City sets goal for emissions reduction

Excluding air and sea transportation, Juneau wants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2012

Posted: Friday, November 06, 2009

Juneau's cars, homes and office buildings will be churning out significantly less pollution by 2012, if the city meets its new goal.

The Juneau Assembly adopted a goal Monday of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Juneau by 21 percent by 2012. Much of that goal, based on a 2007 inventory and excluding emissions from the marine and air transport sector, has already been met.

Of the target reduction, 1 percentage point is to come through changes in municipal facilities and operations; the other 20 percent is to come from the community as a whole.

The Juneau Sustainability Commission, which recommended the changes to the Assembly, estimated the goal means the community will have to reduce its annual emissions by 65,031 tons.

Burning a gallon of gasoline produces about 19 pounds of carbon dioxide, according to the Environmental Protection Agency; achieving the target is the greenhouse gas equivalent of burning about 7 million fewer gallons of gas.

When AEL&P's Lake Dorothy Hydroelectric Project went online this fall, Greens Creek Mine on Admiralty Island was able to stop burning diesel for electricity, leading to a projected reduction of 60,203 tons - 90 percent of the community goal.

Future developments that don't run off hydroelectricity will have an adverse effect on the goal, however. The largest on the horizon is Kensington Mine, which will run on diesel.

The city will have to reduce its emissions by 3,251 tons annually to meet its 1 percent goal. The commission estimated that with the ground source heat pump at the airport, electric power at Eaglecrest, replacing the Juneau Arts and Cultural Commission's roof and renovating the heating system at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum - projects already completed or under way - it will reduce annual emissions by 800 tons, a quarter of the municipal government's goal.

Assembly member and Sustainability Commission member Bob Doll said the goals are "absolutely dependent on public cooperation."

The city has not established mandates or created financial incentives to effect the reduction, though it anticipates continued participation in the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation's energy conservation financing, and continued improvements in energy efficiency by state and federal agencies.

"We could do things by regulation - we chose not to do that because the financial incentive is so strong," Doll said.

"If one had no interest in greenhouse gas, no concern for it ... reducing the cost of day in and day out operations in a climate like this would be more than adequate compensation for every step one could take."

The reduction targets were calculated from the inventory's baseline year, 2007. The goal excludes greenhouse gases produced by the marine and air transport industry, which accounted for about a quarter of the 441,000 tons of carbon-dioxide and its greenhouse gas equivalents inventoried; the exclusion reflects the commission's recommendation to focus on other areas, because Juneau's isolation makes it particularly dependent on marine and air transportation for imports and no alternative to fossil-fueled air and marine transportation exists.

The inventory collected fuel sales data from Juneau's three distributors and assumed if fuel was sold in Juneau, it was used in Juneau. They then calculated greenhouse gas emissions resulting from that use.

The report cautions that the emission numbers are approximations.

The next step is for the city to hire a contractor to do a climate action plan, scheduled for 2010, to elaborate on area projects, possible incentives and solutions. After that, the five-milestone process calls for implementing policies and measures, monitoring them, and verifying the results. The Assembly also endorsed the Sustainability Commission's proposal for an award program to recognize companies and people that contribute significantly to greenhouse gas reduction in Juneau.

Commission member Alida Bus said the action plan is a "really exciting thing for Juneau to work with the public on."

"I think it will be really exciting," she said. "We'll see when we do the audit the next time if we've made a difference."

The next inventory is scheduled for 2012; after that audits should take place every three years.

• Contact reporter Mary Catharine Martin at 523-2276 or

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