Town of Eagle hits pause on updated climate action plan
EAGLE — The Eagle Town Council is taking some extra time to consider its adoption of an updated Climate Action Plan prepared by the Climate Action Collaborative, a diverse partnership led by the Walking Mountains Science Center that includes some of the town’s staff.
The updated action plan outlines strategies for Eagle County to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 50% from 2014 levels by 2030 and 80% by 2050. It calls for “emergency grade action” on climate and prioritization of strategies to immediately reduce carbon emissions.
Some of those strategies include electrifying 5% of buildings annually — about 1,640 homes and 10 commercial buildings. Others call for increasing the amount of all-electric or zero-emission new construction, accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles, diverting more organic and construction waste and cardboard from the landfill.
The update, prepared in 2020 with dozens of stakeholders, aims to flesh out ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals of the original climate action plan with specific actions for how they can be met. The update has already been adopted by Eagle County and the towns of Vail and Minturn, with Avon set to consider it later this month.
“The question was, how are we going to do this,” said Kim Schlaepfer, the Climate Action Collaborative project manager. “Goals are great, but if there’s no road map to achieving them, they’re pretty useless.”
Meeting on Tuesday, the Eagle Town Council opted to continue its discussion about adopting the updated plan until later this summer, after a work session on climate change and sustainability issues scheduled for July.
Questions by Councilmember Matt Solomon prompted the pause. Solomon asked Eagle town staff how the plan would interact with the town’s own strategic plan and how it would impact development costs or current home, property and business owners in Eagle. At one point, Solomon asked how the plan would impact existing utility agreements, or if there is any estimate for what it would cost the town to electrify its own buildings and facilities.
Those types of analyses might take a while, even for that last question, said Town Manager Brandy Reitter.
“We don’t even have a maintenance plan for all of our facilities,” she said. “It would cost a lot of money, I’ll just say that.”
While the Climate Action Plan is not a regulatory document, some council members seemed concerned that adopting it with an intention to implement it will come at a cost, for the town or for the people living or doing business in it.
“If we do adopt that, we are committing to doing everything through that filter, and we have to set the example,” Solomon said. “We can’t dictate other people do it if we don’t do it ourselves, and how can we commit if we don’t know the cost of it?”
Eagle Mayor Scott Turnipseed said the first Climate Action Plan the town adopted in 2017 contained greenhouse gas reduction goals, but that the updated plan is now getting into specific actions. Turnipseed advocated for holding off on adoption until after the Town Council’s upcoming work session, to make sure that whatever the town supports “makes sense, financially and for the environment.”
“I think if you support or adopt this document, you’re going to have to have a good excuse why you’re not changing building codes to reflect some of these things in here, and I think we all need to be cognizant of that fact,” Turnipseed said at Tuesday’s meeting.
Councilmember Geoff Grimmer agreed with holding off for additional discussion, saying that if the plan can’t be implemented or enforced, it doesn’t make sense to adopt. That said, inaction will also come at a cost.
“The broad piece I would add, we can kick the can, you can keep kicking the can down the road — I think 10 years from now there’s a good chance we’ll be in an economy where things are pretty electrified,” Grimmer said. “So the question is, do you want to gradually make that transition over eight years, or prefer to make a volatile shift … toward the end of the process. I personally would prefer a nice orderly transition. If part of that means we talk it over, I would agree that’s a good rational move for this town and this group.”
Tom Lotshaw can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.