the county and the city," Cartin said. "There’s some really innovative things going on there that will make the buses the easiest way to get around - especially if you’re going to go to the resorts.”

He said the community is the key to the city meeting its goals and that it’s important the city figures out the most effective way to communicate the upcoming changes.

“It’s gonna be a comprehensive approach – its’ not going to be a one-off," Cartin said. "Planning can fix a lot of things - truthfully – the community. There’s a lot of driven individuals and a lot of great ideas too.”

Cartin is working to update the carbon inventory for both municipal operations and for the community to better understand what the carbon footprint is and how far they have to go to get down to zero.