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The City Journals

Cottonwood Heights goes green

Feb 05, 2019 01:55PM ● By Cassie Goff

Residents like Jenny Nazzaro have been outspoken in support of sustainability within their city. (Lindsay Beebe/Sierra Club)

By Cassie Goff | [email protected]

Sustainability has become a New Year’s resolution for the city of Cottonwood Heights. On Jan. 8, the city council considered Resolution 2019-03, which would adopt a sustainable energy policy to increase energy efficiency and utilization within the city. The policy would set a goal for all city operations to be powered by 100 percent renewable energy by 2022. It would also set a goal for all residents and city businesses to be 100 percent renewable by 2032.

The consideration of this resolution came after months of planning and working with city staff, residents and industry partners such as Rocky Mountain Power and the Sierra Club. 

“We first discussed this in June,” said City Manager Tim Tingey. “The goals must not compromise affordability, reliability and environmental stewardship.” 

Word about the sustainability policy was out before the Dec. 18 and Jan. 8 city council meetings. During the public comment sessions of those meetings, over 25 residents voiced their support for the policy. As they did so, many additional attendees sitting in the crowd held up green signs that read “Clean Heights” in a silent show of their support.

Ace Slagle, communication director for the Young Democrats Club at Brighton High School, spoke to the council on Dec. 18. “It’s important to remember what we want out of this. We need to ensure what we are putting in place something that can be achieved, ensures safety and makes sure we are going to follow through with things like the clean air resolution and idling laws. This will make a huge difference for everyone in this community.”  

Fifth-grader Samara Shaw also spoke to the council. “I hear about climate change in the news. I’m worried about what this means for the future. My friend with asthma is sad he can’t play outside with us. I want my friends to be able to play outside with me all the time. It will be a better place if we work together right now.” 

Dr. William Cosgrove spoke at both meetings. “There are 10,000 children in this city. You have the opportunity to commit to clean energy, to lessen the poisons of our air. You get to be heroes,” he said. “Today’s children and tomorrow’s children will thank you for taking this step to protect their lives.”

“Let’s join others around us to create a cleaner, safer and more energy-efficient future,” said resident Jenny Nazzaro on Jan. 8.  

Many residents urged the city council to pass a sustainability policy outlining goals for the city, residents and businesses to be 100 percent renewable. (Lindsay Beebe/Sierra Club)

 “Global warming is real. Eventually there will be some federal or international limitation on carbon. I suggest that you guys pass this resolution and get a head start before it happens at a federal or international level,” said resident Chuck Brown. 

“It is the future and one day all cities will be renewable. You can move us forward as a leader,” said resident Shannon Haley. 

Many of these residents have requested that the city council implement a sustainability committee and hire a sustainability manager, which can be shared with surrounding entities. They have offered their own personal services and time to help with that committee. 

“There is a core group of individuals that have been meeting to address these issues. A volunteer group can do a tremendous amount. We can get kids involved and help the community to understand the issues. We need to get a community buy-in,” said resident David Richardson. 

“You have to ask yourself if this is achievable and realistic. Today, from an engineering standpoint, it is very realistic. I would like to offer my services for free on the committee. I want to come home to this city and see the sign that says ‘100 percent renewable energy city,’” said resident Ken Garner. 

Councilmembers appreciated the community’s efforts and passion on the matter.

“I want to give some kudos to all the residents here tonight. Thank you for your emails, comments, passion and intelligence,” said Councilmember Tali Bruce.

Councilmember Christine Mikell gave some background on the industry. “I have my own renewable energy business in the Intermountain West. We have hit the inflection point that the cost of renewable energy is less than coal — coal is being retired. Rocky Mountain Power just did a survey that said 60 percent of their coal fleet is uneconomical. There are 35,000 cities and towns in the United States; only .2 percent of those have 100 percent renewable energy goals.”

Before voting, Mayor Mike Peterson wanted to recognize Representative Marie Poulson, who was in attendance, for her interest and passion in the subject. “The time is right. It’s a challenge and we accept that challenge. I enthusiastically vote yes.” 

The sustainability policy was approved unanimously by the city council. Cottonwood Heights is the fifth local government in the state of Utah to adopt such a resolution, following Salt Lake City, Park City, Moab and Summit County.