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Mayor endorses green plan

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Mayor Dana Williams recently joined a statewide environmental panel in endorsing wide-ranging recommendations to combat global warming, a landmark vote for the second-term mayor, an activist who has made green issues the hallmark of his administration.

Williams spent more than a year sitting on the panel, known as the Blue Ribbon Advisory Council on Climate Change, and he says he is pleased with the recommendations crafted by him and the others in the group, including politicians, bureaucrats and activists.

For the mayor, who regularly provided updates of the progress during Park City Council meetings, the panel’s work seems to rank as among the most important of his term. He often talks about the panel as he discusses City Hall’s environmental efforts, and the work by the group resembles his long-held theory of ‘sustainability,’ or reducing a community’s impact on the environment.

"I’ve gotten to go from being an activist on environmental issues to being more of a representative on environmental issues," says Williams, who came to political prominence as the leader of Citizens Allied for Responsible Growth, a development watchdog in Park City and surrounding Summit County.

The panel sent the recommendations to Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. The state Legislature is expected to review them during its 2008 session, which starts in January. The Legislature would consider new laws based on the recommendations.

The work is especially noteworthy in Park City, where City Hall and Parkites see themselves as being green-minded. Many have signed up to purchase wind-generated power, a cleaner energy source than fossil fuels, and they are proud of their support for people like Williams, who in 2005 ran unopposed for a second term as mayor.

Many say Park City’s future success as a mountain resort depends on its snowy winters, and activists worry that global warming could someday threaten the city’s economy. Locally, purchasing wind-generated power has been especially successful, with Williams trumpeting the program, and City Hall has reorganized staffers to better address environmental issues, among other measures taken in Park City.

"Utah is projected to warm more than the average for the entire globe and the expected consequences of this warming are fewer frost days, longer growing seasons, and more heat waves," the report warns.

It also finds "there is very high confidence" that people have caused "most of the global warming" in the last 50 years. It says "natural climate variations alone" probably are not causing the Earth to warm.

"It acknowledges that, one, global warming is an actual event. We caused it, and we can do something about it," Williams says.

A key recommendation contemplates "significant amounts" of alternative power sources, known as renewable energies. The wind power popular in Park City is an example.

The report talks about tax credits and incentives for developing the renewable energies. It also discusses capturing and sequestering carbon-dioxide emissions, an idea that has been mentioned in Park City but has not advanced.

Williams hopes Utah reduces greenhouse-gas emissions by about 20 percent by 2020 through using a higher percentage of renewable energies. He expects a statewide study about the prospects of wind power, he wants better tax breaks for people using solar power and he wants recycling widened with new methods.

"I think Park City is affected by what happens around us, too," he says. "We’re not in a vacuum."


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