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Edmonds Again Takes Environmental Lead With Clean Energy Pledge

Elaine Thompson
AP Photo
A photographer looks out over the Puget Sound and Mount Baker, some 70 miles distant, Friday, March 13, 2015, at the marina in Edmonds, Wash.

Edmonds is well-known as the first city in the state to ban disposable plastic bags. Now it’s taking concrete steps to more aggressively reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The community north of Seattle has pledged to get all buildings and homes within city limits off of electricity from fossil fuels in less than a decade.

The Edmonds City Council plans to get all of the city's electricity from clean and renewable sources by 2025. Most other localities have put off that goal until at least 2030.

Edmonds City Council Member Mike Nelson says their resolution on climate change is ambitious, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try.

“It’s something that is actually impacting us and we do need to respond to that,” he said.

Based on the results of a recent survey, Nelson says most people in the region do believe that climate change is happening.

But they don’t see the need to take action because hearing about things like receding glaciers or melting ice in the arctic doesn’t really affect them.

But Nelson says there are plenty of impacts happening right now that do affect the city of Edmonds.  

“So for example, our fire service, for the first time ever, has been trained – the entire fire service – to fight wildland fires,” Nelson said adding that some have already been deployed in eastern Washington, impacting the resources available in Edmonds and ultimately the pocketbooks of its residents.

So Edmonds is forging ahead to try and meet the terms of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change – a pledge first made by Mayor Dave Earling on June 1st, along with 352 other cities all over the world.

One reason Edmonds has decided to get on an earlier timeline is that, like most of the region, it already draws most of its electricity from hydropower, making the electricity cleaner because it doesn’t generate any carbon emissions or other greenhouse gases.

However, the source that power is primarily the Bonneville Power Administration, which also includes nuclear, coal and natural gas in the mix.

This makes the goal of getting to 100% clean very difficult, perhaps even impossible. The local newspaper, The Daily Heraldcalled the city’s goal ‘stillborn.

But Neil Neroutsos, a spokesman with the Snohomish County Public Utilities District, says there are ways for communities to get greener.

“So for example, the PUD could work with the City of Edmonds to do things like allowing them to provide financial support to support a local solar project. They could install their own solar equipment on a rooftop at a municipal building,” he said.

Another example is buying renewable energy credits.  The credits give the owner a claim to a unit of green energy and can be bought or sold. 

Edmonds council members have also pointed out that they don’t have to source all of their power from the Snohomish County P-U-D. They say places like Kirkland have worked with another local utility, Puget Sound Energy, to invest in a new wind farm that PSE is building. 

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment beat for KNKX, where she has worked since 1999. From 2000-2012, she covered the business and labor beat. Bellamy has a deep interest in Indigenous affairs and the Salish Sea. She has a masters in journalism from Columbia University.
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