On Tuesday April 10, 2018 members from Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions spoke at the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ Public Hearings for the 2019 County Budget.  FACS Board of Directors members Eric Goplerud, David Kepley, Rev, Dr. Jean Wright, and Scott Peterson addressed legislators urging them to fund a comprehensive climate action plan within the Fairfax County budget and support for a climate strategy.  Read their full testimonies below:  

 

Eric Goplerud, FACS Board Chair:

Good evening.  My name is Eric Goplerud, Chair of the Board of the Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions.   Members from the Faith Alliance’s more than 50 Fairfax congregations, some of whom will be speaking after me and others are wearing red in the auditorium, are here to ask you to make commitments in the 2019 budget to protect the health and quality of life of county residents, and to grow a low-emissions competitive economy in Fairfax.     

Climate scientists and health professionals have documented that Fairfax is getting hotter in the summer and is hotter longer.  The allergy and asthma season has lengthened by several weeks and Fairfax pediatricians report more children need their medical attention.  Ticks and mosquitoes carrying infectious diseases are no longer killed off by the cold and are endemic in the county.

Local action is important. Fairfax residents generate an average of 14 tons of carbon dioxide a year, thickening a blanket of greenhouse gases that heats our area. That’s about three times the world average and six times what the UN Development Council says is a sustainable level.  It’s important to work on this as a region, as the DC metro area emits more greenhouse gases than 21 states!

In the last 12 months, Fairfax has really stepped up.  Chairman Bulova, Vice Chairman Gross and Supervisor Foust led the County to join mayors in more than 7,500 cities worldwide in pledging to comply with the Paris Climate Accord.   You re-committed to the Cool Counties Initiative, pledging to cut county-wide and regional greenhouse gases by 2% per year.

You renewed the County’s 10 year Environmental Vision. For the first time, including a chapter on climate and energy. You envisioned that “the County will … promote … energy efficiency and conservation efforts and renewable energy initiatives by employees, employers and residents.”  The Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions is grateful for your leadership.    

Now is the time to press forward, building on the steps you have taken.

The Environmental Vision is not an operational plan for achieving county-wide and regional reductions by 2% every year.   Neither the proposed 2019 General Fund budget, the 2019-2023 Capital Improvement budget, nor the 2019 Capital Construction and Other Fund Budget reflect the commitments you made for real action on climate change.   

The 2019 General Fund budget proposes $535,000 for Environmental Agenda Projects, the same amount as in each of the last four years’ budgets.  We question whether the choices within this small Environmental Agenda budget are strategic.

The biggest allocation, $200,000 is to continue an invasive plant management program.  The plan allocates $62,000 for stream bank and meadow restorations, and another $96,000 for parking lot lighting and automated temperature controls in one park.  

There are other places where these could be supported.  The General Fund budget recommends that the Park Authority receive $26 million for operations.  The Capital Improvement Budget allocates $18 million to the Park Authority for capital projects, and an additional $54.7 million from the Stormwater Services Fund for capital projects, including stream restoration.   If invasive plant management, stream bank restoration and park lighting are priorities, shouldn’t they come from these larger budgets?

We ask that the $535,000 in the Environmental Agenda budget be spent developing a climate and energy action plan.  The county’s energy dashboard is good start. But, to achieve your Environmental Vision, we will need a 5 year strategy with specific goals, operational plans, budget, accountability and metrics for the entire county.  

The US Green Business Council’s LEED City Certification program could serve as the guide for Fairfax’s plan.  To be certified, communities track key metrics in:

  • Energy
  • Water
  • Waste
  • Transportation and
  • Quality of life

The District of Columbia become the world’s first LEED Certified City, Arlington County, the world’s first LEED Certified Community – both seeing LEED Certification as competitive economic development advantages for attracting innovative companies like Amazon and young, highly trained professionals.  Fairfax should aim to be competitive with our neighbors, to be the first large, leadership county to become LEED Certified, just as it led the Cool Counties Initiative 10 years ago.

A 5 year climate and energy strategy is needed

  • which reinforces the county’s roadmap for economic development, the Economic Success plan,
  • which involves and incorporates all sectors,
  • which has specific objectives and performance metrics, assigns responsibility, and recommends general fund and capital improvement expenditures.    

Fairfax can be THE leading “Smart” county, a livable, workable and sustainable home projected by environmental vision and the economic success plan.  

Members of the Faith Alliance who will be speaking after me will describe the five key steps of the Fairfax to Zero campaign.  

Thank you.   

 

David Kepley, FACS Board Member:

Madame Chairman and distinguished members of the Board of Supervisors, I rise this evening to urge you to take action on behalf of our shared inheritance.  I’m talking about the Creation.

My name is David Kepley.  I am on the Board of Directors of the Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions.  I am also an ordained deacon and ruling elder of Providence Presbyterian Church.  My church and my home are in Braddock District.

The Pope expressed with great eloquence my core concerns that our environmental crisis is yes an economic and physical crisis, but it is also a moral issue.  In his wonderful encyclical Laudato Si, he said:

“We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.”

I would be remiss if I did not begin this jeremiad by acknowledging the commitments the Board has made in addressing this crucial issue for our county.  In its Environmental Vision, which the Board revised just last year, you boldly committed to working with residents and businesses to reduce the county’s GHG emissions.  Last June the Board also ratified the Mayors’ National Climate Agenda. Bravo and well done!

