Phoenix will use some stimulus funds for sustainability plan

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Phoenix will use some stimulus funds for sustainability plan

Postby StephanieCutts » Tue May 26, 2009 12:49 pm

http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepubli ... y0311.html

April 03, 2009 |

Gordon to unveil lofty 17-point green plan for Phoenix
by Scott Wong - Mar. 11, 2009 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic

Mayor Phil Gordon will use today's State of the City address to outline an ambitious strategy to make Phoenix the first carbon-neutral city - and the greenest - in the entire country.

Green Phoenix, a 17-point plan developed in collaboration with Arizona State University's Global Institute of Sustainability, would require about $1 billion in water, renewable energy, public-transit and other investments.

Gordon is turning to President Barack Obama's economic-stimulus package for help, though he doesn't expect to receive funding for every goal.

The mayor's proposal, if fully implemented, would cut city-generated greenhouse-gas emissions by roughly 70 percent, or 430,000 metric tons a year, the equivalent of taking 80,000 vehicles off the road, based on one estimate.

The three- to four-year plan is essentially a mix of new concepts and projects already under way. They range from providing bicycle rentals at light-rail stops to developing Phoenix's canal system for recreation and business use similar to the Tempe Town Lake area.

In a bid to secure funding from the $787 billion federal stimulus package, Gordon and ASU President Michael Crow pitched the plan Tuesday to Energy Secretary Steven Chu in Washington, D.C., emphasizing that it also would create jobs and improve neighborhoods and health.

During the meeting, Crow said, he sensed that Phoenix was the first city to approach Chu with a comprehensive program promoting green technologies, which could be used as a model across the U.S.

"We put a new idea on the table," Crow said by phone after the meeting.

To become carbon-neutral, a city must offset all its activities that produce carbon dioxide with efforts that remove the greenhouse gas from the atmosphere or produce no pollution at all. For example, the approach could require reducing vehicle use, planting trees and promoting alternative energy.

Of course, that would take money. The stimulus plan sets aside $50 billion in new spending for energy projects, including more than $6 billion in grants for states and cities.

Central to Phoenix's green plan is solar energy.

The plan calls for installing solar panels and solar water heaters in existing city buildings and requiring them in all new facilities. It also would provide homeowners and businesses incentives for solar panels and weatherization. And it would require all lighting at park-and-ride and light-rail stops to be powered by the sun.

Today, Gordon also plans to announce that, by April, Phoenix will solicit proposals from the private sector to build the Valley's first solar-power plant. The plant would be constructed on 1,200 acres at the city's landfill just off Arizona 85 in Buckeye.

Phoenix would lease land for the solar plant for free, though it estimates such a project would require $1 billion in private investment. The city is asking the U.S. Energy Department for $90 million in stimulus dollars to cover the cost of connecting the future plant to the region's power grid.

Green Phoenix will mean "turning Phoenix into a solar city," Gordon plans to tell hundreds of civic and business leaders today during his address at Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel, according to an advance copy of his speech. "In the middle of what has always been known as the Valley of the Sun, Phoenix will become the 'City of the Sun.' "

But critics of the stimulus plan worry that once the federal dollars run out, Phoenix and its residents and businesses will be stuck with the bill for maintaining new projects.

Tom Jenney, director of the anti-tax group Americans for Prosperity's Arizona chapter, had not reviewed the city's green plan. But he said the stimulus package provides only short-term government subsidies for cleaner-yet-costlier forms of energy.

"At some point, the subsidies will run out and people in Phoenix will have to pay the full cost," said Jenney, who is based in Phoenix. "That will get very expensive."

The green plan builds heavily on the city's recent efforts to reduce its carbon footprint. In December, Phoenix unveiled its Climate Action Plan, which aimed to cut city-made greenhouse-gas emissions over the next seven years to levels just below those seen in 2005, even as the city continues to grow.

Several planned projects, including efforts to capture methane gas from landfills and wastewater-treatment plants, would be accelerated under the proposal. That also is the case for the future "people mover" connecting light rail with Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

With current local funding, the automated train is scheduled to connect with Terminal 4 by 2013 and two other terminals by 2020. But under Green Phoenix and with $200 million in possible federal grants, the people mover would reach all three terminals by 2013.

"Three months ago, the chance of Phoenix getting a billion dollars for any one or two projects was remote to none," said Rob Melnick, executive director of ASU's sustainability institute. "Now, you have an entirely different context where $1 billion is not entirely out of the question because the feds have to get things goin
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