By Evan Brandt
In the wake of President Trump’s controversial decision to withdraw from the Paris accords combatting climate change, Montgomery County’s two Democratic commissioners are joining with other local and state governments to take up the issue on the local level.
“Montgomery County is joining hundreds of mayors and county officials who are committed to reducing their carbon footprint,” reads a statement issued Wednesday by commissioners’ Chairwoman Val Arkoosh and Vice Chairman Kenneth E. Lawrence Jr. “Climate change is a scientific fact, and we must work together to reduce our CO2 emissions. The health and well being of Montgomery County residents is at stake and that is a responsibility I take very seriously.”
The third member of the Board of Commissioners, Republican Joe Gale, was offered an opportunity to sign the statement as well, but chose not to, according to Kaitlyn Foti, the commissioners’ press secretary.
On June 1, Trump proclaimed that the United States will withdraw from the accords negotiated under President Obama and which all nations except to have accepted.
In the wake of that decision, cities and states — most recently California — have begun to declare that despite his decision, they will continue efforts to fight global climate change and make agreements of their own if necessary.
In Montgomery County, those efforts have been ongoing for 10 years, said Arkoosh and Lawrence.
“As part of our efforts to curb greenhouse emissions, a total of 136,502 metric tons of CO2 equivalent has been avoided in buildings and facilities owned or operated by Montgomery County,” according to a press release from the office of the commissioners.
“By focusing on reduction of energy consumption, environmentally friendly transportation purchases, recycling, and open space preservation we can continue to build on these efforts,” the release said.
It also listed a number of steps the county has taken over the past 10 years, including upgrades to lighting and heating/cooling systems to reduce energy consumption.
More specifically, the release listed $2.4 million in water and energy conservation measures have been implemented at the Montgomery County Courthouse, starting in 2014 that will yield $4.2 million in cost savings over 20 years
Montgomery County has also purchased 10 vehicles that use alternative energy, such as plug-in hybrids, electric and compressed natural gas. To aid in those efforts, an electric vehicle charging station was added in the Courthouse garage.
More than 90 miles of trails have been constructed to promote commuting by bicycle and pedestrians, and another 10 additional miles of trails are either in design or under construction.
Some of that construction will get underway soon as another segment of the Schuylkill River Trail is constructed on Industrial Highway in Pottstown.
The county also has continuously participated in several Federal grant programs aimed at reducing the soft costs of implementing solar projects (soft costs refers to the permitting, zoning, acquiring and educating customers, financing — essentially everything other than the panels and wiring).
In partnership with the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission the county has promoted the use of LED lighting in streetlights and traffic signals in sustainability plans for municipalities under contract and assisted them in receiving grants to fund LED lighting.
Some of those lights were recently installed in Lower Pottsgrove Township.
The DVRPC says in addition to $1.4 million in annual savings, the new LED lights will also see an annual reduction of 5,500 metric tons of CO2 emissions in the region.
“The county will continue with these efforts and in finding new ways to reduce our carbon footprint to protect the county, the region, and the world from the negative impact of climate change,” the statement from the two commissioners said.