The Wasatch Back chapter of the Citizens' Climate Lobby hosted a panel discussion on climate change Wednesday evening. Three mayors of Wasatch Back communities were in attendance to share what their cities are doing to combat climate change.
As part of the panel Park City Mayor Andy Beerman spoke about their ambitious goals to be net-zero carbon and run on 100% renewable energy for city operations by 2022. Mayor Beerman reported that the goal was being accomplished through work with Rocky Mountain Power and the Utah State Legislature. One result of those efforts is the construction of a series of Solar farms by Rocky Mountain Power.
Mayor Beerman noted that the first Solar farm will be used to power Park City Municipal, Summit County, Deer Valley and Park City Mountain Resort.
“A few years after that we’re planning on building one—or Rocky Mountain Power will be building one to provide renewable energy for the entire county,” Mayor Beerman said.
Heber and Midway do not have near as aggressive renewable energy goals. Midway Mayor Celest Johnson noted that the issues Mayors work on are almost always priorities driven by residents.
“We just simply don't have the bandwidth to get all the information really fast for really critical issues,” Mayor Johnson explained. “If we're looking at things that really, we want to get done, it’s got to be bi-partisan. It’s got to be grass roots. We've got to be able to count on our citizens to help bring this information forward. I feel like I've become an expert in some areas, and this is not an area I’m an expert in. It’s something I believe in. I have appreciated, very much, the citizens in our county who have come forward and helped us with this.”
Heber and Midway are working on issues related to climate change. Midway passed an open space bond last year to preserve agricultural land within the city. Heber has also looked into placing air monitors throughout the city. Both cities and Charleston own Heber Light and Power which provides energy services to the Heber Valley. Heber Light and Power allows individual consumers to choose to opt-in to 100% renewable energy. Heber Mayor Kellen Potter also addressed the fact that nuclear power may soon be part of Heber Light and Power’s energy mix.
“If this comes to pass there’s still some hurdles to get through, including costs,” Mayor Potter continued. “We're looking at and saying it's got to meet a certain cost requirement or we're not willing to do it. So, we know what the costs are. We have guarantees of where it will be, and we still have some off ramps if it doesn't stay in that range. Right now, it's high, it is higher, but if it doesn't stay in a range the cities are comfortable with, they still have off ramps to get out of the project.”
The mayors recognized that community led efforts may be the best way to cool off increasingly partisan national dialogue.
“In a lot of ways environmental issues should be grass roots and should rise up as should the solutions,” Mayor Beerman said. “I’ve told a lot of my peers I think we're in a period of renaissance. Where the public is looking for us to carry their values, on issues like climate change, forward. Come up with solutions that that can move on to DC. Perhaps we can take some of the partisanship out of it.”