Energy and the Environment
TOWARDS A SECURE ENERGY FUTURE AND ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY
- Reaffirm the County’s long-term commitment to clean, renewable energy
- Hold true to Arlington’s goal of “zero waste” by 2038 and ensuring that our implementation plan be environmentally, socially and fiscally sound
- Find new ways to improve Potomac and Chesapeake Bay water quality and better address stormwater runoff in light of expanding impervious surfaces
Arlington has long been in the vanguard of localities nationwide in setting ambitious, yet attainable, environmental sustainability goals, along with implementation of concrete action steps to get us there.
I am fully committed to our five-year update to the Community Energy Plan, which combines a long-term vision with specific strategies for how we generate, use and distribute energy. Benefits include reducing energy costs for residents and businesses alike, generating energy locally through renewables and other technologies, and attaining a goal of a 75% lower carbon footprint by 2050.
Buildings contribute almost two-thirds of our carbon footprint. In 2017, Arlington County earned the nation’s first LEED for Communities Platinum Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. This award highlights the County’s commitment to sound environmental planning management. Our Green Building Incentive Policy also contributes to the award. Yet this policy, last updated in 2014, may benefit from an update, as I believe we should examine whether at least LEED Certified or LEED/Silver designations have become so commonplace (given their marketing cachet and obvious energy cost-savings features) that bonus density incentives need not be given—or require a higher level of environmental features to earn. In other words, it may be time to once again reset the energy “baseline.”
I support Arlington’s myriad programs to keep us on track in reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, ranging from the Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy (AIRE) and its dedicated utility tax-based funding, to Green Home Choice, our Energy Lending Library to the first-in-the-Commonwealth program to help commercial property owners finance energy upgrades at no taxpayer cost.
Arlington Public Schools has set an example for us by the “net zero” Discovery Elementary School, and new legislation allows APS to either use the excess electricity that Discovery actually generates to offset consumption elsewhere in the school system or to be paid for this excess power. I have asked the County Manager to explore the possibility of analogous legislation on the County side and staff is examining the idea.
On transit and transportation, while Arlington recently made considerable investment in clean compressed natural gas to power its growing ART bus fleet, I support phasing in electric vehicles for our County fleet and expanding electric charging infrastructure for public and private vehicles alike. As a member of the Northern Virginia Regional Commission and as a Virginia Association of Counties (VACO) Board member, I am leveraging my regional and state connections to speak up in favor of renewable energy and against changes that would dis-incentivize solar power use by residential homeowners. We are also working closely with Dominion Energy to complete our streetlights transition to more attractive and energy-efficient light-emitting diode (LED) technology, while insisting that both Dominion and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) improve their repair and service response.
I support the ambitious effort documented by the County Board’s unanimous November 2015 passage of a resolution to develop a zero waste goal that, if implemented, would divert up to 90% of Arlington’s waste from landfill or incineration to energy facilities by 2038—just two decades ahead. A little more than a year after we implemented a year-round yard waste program, the County will be fleshing out a Zero Waste planning process to implement this goal, with key components that I believe are essential. These include building awareness of current waste reduction/diversion efforts, learning from best practices in programming and implementation, establishing Countywide short-, mid- and long-term reduction and diversion goals, and development of performance metrics and indicators to track progress.
In my view, this process must have the highest level of engagement (i.e., collaboration) in our new hierarchy of community engagement levels, with significant participation from the business community, the solid waste industry, and, of course, appropriate commissions and community members. Our reduction strategy must be environmentally, socially and fiscally sound.
Finally, while the Board just approved a new Solids Master Plan for our Water Pollution Control Plant, I am pushing to pursue a cost-effective, environmentally friendly, regional solution to processing Arlington’s waste before we finalize our new facility plan and award a construction contract.
Stormwater and Other Key Challenges
With single family home redevelopment comprising the largest single source of impervious surface expansion from 2014 to 2017—representing nearly 60% (commercial development comprising the remainder) and on pace to add up to the footprint of the Pentagon every five to six years, I believe it is time to consider targeted expansion of the County’s StormwaterWise Landscapes Program, which provides a cost-sharing incentive to improve Chesapeake Bay water quality and reduce stormwater runoff from residential and commercial properties through pervious paving, pavement removal, rain gardens and conservation landscaping. In the long run, this could help save on costly flood mitigation and engineering work. While expanded County educational and technical assistance activities for property owners can also play a part, given the accelerated loss of pervious surfaces and the “new normal” of extreme weather events, I believe that it may already be time to give our 2014 Stormwater Master Plan another look. Moreover, we need to elevate trees as part of the solution.
I am also committed to facilitating implementation of green and/or vegetated roofs on new public facilities and site plan projects—an under-utilized weapon to combat stormwater runoff and the urban heat island effect while saving energy, providing habitat, gardening options and improving aesthetics.
On a broader note, I have asked County staff to consider the environmental, developmental and fiscal implications of joining the Biophilic Cities Network, as Washington DC did recently. A Biophilic Arlington would recognize both the value and vulnerability of our urban natural space by infusing natural space concepts in our planning and development decisions.