Petaluma takes action on climate change

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The Petaluma City Council, assuming its role as a leader in green technology, took action to reverse climate change Monday by approving an energy-efficient streetlight project and encouraging Congress to put a price on carbon dioxide emissions.

The $1.5 million project will replace all of the city’s 5,458 high pressure sodium bulb and ballast streetlights with energy-saving LED bulbs. City officials said the LED bulbs reduce power by 60 to 65 percent and last longer than traditional streetlight bulbs.

The city has already replaced 862 streetlights with LED bulbs in two phases in 2012 and 2016, and this project will swap out the remaining lights, mostly along residential streets. Officials said the project will also fix many broken streetlights throughout the city.

“This work is going to retrofit the majority of the streetlights within the city, mainly in the residential areas of town,” Diane Ramirez, a city project manager, told the council.

D.C. Electric Group of Cotati won the contract, which is paid for by a loan from the city’s waste water fund. The project is expected to save the city $144,000 annually in energy costs. Work is expected to start in January and take 75 days to complete.

Earlier in the meeting, the city council adopted a resolution urging Congress to enact a carbon fee program, which environmentalists say would make it more expensive for fossil fuel companies to emit climate changing gases. The resolution was proposed by Petaluma residents who are members of the Citizen’s Climate Lobby, a national grassroots lobbying group.

Other cities around the country are considering backing the proposal, which would distribute the collected carbon fees to American households to offset the rising cost of energy.

“This is a small step in a good direction,” Councilman Dave King said. “It is one of the many things we need to do to reduce greenhouse gas in our environment.”

Petaluma and many other jurisdictions have taken a leading role on climate change in the face of waning federal action. President Donald Trump has reversed several Obama-era measures to combat climate change, including announcing a decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.

Petaluma has been following the regional Climate Action Plan, which outlines steps the city is taking to reduce greenhouse gases, including requiring new buildings to be energy efficient, encouraging the use of solar panels, planning that includes more walkable development, moving to cleaner vehicles and joining Sonoma Clean Power, the regional energy provider that aims to source more renewable power. Petaluma also is working to upgrade its waste water treatment plant to produce natural gas that will power the city’s municipal vehicle fleet.

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

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