The city of Eureka, Humboldt County and other cities within the county are working on individual plans and a regional plan to start addressing the climate crisis. They want residents to help determine the best goals for those plans.
Several Eureka residents said they would like to see the city try to reach carbon neutrality earlier than 2045, which was presented as one of the target goals for reducing greenhouse gas emission, in its climate action plan at the city’s climate action plan workshop at the Wharfinger Building on Wednesday night that roughly one hundred people attended.
“I’d like to see it go further,” said Eureka resident Christopher Musgrave. “I would feel more secure in the future of the planet.”
At least six people supported the idea of getting to carbon neutrality by 2030 and zero carbon emissions by 2045 at Eureka’s climate action plan workshop.
“We need to be a little more ambitious than the state’s targets if we’re going to adopt this as a climate action plan,” said Connor McGuigan, a Humboldt County planner working on the county’s climate action plan.
The state, through Senate Bill 32, is requiring municipalities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by 2030 and by 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.
However, McGuigan said Humboldt County is in a unique situation if it uses 1990 as a baseline because greenhouse gas emissions declined substantially, about an 85% to 90% decrease in industrial emissions, when a lot of timber processing sites closed down.
Transportation is by far the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in Eureka at 70%, according to the greenhouse gas inventory that was done.
Making buses free would be a cost-effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, McGuigan said. He cited Lawrence, Massachusetts, a town of about 80,000 that made three bus routes free for a cost of $225,000 while increasing ridership by 24%.
“There are a number of cities that are considering or have already made public transit free,” McGuigan said. “In a more analogous example for Humboldt County, Sonoma County Transit made the Cloverdale shuttle free and they increased ridership by 50%.”
Locals prioritized coordinating land use and transportation planning, low-carbon transportation alternatives, increasing the use and generation of renewable energy, building community resilience to the effects of climate change, and waste prevention as the top objectives to be pursued by Eureka in its climate action plan.
McGuigan said adopting an ambitious climate action plan that included installing 526 public charging stations, acquiring 24 electric buses, giving out thousands of free bus passes through large employers and large multifamily developments, and switching natural gas and propane heating systems to electric ones, among other things, by 2030, would just meet the state’s emission reduction goals.
Despite that, McGuigan said, “if we enact policy strategically, we can actually make a dent on emissions.”
Eureka City Councilwoman Leslie Castellano said it was a little anti-climactic to hear that even a lot of big changes wouldn’t achieve the grand reduction in emissions people would like.
“I believe it’s a great beginning and I do think there’s still hard work to do about the plan,” Castellano said.
Bicycles and bike culture would be a great area to focus energy toward, she said.
Norman Ehrlich, owner of Six Rivers Solar in Eureka, said he agreed with increasing public transportation and switching to electric heat pumps, but also said maximizing solar resources would go further than most people realize.
Ehrlich said the assessment of Peter Lehman, founding director of the Schatz Energy Research Center, that solar couldn’t power all of Humboldt County was false because the solar panels he installs typically generate 6 to 8 kilowatts of energy rather than the 3 kilowatts Lehman was working off of.
For more information on the county’s climate action plans, go to bit.ly/2Nwf6Nl. To submit feedback for the city of Eureka’s climate action plan, email Senior Planner Kristen Goetz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sonia Waraich can be reached at 707-441-0506.