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Keeping in touch: Notes from the Mayor

Mayor Lucy VinisThis blog aims to nurture our conversation and understanding of the issues before us. Every week, I will provide a weekly update on the activities in the city government, my activities as mayor, and brief reflections on progress, opportunities and challenges. You are invited to respond with reactions, insights and questions. We do this work together.

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Nov 20

November 19, 2021

Posted on November 20, 2021 at 5:05 PM by Niyah Ross

This was an uncharacteristically light week for Council which did not meet for a work session or a public hearing on Monday night. Wednesday’s work session focused solely on the Climate Action Plan.

The staff presentation covered two broad areas: an update on current projects and proposals for projects for council consideration.

Under current projects, the Council’s packet included a detailed Implementation Plan in the form a matrix that organizes the actions by category – transportation, building energy, fugitive emissions, and consumption. Within each category, specific actions are charted to indicate their current status, their impact, cost, and budget availability. Recently council received complaints at a public forum that “nothing has changed” in the past two years. I encourage everyone to take a look at this matrix. The incremental changes are not always visible because they are incorporated into staff workplans. Viewed collectively, it is clear that a wide range of actions is well underway.

This plan is complemented by the newly uploaded Dashboard available on the Climate Action Plan page of the City’s website: Climate Action Plan 2.0 Dashboard.

The third ongoing project addresses offsets. The City purchased carbon offsets in 2020 in order to meet the Climate Recovery goal of carbon neutrality in operations. Council is eager to see these offsets support our local work, but we do not yet have projects that can qualify. Staff noted that as we continue to push for an improved, local offset program, other communities across the country look to Eugene to learn how to implement an offset program in their own cities.

Finally, the staff reported that in 2021 they spent roughly two-thirds of their time on community engagement. Community reductions in fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions is the second half of the Climate Recovery Ordinance, and the staff focused on four efforts: coordinating with the Eugene Sustainability Commission, conferring with the Equity Panel, sharing information and collaborating with the 12 members of the Eugene Climate Collaborative; and launching the Shift Campaign. The Shift Campaign is a communication tool to facilitate engagement with the general public and with our partners. Information is also available on the City’s website: The Shift Campaign .

Proposals for future work included the implementation of a Home Energy Score Program. After the presentation by staff, Council approved three motions to move this program forward. It would require that energy usage information be disclosed at the point of sale of single-family residential homes. Additional motions approved by Council directed the city manager to bring back an implementation plan including funding options for the program, as well as options for applying this program to benefit renters.

Council was also asked to consider at their December meeting options for energy efficiency that would benefit low income households including: rehabilitation of existing housing, supporting investments to low income housing providers, creating incentives for heat pumps in existing multi-family housing, replacing oil furnaces and wood burning stoves, and the energy efficiency projects undertaken by NW Natural.

These options will all come to council in their December work session focused on Climate and Homelessness.

Finally, Council ran overtime to discuss two motions related to building energy. These had first been circulated by Councilor Evans in September and delayed for discussion to this meeting. In the intervening months, Councilor Syrett authored slightly amended motions which council passed after much deliberation.

The first directs the city manager to schedule a work session to discuss changes to city code that would require all residential, commercial and industrial buildings to be electric. After much discussion, Council agreed to a motion calling for multiple work sessions in order to allow time to address related issues to electrification of new buildings, notably energy source, supply, and cost.

The second motion directs the city manager to provide Council with a roadmap for how the city can decarbonize existing buildings by 2045.

I will note that as we engage in this discussion, NW Natural is surveying the public in an outreach that makes their case for why a shift away from natural gas is a bad idea. I recognize that this conversation threatens their business model to sell gas; but we face an existential crisis and the city needs a plan to make the transition to cleaner energy over the coming years. No one will pull the plug on gas; some industries will be dependent on that energy source for years to come; and our current 30,000 households who are dependent on gas, including mine, need time and funding to transition. We will make the changes as technology, supply and funding are available.