Falmouth updates plan to reduce use of fossil fuels

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FALMOUTH — Just over a decade ago Falmouth was among hundreds of communities across the nation that signed the U.S. Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement a decade ago, vowing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to help curb the effects of climate change.

The town has largely met or surpassed its annual emissions reduction goal, with a couple of anomalous spikes, according to Kimberly Darling, the town’s sustainability coordinator. She said one of the spikes occurred after the new Falmouth Elementary School opened in 2011.

Now the Recycling & Energy Advisory Committee has submitted a new plan to further curtail reliance on fossil fuels.

The updated Energy and Sustainability Plan was introduced to the Town Council at its meeting last week and Town Manager Nathan Poore said councilors could vote to adopt the revised plan Nov. 14.

The primary goal is to “enhance efficiencies in municipal operations by being committed to reducing fossil fuel use … , integrating renewable energy when feasible, and implementing waste reduction and diversion practices.”

Among the plan’s recommendations are continuing to research the feasibility of siting a large-scale solar array on the town’s capped landfill, continuing to explore the possibility of modernizing curbside trash collection and adopting new green development standards.

Another priority is to “work with the business community to reduce the consumption of environmentally harmful products, (such as) plastics and Styrofoam,” for instance.

At the Oct. 22 council meeting, Darling said “a lot has been done over time (and) we want to keep moving forward. What we’re looking for is guidance on the next steps and whether we should keep the (annual) 2 percent emission reduction goal.”

Peter LaFond, the committee chairman, added, “We’re ready to go (on this new plan) and we’d like to do more.”

In highlighting the accomplishments of the Recycling & Energy Advisory Committee, Darling said it’s created an annual business energy fair, helped the town switch to natural gas to run the wastewater facility and assisted in the switch from oil to biomass heat at the town’s schools.

Going forward, she said, the committee would like to focus on increasing composting, including at the schools and by residents and businesses in town. In addition, she said both the school and municipal vehicle fleets “need more attention” in terms of what fuel they use.

Councilors Amy Kuhn and Ted Asherman both praised the work of the Recycling & Energy Advisory Committee last week.

“You’re doing amazing work,” Kuhn said, while Asherman said, “I enthusiastically support the momentum you have going and it’s fantastic what you’ve (already) accomplished.”

Darling said focusing on energy efficiency and waste reduction is not only a social responsibility, but in the long run it will also save taxpayer dollars.

“Scientific evidence and consensus continue to strengthen the idea that climate disruption is an urgent threat to the environmental and economic health of our communities,” the Mayors Climate Protection Center website states.

“Many cities, in this country … already have strong local policies and programs in place to reduce global warming pollution, but more action is needed at the local, state, and federal levels to meet the challenge,” the website adds.

Along with its more tangible efforts, the Recycling & Energy Advisory Committee also has a mission of educating “residents and businesses about energy efficiency, waste reduction, and clean energy opportunities and choices,” according to the new sustainability plan.

It also endeavors to work with “surrounding communities on potential regional energy efficiency and clean energy and waste management strategies,” the plan states.

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

This chart shows the progress the town of Falmouth has made in reducing its greenhouse gas emissions since signing on to the U.S. Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement in 2007.