County Councilman Roger Berliner sponsored the environmental legislation. COURTESY PHOTO
Bethesda Beat, Bethesda Magazine

Council Crafts Sustainability Office, Pushes Clean Energy Creation

County Executive Leggett intends to sign both measures

County Councilman Roger Berliner sponsored the environmental legislation. COURTESY PHOTO

County Councilman Roger Berliner sponsored the environmental legislation.
COURTESY PHOTO

The Montgomery County Council unanimously passed two environmental bills Tuesday to create an Office of Sustainability and require county buildings to generate a minimum amount of renewable energy.

County Executive Ike Leggett told Bethesda Beat he intends to sign each measure.

“If we’re serious about this work, which our council is, it needs to embedded in government,” said District 1 Councilman Roger Berliner, who sponsored both bills. “This legislation achieves that purpose.”

The first bill establishes the Office of Sustainability, which will consist of two different bureaus within the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of General Services. The environmental protection’s bureau will advise homeowners and businesses to promote public sustainability. The general services’ bureau will develop energy savings plans for county government facilities and monitor purchasing plans to assure they are environmentally friendly.

The sustainability office is estimated to cost $915,844, and will require six full-time staff, according to the bill. The money was authorized in the fiscal year 2015 budget.

The bill completes work that began in 2008 when the council assigned a sustainability workgroup to guide the county on greenhouse emissions. Leggett said that group never came back with substantial results because it had limited resources due to the economic downturn.

“Councilmember Berliner in the past six months or so has been able to get to a lot of the recommendations that we were not able to cover,” Leggett said. “I think it speaks a lot to Councilmember Berliner and his determination to solve these problems.”

At-large Councilman Hans Riemer said now is the time to help county residents and businesses determine what steps they can take to be more sustainable.

“I’m sure there are tons of residents that wonder, is solar right for me?” Riemer said. “Now we will be able to help them figure that out.”

The second bill requires the county executive to establish a clean energy plan for new and extensively remodeled county buildings. Those facilities would need to generate 1 kilowatt of renewable energy for every 1,000 square-feet of floor area, according to the legislation.

“We want to focus on measurements and on energy efficiency in our buildings,” Berliner said. “Those are the issues we want to take care of first.”

The second bill called for two additional positions, which would cost $200,000, according to county estimates, but the council declined to authorize that funding in the fiscal year 2015 budget. Berliner said the task of reporting energy usage to the council and executive did not merit adding extra staff.

The proposal will save an estimated $30,000 in energy costs, according to a county memo about the legislation.

On Earth Day in April, the council passed nine different environmental bills sponsored by Berliner as well.

“I don’t think there’s any question that climate change is real and so very threatening to our future,” Berliner said. “Local government can actually do a lot.”

http://www.bethesdamagazine.com/Bethesda-Beat/2014/Council-Crafts-Sustainability-Office-Pushes-Clean-Energy-Creation/

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