ashland.news
June 21, 2024

Many Hands: Climate and Environment Policy Advisory Committee works to reach climate goals

Piper Banks, an Ashland High School student and a leader of the Ashland Youth for Electrification group and a member of the Ashland Climate and Environment Policy Advisory Committee (CEPAC), listens at a meeting in September. Bob Palermini photo
November 10, 2023

Improved bike lanes intended to ultimately reduce number of automobile trips

Editor’s note: “Many hands make light work,” the saying goes. Ashland seems to have taken it to heart — the city website currently lists 14 committees, two commissions and two boards helping keep the civic infrastructure functioning. This is the first in a periodic series of stories in which we take a look at what these 18 panels are up to.

By Morgan Rothborne, Ashland.news 

Bicycle transit and a proposed electrification ordinance could be critical for Ashland’s effort to reach “net zero” by 2050, according to a discussion at Wednesday’s meeting of the Ashland Climate and Environment Policy Advisory Committee. 

Climate and Environment Policy Advisory Committee (CEPAC)
Established: 2023
Mission: The committee focuses on climate change and environment, public health, energy efficiency and renewable energy, low and moderate-income household’s needs, economic development, social equity and sustainable economic development. 
Members: 15 seats available, 14 currently filled. There are two student representatives and a representative from Southern Oregon University. Each member serves three-year terms.
Meetings: The committee meets the second Wednesday of the month from 3 to 5 p.m. at 51 Winburn Way, Ashland. Meetings can be attended in person or via Zoom.
Agendas for upcoming meetings and minutes of past meetings: Click here.
Public comment form for meetings: Click here.
Apply to serve on a city committee or commission: Click here. The City Council appoints qualified applicants following an interview process. Questions? Email the City Recorder’s office at recorder@ashland.or.us or call 541-488-5307.

Net zero refers to balancing greenhouse gas emissions to the point that the amount taken out of the atmosphere is equal to the amount emitted.

The committee discussed a vision for the city’s bicycle transit infrastructure — an “all ages and all abilities” network. Ashland City Council approved the elimination of parking along North Mountain Avenue to create protected bike lanes Tuesday. The committee pointed to the decision as part of expanding bicycle infrastructure throughout Ashland. 

The city is seeking funding from the “safe routes to school” program through the Oregon Department of Transportation to enhance bicycle routes to schools throughout Ashland. Linda Peterson Adams, chair with the Transportation Commission, told CEPAC more bike racks throughout Ashland could be coming soon. 

If more people took their daily trips around town with a bike instead of a car, Ashland could reduce the average person’s carbon emissions by 67%, based on surveys of other metropolitan communities, said Gary Shaff, a member of the committee. 

Transportation emissions in Ashland are equal to 17% of total greenhouse emissions for the city. Cars are used for 88% of travel, while walking and bicycling account for only 9% of travel, Shaff said. 

Reaching net zero by 2050 will require a plan with multiple strategies, he said. The electrification ordinance now under consideration by the city of Ashland is another promising, though complex facet of the effort. 

Piper Banks, an Ashland High School student, a leader of the Ashland Youth for Electrification group and a member of the Ashland Climate and Environment Policy Advisory Committee, said the student group has done the research to ensure the ordinance will balance its goals with the limitations of recent legal precedent surrounding similar ordinances.

“It’s not as extensive as we wanted it to be originally, especially as we have gotten more information about it and done more research, but we feel super positive that it’s going to make an impact,” she said. 

The city has held two meetings for stakeholders to weigh in on the ordinance, and many have been in support, said Committee Chair Bryan Sohl. Avista Natural Gas had not previously responded to attempts to contact the company. CEPAC has been informed that a regional representative for Avista will be in Ashland to discuss the ordinance with the committee in early December.  

With the slow rate of residential construction in Ashland, Shaff urged the committee to consider more than the draft ordinance’s focus on prohibiting natural gas in new residential construction.

“We somehow have to start dealing with the existing housing stock — we’re not going to get where we want to go with only new housing. I think we need to look more broadly and be more aggressive to achieve our ends,” Shaff said. 

Cat Gould, another member of the committee, affirmed the potential for a “carrot and a stick,” approach. Prohibitions for new construction could be combined with incentives for existing homes to remove gas appliances. 

The committee also discussed creating smaller working groups to assist them in working through the many facets of a long-range plan to meet the city’s climate goals. 

Email Ashland.news reporter Morgan Rothborne at morganr@ashland.news.

Picture of Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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