County worker climate group becomes official

They have the enthusiasm, experience and education and now through the Clallam County commissioners, they have the authority.

They are going to research the county's carbon emissions and find ways to reduce its footprint.

The commissioners made the Clallam County employee Climate Advisory Group an ad hoc committee Aug. 5, after the group's early reports showed valuable potential outcomes.

"By just looking at the county's operations and not mandating anything from citizenry, this group can make an impact," Clallam County Commissioner Mike Doherty, D-Port Angeles, said.

"Also, the department heads seem to agree that this is important enough to dedicate some staff time toward," county administrator Jim Jones said.

The group will meet occasionally during business hours, when it does not conflict with other county operations. Associate planner Sam Fox heads the group and will begin gauging the county's carbon output.

"The county has already approved of a U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement in 2006, which asks governments to reduce carbon emissions and the county also has software to track the operation's total greenhouse gas output," Fox said.

"I've already begun getting in contact with staff heads to gain information and support for creating an inventory."

More than a year ago the county joined the international Local Government for Sustainability group and received the software for a carbon inventory but, due to limited time and resources, the inventory hasn't been done.

"This direction from commissioners helps us move forward on this and we are seeking advice from people in Jefferson County that have already created an inventory," Fox said. "So we really think this will help us identify ways we can improve efficiencies."

Fox and Doherty said the group will help lessen county-based pollution and make the county spend public dollars more efficiently, for example, through increasing the county's fleet of hybrid vehicles each year and looking at other energy using operations.

The commissioners also directed the group to look into a county courthouse recycling program. Fox said in addition to the current recycling bin, recycling could be incorporated into the maintenance program.

"The courthouse has a lot of visitors and we need to lead by example," Fox said. "The building's solar panels, the hybrid cars and soon the recycling program will be a great representation of our county's operations."

The group also will encourage other county staff to reduce driving to work. Fox is surveying employees about transportation.

"It's not going to be a mandate," Fox said. "But included in the survey is a question that will give us an idea of what stops people from biking or walking or taking the bus, which is something we can work on."

Then the group will work with other public and tribal entities to better coordinate transportation throughout the area.

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