Smithers on track to reduce emissions

Smithers council discussed potential future plans for reducing green house gas emissions during a Committee of a Whole meeting last week.

Smithers council discussed potential future plans for reducing green house gas emissions during a Committee of a Whole meeting last week that may form a constructive path to reach the town’s goal of a 31 per cent GHG reduction by 2015.

Last Tuesday council reviewed the Corporate Energy and GHG Emissions Reduction Plan to decide how the town would proceed to lower emissions.

However, due to some complexities of the draft plan, it was evident council had some reservations about the most efficient direction to take.

“I think the draft has some practical implications,” said Councillor Mark Bandstra. “It needs to be flushed out. But I’m open to looking at what would be of benefit to our community, where we can improve infrastructure and reduce emissions at the same time and end up with a cost reduction to the town and the taxpayer.”

The Town of Smithers initiated the project in 2008 to reduce GHG emissions by 31 per cent from 2004 levels by 2015. So far Smithers is on track to reach their goal with only three years to go.

After the meeting Councillor Phil Brienesse noted there are many practical actions within the plan that can be implemented immediately, without impacting the current budget.

“The two biggest contributors are buildings and our fleet,” Brienesse  said. “The building side was very specific in coming up with a number of practical cost savings and also emissions saving ideas.

“So things we can do right now that aren’t going to cost a lot of money.”

But still council noted that despite having a detailed strategy to reduce emissions, the whole community needs to get involved to achieve a 31 per cent reduction by 2015. As Councillor Charlie Northrup put it  “If we all do our little bit it makes a lot.”

“I think if we’re doing something the community has to understand why we’re doing it,” Northrup said.

“Especially if we’re investing capital for a long range or five year, ten year, twenty-year return they have to be thinking the same way as us so we can do it as an entire community and just make our whole environment better.”

Council also discussed potential plans on how to make use of the Gas Tax. The Gas Tax was started by the federal government in 2005 through the Union of British Columbia Municipalities. The funds are used for sustainable projects within the community such as public transit and community energy systems. However, since Smithers’ roads are littered with damaging potholes, debate centred around options to address the crumbling streets.

“I think the most important thing we have to look at are our roads,” Councillor Norm Adomit said. “They’re getting older and older, worst shape and this winter showed it.”

“The Gas Tax funds we’re handcuffed, we’re not allowed to use it for our own roads so we have to find an innovative way to use it for other projects and maybe we should use the money from those projects for our roads. Kind of do an exchange system.”

One idea that surfaced was a possible bike lane project. Bike lanes offer not only a sustainable form of transportation but also have less impact on ailing roads. Which if synergies can be found between the two projects, says Mayor Taylor Bachrach, it may prove to achieve a positive outcome. Reducing emissions at the same time maintaining vital road ways.

“There’s a big focus on sustainability when we’re talking about the Gas Tax funds,” Bachrach explained. “Looking at those goals and also looking at the fact that we have a paving back-log and we need to rectify that situation so we’re looking for overlap between those two goals and I think that’s the win-win situation we’re looking for.”