Petaluma takes climate action amid power shutoff
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.