But here comes Jeremiah!  While the Faith Alliance and I applaud your participation in the region’s GHG inventory process and your pledge to reduce GHG emissions by an average of 2% per year, we wonder how you are going to get there?  

To date the county has only proposed a tepid climate action plan that applies just to county government operations.  The county government’s portion of GHG emissions for the entire county is only about 3-5%. How can we meet the 2% per year reduction in GHGs goal by only addressing a tiny percent of the county’s overall emissions?  

We need to do more!

Therefore we ask the Board

  • to develop a county wide climate action plan that includes some of the excellent recommendations in the WMCOG’s regional climate action plan.  
  • We also ask that the Board pass a resolution that allows county businesses to participate in the C-PACE program.  This will cost the county government nothing and will also have no impact on the county’s bond rating. The program will, however, allow participating businesses to secure loans to reduce their energy consumption with pay back periods much longer than with conventional loans.  
  • We also ask that the county re-constitute the public-private sustainability coalition to energize, promote, and showcase best energy-saving practices and encourage and incentivize businesses and homeowners to adopt them.

 

Thank you for your kind attention.  

 

 

Reverand Dr. Jean Wright, FACS Board Member:

 

Chairman Bulova and Supervisors, thank you for the opportunity to speak about the 2019 Budget. I’m Jean Wright, member of the Board of the Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions (FACS).
FACS believes climate change is real, is human caused, is the ultimate moral and ethical issue of our time, and requires boldness by leaders and citizens to preserve a livable future.
Ending climate change is no longer possible, it’s now happening; urgent action is necessary. We are asking for boldness on your part to mitigate greenhouse gas pollution (GHGs) and to implement adaptations giving life in Fairfax County a fighting chance for survival.
An exciting new and bold County project which you voted March 20 will aid meeting the Cool Counties Initiative of 80% reduction by 2050 — the Embark Richmond Highway Plan. Thank you! The County needs more such projects.

As to comments of the prior 4 speakers, I say “ditto” to their remarks and they’re budget asks:

  1. Development of a funded County-wide strategic plan to reduce energy waste rather than a plan solely for County Operations;
  2. Adoption of a 2019 budget that funds energy efficiency recommendations and staff needs identified in the draft county energy operations plan;
  3. Additional strategic funding for LED lights in County buildings paired with payback schedules;
  4. Board of Supervisors passage of a C-PACE ordinance similar to what Loudoun and Arlington Counties now have; and/or the use of other such programs. Job and economic growth will result.
  5. The 2019 advertised budget is $8.42 Billion; $2.9 Billion is for schools. Of the remainder $5.42 Billion, designating $1-$2 million towards implementation of the above asks would make a bold County commitment to climate change mitigation and adaptation.
  6. At this time, the Board of Supervisors is supporting embedding of energy efficiency tasks and thinking throughout County departments and offices. To make this embedding more visible and transparent to County citizens, the department dollar amounts budgeted on various energy efficiencies need to be notated in the budget.

 

Ch. Bulova and Supervisors, yesterday, 2 things happened:

  1. Governor Northam Vetoed House Bill 1270 which would have limited the Governor’s Ability to Fight Global Warming and Create Clean Energy Jobs.
  2. The Washington Post, in its editorial, stated thus: “the fight against global warming is not hopeless, but we must work harder and put in more effort. Research shows that modern economies can cut their addictions to carbon abut the pace must pick up.”

Just so, Ch. Bulova and Supervisors, we ask you, our elected leaders, to pick up   the pace in ending the County’s carbon addiction; to do so, additional funding is essential. Life depends on it.

The 2019 Budget can affirm Fairfax County’s quickening pace to address climate change. Thank you!

 

 

Scott Peter, FACS Board Member

My name is Scott Peterson, and I’m a member of the board of directors of Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions.

This past year was a time of small, but real accomplishments by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in facing up to its responsibility regarding the climate crisis. We want to thank you for those positive steps.

  • You added a section on climate and energy to your 10-year Environmental Vision
  • Fairfax County became the first county to join 246 mayors to pledge that it would adhere to the Paris Climate Accord.  
  • The Board of Supervisors recommitted to the Cool Counties Initiative to reduce carbon pollution 2% per year and commits the county, along with local, state, and federal governments, to cut the D.C. region’s overall greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050. 
  • You partnered successfully in “Solarize Fairfax County”.
  • There’s the work being done on the county operations energy plan.

All of those steps deserve to be recognized. But now comes the hard part.

County operations only represent 3% of the greenhouse gas pollution emitted in Fairfax County. What about the other 97%?

You’ve established commendable goals. But there’s no plan to achieve them.

Admittedly, you need help from state government in Richmond for policies that will foster:

  • Community solar, Power Purchasing Agreements
  • LED street lights
  • Charging stations for electric cars
  • Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

But you still need your own plan to encourage local business and the entire community to do their part. To make Fairfax County a more attractive competitor when corporations are considering where to expand or relocate.

Last week, I spoke with Rich Dooley of the Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy (AIRE) — which is part of the Arlington Dept of Enviro Services. Rich was able to confirm that Arlington County hired an outside consultant to create an energy and climate plan for the 96% of the county’s GhG pollution not produced by County operations. It cost about $500K. The good news is Dooley is willing to share that plan with you.

People of faith who care about how fossil fuels are wreaking havoc upon the world in which we live congratulate you on the progress you have made this year.

But now comes the hard party. We need a community-wide climate action plan.