Petaluma takes climate action amid power shutoff

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Amid a stark reminder of the climate’s affect on natural disasters, the Petaluma City Council on Monday took action to combat climate change, the city’s most important stated goal since it declared a climate emergency in May.

The council lent its support to legislation in Congress that would put a fee on carbon emissions and let market forces drive a reduction in greenhouse gases.

The council also appointed six members to the Climate Action Commission, a newly formed body that will discuss and make recommendations to the council on climate policy.

The actions came the same week as the second anniversary of the North Bay wildfires, deadly 2017 blazes that destroyed more than 5,000 homes. Experts said a changing climate is partly to blame for more intense fire seasons in California.

On Wednesday, PG&E shut off power to 262,000 Sonoma County residents, including 4,296 east Petaluma customers, during warm, dry and windy conditions. Petaluma declared a state of local emergency and activated the Emergency Operations Center. The city reported increased traffic on east side streets where stoplights were not working.

Kenilworth Junior High School was closed as well as Sonoma Mountain and Old Adobe elementary schools and the Waugh School District. The Santa Rosa Junior College Petaluma campus was also closed Wednesday.

The new Climate Action Commissioners the city council appointed are Ann Baker, Panama Bartholomy and Ned Orrett, who were appointed to four-year terms, and Kailea Frederick, Jean Ger and Kendall Webster, who were appointed to three-year terms.

Councilman Gabe Kearney was selected as the council liaison.

The council passed a resolution backing H.R. 763, a carbon fee and dividend plan that would charge a fee on producers of fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas based on their carbon dioxide content. The money collected from the fee would be redistributed back to consumers, who could use it to offset the rising cost of energy or switch to alternative fuels.

“A market-based solution is something that Congress should seriously consider,” said Councilman Dave King, who placed the resolution on the agenda after meeting with local members of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby. “Teeing something up of this nature and supporting it at the grass roots level I think is important.”

Councilman Mike Healy, noting that there is little chance of the current Congress passing H.R. 763, offered an alternative resolution that urges Congress to adopt a revenue-neutral carbon tax and adhere to commitments in the Paris Climate Agreement.

The council adopted the resolution backing H.R. 763 by a 6-1 vote with Healy dissenting, and adopted Healy’s alternative resolution unanimously.

“I do think the concept (of H.R. 763) has merit and should be part of a package of strategies going forward,” Healy said. “My proposed resolution takes a more high altitude look at the thing. I would see a revenue-neutral carbon tax as being part of a suite of strategies that could help us meet the requirements under the Paris Accord, which hopefully we get back into in the not too distant future.”

Earlier in the meeting, the council selected the six Climate Action Commissioners from among 31 applicants. Five of the six indicated that they have professional experience working on climate change issues, according to resumes and letters submitted in the application process.

Ann Baker is a landscape architect who has lived in Petaluma for nearly seven years. She graduated from Harvard and has a master’s degree in landscape architecture from U.C. Berkeley, where she “focused on ecological and social factors that shape the built environment.” She has given presentations on sustainable landscapes and fire safe landscapes in wildland areas.

Panama Bartholomy is the founding director of the Building Decarbonization Coalition, a collaboration of groups working on solutions to eliminate pollution from the built environment. Bartholomy has lived in Petaluma for two years and previously served on the Sacramento Planning Commission and Sacramento County Environmental Commission.

Kailea Fredrick, an educator, facilitator, writer and community organizer, came in Petaluma in 2017 from Hawaii. She considers herself a talented researcher and large group facilitator, who has been addressing climate change though various projects for the past seven years.

Jean Ger is a paralegal and legal operations manager with the California Civil Rights Law Group, who was raised in Petaluma. Ger grew up in a bilingual immigrant household and has advocated for underrepresented communities. Ger graduated from U.C. Santa Cruz and lives on the east side of Petaluma.

Ned Orrett is the owner of Resource Performance Partners, Inc., and Ecozoic Associates. A Center for Climate Protection technical advisor, Orrett has extensive experience with design of municipal energy and water efficiency programs. A graduate of U.C. Berkeley with a master’s degree from U.C. Davis, Orrett has lived in Petaluma for more than 25 years.

Kendall Webster is land acquisition program manager for Sonoma Land Trust. Webster previously worked on environmental certification for Caltrans and has degrees from U.C. Santa Cruz and Tufts University. Webster was president of the San Francisco chapter of the Association of Environmental Professionals and has lived in Petaluma for three years.

(Contact Matt Brown at matt.brown@arguscourier.com.)

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