From: Brian Westley, Associated Press
Published March 16, 2007 12:00 AM

Counties Launch Anti-Global Warming Plan

WASHINGTON -- Residents of Virginia's largest county might soon see more vegetation growing on roofs and more green space in new neighborhoods as part of a multimillion-dollar initiative to combat global warming.


The changes are part of a new national program called Cool Counties, which Fairfax County is launching along with several partners: the Sierra Club; Washington state's King County, which includes Seattle; and Illinois' Cook County, which includes Chicago.


The program hopes to encourage each of the nation's more than 3,000 counties to do its part in reducing greenhouse gases, officials said Thursday.


"Sadly, over these past six years, we've had an administration that has chosen to deny the science of global warming," said Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerald E. Connolly. "If they're not going to (take the lead), we're going to do it at the local level."


Details of the Cool Counties program have not been completed, but they will be presented in July at the National Association of Counties conference in Richmond, Connolly said.


The program will award counties points for various environmental initiatives and the localities that obtain a certain number of points will be certified Cool Counties. A rural jurisdiction might place more emphasis on clean-burning fuels, while urban counties would focus on environmentally friendly development.


"We want to be flexible enough so that it works for various counties," Connolly said.


The initiative is the latest step by local leaders to embrace some aspects of the Kyoto Protocol -- an accord that calls for mandatory reductions of greenhouse gases among the signing nations -- even as the federal government refuses to participate.


In 2005, for instance, Seattle's mayor launched the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, in which participants pledge to reduce carbon dioxide emissions 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.


County leaders were eager build on the idea by developing a program tailored specifically for the counties.


Counties are better positioned to promote telecommuting, the use of hybrid cars, walkable communities and issues related to land use, said Jim Lopez, deputy chief of staff to the county executive in King County.


"We need to have change from the bottom up," Lopez said.


In Fairfax County, the largest county in the Washington, D.C., region with more than 1 million residents, Connolly said many pieces of the initiative already are under way.


Two new fire stations, built in part with recycled materials, make use of clean energy sources. The county government obtains 5 percent of its electricity from wind power and operates 90 hybrid vehicles. And it has purchased thousands of acres, including the 3,200-acre former Lorton prison site, for conservation.


Still, Connolly said more can be done.


He wants the county's fleet of 3,600 police, fire and other vehicles to be replaced with less-polluting vehicles over time. He also wants to double the county's use of wind power in five years, to 10 percent. More than 400 buildings, including schools, can be retrofitted to be made more environmentally friendly or replaced, he said.


Glen Brand, the Sierra Club's Cool Cities director, praised the new county-based initiative as another important step toward reducing harmful emissions. He said that while there are upfront investments, most environmental measures should pay for themselves over time by reducing energy bills.


Source: Associated Press


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