Lawrence City Commission to discuss city’s progress on reducing emissions, other environmental goals

Lawrence City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St., is pictured on May 3, 2016.

Recent changes have helped Lawrence significantly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, and city leaders will soon discuss what else can be done to reduce the city’s impact on the environment.

As part of its work session Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission will receive an update on the city’s climate protection and sustainability goals. The commission adopted a Climate Protection Plan in 2009, which included the goal of reducing communitywide greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2020 and by 50 percent by 2030.

Sustainability Director Jasmin Moore said that since the baseline year of 2005, greenhouse gas emissions from City of Lawrence operations have dropped by about 17 percent. The community as a whole — which includes the privately owned landfill used by the city — has reduced emissions by 26 percent.

Moore said the current reduction figures only include data through 2017, and it is yet to be determined whether the city will reach the goal of reducing communitywide emissions by 30 percent by 2020.

“I think we’ll be close, but I can’t say for sure,” Moore said.

Moore said changes that have helped reduce emissions from city operations include the city’s participation in the state’s Facilities Conservation Improvement Program, which the City Commission voted to join in December 2015. As part of that program, the commission authorized $11.3 million in energy efficient upgrades, including solar panels, LED lights and new heating and cooling systems. The city operates about 40 buildings, ranging from recreation centers to water treatment facilities.

One factor in the communitywide emissions figure, Moore said, is the Hamm landfill’s new methane plant, which captures methane emitted by decomposing trash and refines it into fuel.

In addition, Moore said that Westar Energy, the power source for the city, has increased the amount of renewable energy it uses.

Westar previously told the Journal-World that about half of its electricity is from emission-free sources, such as nuclear, wind and other types of renewable power. Last year, Westar announced that it would allow some of its large-demand customers, including Lawrence, to purchase wind energy at a fixed rate for the next 20 years. Lawrence was not among the municipalities, universities and other entities that took Westar up on the offer. In response to questions from the public, city staff later said that it had been in the process of reviewing Westar’s offer but had not been able to determine whether it was a good idea before all the wind energy was spoken for.

The city’s Climate Protection Plan calls for seven strategies to reduce emissions, including sustainability staffing and initial funding; strengthened energy conservation policies and building standards; and the development of transportation policies that will consume less energy and reduce emissions, according to a memo to the commission. The memo states that the city has made progress on all of the recommendations in the last decade. As part of the presentation Tuesday, Moore will discuss progress in each of the seven strategy areas and what the city’s next steps might be.

One future project for the city, Moore said, might be the development of a climate adaptation plan that lays out how the city will adjust and plan for climate change. She said recommendations will also include continued efforts to reduce emissions, but that the city’s Sustainability Advisory Board is still discussing specific recommendations for policy changes.

The City Commission will convene at 5 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St.


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