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Climate issues on city's agenda

City Council endorses U.S. Mayors for Climate Protection Agreement.

February 22, 2007|By Michael Alexander

Huntington Beach Mayor Gil Coerper is now a cool mayor — officially.

In part of a unanimous city council vote Tuesday, the council endorsed the goals of the U.S. Mayors for Climate Protection Agreement, which states broad goals for environmental friendliness and whose sponsors are known as Cool Mayors for Climate Protection.

The endorsement was part of a vote to have city staff develop policies to promote energy conservation, both by leading with its own consumption cuts and encouraging "green" practices in the private sector. As its sponsors Debbie Cook and Keith Bohr assured more cautious members, the vote shied away from any mandates or requirements, instead focusing on setting an example and possibly providing incentives.

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Business has "certainly got on board" with issues of climate change and energy policy, Cook said. She mentioned as examples Wal-Mart, which has a plan to double fuel efficiency in its truck fleet over 10 years, and Wells Fargo, the top buyer of green power.

"All these companies have done these things on their own without being directed to do so," she said. "But there's so much that we can do, that government can do."

Bohr spoke to calm some members' fears that the vote might commit the city to specific emission requirements.

"We're not looking at anything mandatory at this time or not cost-effective," Bohr said. "If we take a leadership role, [energy-efficient] systems become more economically efficient."

At the same time, the city needs to be ready for mandates that will one day come from federal and state regulators, Cook said. If Huntington Beach encourages voluntary action and drafts energy-efficiency plans now, the city can be "in the driver's seat when funds come along" from those same agencies, she added.

"It will happen," said Councilman Don Hansen. "If we're not ahead of the curve, it's much more painful. We can make incremental changes that don't really throw us off."

Ultimately all the council members voted yes, both on drafting efficiency policies and endorsing the goals of the agreement, even as several repeated that they were absolutely opposed to any mandates.

"I had major concerns at the beginning of this council," Coerper said. "But after listening to council members and hearing it's not a mandate, I'm satisfied."

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