Olympia’s emissions decreasing

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Olympia's day-to-day operations in 2021 have generated 8,262 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2e), 11% less than it did in 2014, city Climate Program intern Louisa Sevier reported at the Land Use and Environment Committee meeting Thursday, September 15.

Sevier worked with Dr. Pamela Braff, Olympia's Climate Program manager, in updating the city operations and greenhouse gas inventory.

"We are using 2014 as our reference here because it is the last time the city completed an operations emissions inventory," Sevier explained.

She said updating the inventory estimates the greenhouse gas emissions generated by the city's day-to-day operations and establishes where those emissions come from.

Citing the inventory, Sevier said the largest source of emissions within Olympia comes from water and wastewater treatment, accounting for 31% of city emissions, followed by vehicle fleet at 24 %; buildings and facilities at 23%. Other emissions sources are employees' commutes, street lights and traffic signals, and solid waste facilities.

According to Sevier, the inventory's preliminary results suggested changes in emissions between 2014 and 2021:

  • Solid waste emissions decreased by 44%. Sevier said the amount of solid waste produced by city operations has not significantly changed since 2014. "The Roosevelt Landfill where the city sends our solid waste began methane collection, and this has resulted in a significant decrease in emissions from solid waste."
  • Street lights and traffic signal emissions decreased by 43%. "This is due to the decrease in electricity consumption caused by the city converting street lights to LEDs," Sevier explained.
  • Employees' commute emissions decreased by 20%. She said that the shift likely drove it to remote work during the pandemic. "While the city is continuing to support employee telework. It is unclear to what extent employees will continue to work remotely in the future."
  • There was a slight decrease in emissions from city fleet vehicles, buildings, and facilities.

However, Sevier noted that the water and wastewater sector had increased its emissions by 5% from 2014. "Since Olympia does not operate our wastewater treatment plant, these emissions only include the electricity required to operate water and wastewater pumps and lift stations."

Regular emission checking

According to Sevier, the city is working to electrify vehicles, installing energy-efficient improvements in the facilities, and installing solar projects on four city facilities.

"The city has also committed to purchasing local renewable energy credits through PCS's Green Direct Program to offset 100% of municipal energy consumption," Sevier informed the committee members.

"These actions have not yet resulted in significant reductions in emissions," she said.

The Climate Program, through Sevier, recommended that Olympia should conduct an annual city operations GHG emissions inventory.

Sevier said yearly inventory is a necessity. "We cannot effectively reduce our emissions if we don't know how much we emit and where our emissions come from."

She also recommended establishing a city operation emissions reduction target with specific goals for water supply, vehicle fleet, buildings, and facilities.

"The city should continue working to increase energy efficiency and decrease energy demand in new and existing buildings. The city should also continue to carry out electrification retrofits on facilities because as electricity increasingly comes from renewables, converting buildings, using natural gas to electricity will continue to reduce emissions from city buildings and facilities," Sevier added.

Louisa Sevier is an active member of the Thurston Youth Climate Alliance. She participated as a negotiator in Olympia's Youth Climate Inheritance Resolution the city passed in 2019.

In May, Sevier led the number of youth in staging a die-in protest at the Olympia City Council meeting to demonstrate the devastation the climate crisis may bring to their generation.

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  • Miller19

    This program is being lead by a political activist? Come on, Olympia…

    Saturday, September 17 Report this