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Clean Energy by 2045? The City of Pocatello's Resolution, Part 2

Former Mayor of Moscow, Nancy Chaney

This week on Sustainable Idaho, Scott and Rachel continue their exploration of the City of Pocatello’s 2045 Clean Energy Resolution. Speaking to Pocatello City Council member, Chris Stevens, and the former mayor of Moscow, Nancy Chaney, Sustainable Idaho investigates how the resolution will be used to advocate for sustainable practices and policies, and how Pocatello can learn from other Idahoan cities.

Last week on Sustainable Idaho, we spoke to Jeff Mansfield, the Public Works Director for the City of Pocatello. Jeff explained that the City of Pocatello’s 2045 clean energy resolution encompasses the City’s complete energy system, comprising electricity generation, buildings, transportation, waste management, and agriculture. Jeff also described that the City has recently created its own clean ‘energy task force’, which is tasked with overseeing and enacting policies and practices that would support renewable energy, maximize energy   conservation, and support the transition to a clean energy system.    

To further investigate the resolution, we spoke to Pocatello City Council member, Chris Stevens. Chris suggested that the clean energy resolution is not legislatively binding but does demonstrate that the City recognizes the importance of sustainability. Chris continued to state that the resolution represents a reasonable target, which symbolizes a shift towards more sustainable local policies, and represents a tool that local council members and officials can use to advocate for sustainable ideals.

In speaking with Chris Stevens, we learned that the resolution isn’t just about environmental stewardship, but is grounded in strong economic principles.

Switching to renewable energy is an excellent way for residential, commercial and industrial energy customers to save money on their bills. For example, installing solar panels on city property allows them to generate their own electricity, theoretically giving them the ability to reduce their energy bill to zero. While installing renewable energy facilities requires a substantial upfront investment, after installation, they are relatively cheap to operate.  Equally, the installation and operation of these facilities provides new job opportunities, as well as draws in future economic invest and development for the area.

For Pocatello, achieving a complete transition to a clean energy system may seem like a daunting task. However, it’s important to remember that we are not alone in this quest for sustainability. It’s possible to study the experiences of other cities, and learn from both their successes and failures. For this reason, we spoke to the former Mayor of Moscow, Nancy Chaney.

Nancy Chaney was elected Mayor of Moscow in 2005 and served two terms. We started by asking Nancy about what lessons Pocatello can learn from Moscow.

Nancy described that during her tenure as Mayor of Moscow, she found it very useful to draw from the wealth of local resources, such as non-profit organizations and local stakeholder groups, to identify potential projects. Additionally, Nancy suggests that due to the financial limitations of many Idahoan cities, it’s necessary to consider alternative funding opportunities to support sustainability projects.

In fact, Nancy’s own skills as a grant writer were invaluable in funding many of Moscow successful sustainability projects. We continued by asking Nancy, which of Moscow’s sustainability projects were both environmentally and economically successful.

Nancy explained that a number of their projects were extremely successful. One particular project, termed the ‘Eco Driver’, encouraged City employees to practice sustainable driving practices. The ‘Eco Driver’ project, which was launched in response to Moscow’s City vehicle fleet using increasing amounts of gas, aimed at reducing gas consumption by a modest 3%. However, the project realized an 8% reduction in City vehicle gas consumption in its first year, saving $17,000 and the emission of excess greenhouse gasses. Similarly, Nancy described initiatives to switch City lights from luminescent blubs to LED’s. The changing of one street light bulb can save up to $1000 per year.

Nancy’s leadership demonstrates that ‘green’ City practices can be both economically and environmentally beneficial. Nancy is also responsible for the introduced biodiesel to the municipal fleet, the creation of a Sustainable Purchasing Practices Policy and the establishment of baselines and targets for greenhouse gas emissions in Moscow.

Thank you to Chris Stevens and Nancy Chaney for joining us this week. Join us; next week were we will explore the current state and nationwide commitments to renewable and sustainable energy futures.