350 Austin Monthly Meeting – December 2018

350 Austin Monthly Meeting – December 2018

Tuesday, December 18, 2018
7:00 – 8:30 pm
First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin
4700 Grover Ave, Austin, Texas 78756

Despite the IPCC’s dire report that we have twelve years to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50%, we know that this consensus-generated report almost certainly underestimates how rapidly changes must occur. And since the release of the IPCC report in October, reports from other institutions support 350 Austin’s position that time is running out fast.

At this month’s meeting, 350 Austin co-founders Gil Starkey and Bobbie Tsukahara will present a status update on the climate crisis and the role that non-violent direct action (NVDA) needs to play in our campaigns beginning in 2019. As a member of the Board of Directors, Gil will also be updating us on the Board’s directive in responding to the climate crisis.

We will still find time to enjoy one another’s company, however, as we share holiday treats during the latter portion of our meeting.

Plan to arrive early as we have a lot of ground to cover and want to be sure we have time for merry munching!

Please bring holiday finger-foods to share, keeping in mind that we still do not have access to the church kitchen.

If you’re on Facebook, follow this link to RSVP and invite friends!

LCRA Sunset Review – Time for Action!

LCRA Sunset Review – Time for Action!

Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) owns and operates Fayette Coal Plant. The Texas Legislature is conducting a Sunset Review of LCRA this month, with several opportunities for public comment. Now’s our chance to tell them what we think!

Take action now:

Submit a written comment on the TX Sunset Review website by December 15, 2018. Use our sample template and talking points to help craft your message.

Give testimony in person at the Capitol on December 12, 2018. Please contact us if you would like help with messaging.

Our demands:

Environmental & Community Health: LCRA must develop a plan to sunset Fayette and stop poisoning our air and water. The health of the Central Texas community depends on it.

Planning for the Future: LCRA has no long-term environmental plan in place. We demand a plan that takes climate change and population growth into account.

Transparency: The people of Texas deserve to know about LRCA’s electric generation resources, especially Fayette Coal Plant. The Sunset Commission should include LCRA’s electric generation and transmission operations in the Sunset Review process. We demand that the first Sunset Review of LCRA electric operations occur within three years.

Financial Responsibility: Coal plants are a losing financial investment. Fayette will be a money loser – not a cash cow.

Good Government: LCRA must stay out of the groundwater drilling business and stick to managing our rivers. Keep groundwater aquifers intact for future generations!

More info:

LCRA Sunset Review overview – learn about the Sunset Review process and how to submit public comments

Defend Lost Pines Aquifers – white paper on LCRA’s “groundwater grab” in Bastrop & Lee Counties

Lost Pines Coalition members testimony at the LCRA board meeting on November 14, 2018.

Thank you to Al Braden for preparing these resources!

350 Austin November Events

350 Austin November Events

This November, we’re giving thanks for YOU – our friends and supporters. Thank you for your work towards a sustainable, carbon-free future. Every single person counts in the struggle against climate change. We are all in this together!

Here’s a roundup of upcoming 350 Austin events. Hope y’all can join us!


350 Austin November Open Meeting – TEMPORARY NEW VENUE

Tuesday, November 20 – 7:00-8:30 pm
Wildflower Church – 1314 E. Oltorf St.

Feeling scared about climate change? You are not alone!
This month, we’re facing an especially somber crop of climate news, particularly the recent IPCC climate report and new research on rapid ocean-warming. Let’s gather to share our reactions and feelings about the latest headlines. We’ll discuss our concerns, then brainstorm ways we can transform our energy into action through our local campaigns.

Please note the change in location for this meeting: Wildflower Church. We will be back at our usual meeting venue (First UU Church) in December.

More info & RSVP


Austin City Government Meetings

One of the ways you can take action locally is to attend a City of Austin government meeting. Let’s make Austin fossil-free fast! Wear your 350 Austin shirt to show our elected officials that you’re expecting them to take action too.

Please arrive early if you’d like to speak during the Citizen Communications period at the start of each meeting. First time speaking at a city government meeting? Let us know and we can help with messaging!

Resource Management Commission (RMC)
Tuesday, November 13 – 6:30 pm
Town Lake Center – 721 Barton Springs Rd.
The RMC advises City Council on alternative/renewable energy resources and conservation.

Electric Utility Commission (EUC)
Monday, November 19 – 6:00 pm
Town Lake Center – 721 Barton Springs Rd.
The EUC advises City Council regarding oversight of Austin Energy.

Austin Energy Utility Oversight Committee (AEUOC)
Wednesday, November 28 – 1:30 pm
Austin City Hall – 301 W. Second St.
The AEUOC is comprised of the Mayor and all City Council members.

Joint Sustainability Committee (JSC)
Wednesday, November 28 – 6:00 pm
Austin City Hall – 301 W. Second St.
The JSC is comprised of representatives of several commissions and advises City Council on matters relating to conservation and sustainability.


350 Austin Reading Group

Tuesday, November 27 – 7:00-8:30 pm
Cepeda Library – 651 N. Pleasant Valley Rd.

Our Reading Group meets every Fourth Tuesday of the month to discuss articles related to climate change and sustainability. Please watch the 350 Austin Facebook page for selected readings.


350 Austin December Happy Hour

Thursday, December 6 – 6:30-9:00 pm
Stella Public House Mueller – 1905 Aldrich St. #110

Calling all friends of 350 Austin, new and old! Join us for food, drinks, and conversation at our monthly First Thursday happy hour. Come meet others who are taking action locally in the global climate movement. Bring a friend!
Stella Public House is an all-ages restaurant. All are welcome!

More info & RSVP


Candidate Questionnaire on Climate & Energy – Austin City Council Districts 1 & 3

Candidate Questionnaire on Climate & Energy – Austin City Council Districts 1 & 3

Climate change is happening now and local governments must play a significant role in reducing emissions and helping people cope with the impacts. Austin has existing climate commitments and has made progress in expanding its use of renewable energy, but many challenges remain.

On October 16, Solar Austin, 350 Austin, Earth Day Austin, and Shades of Green are hosting a City Council Climate & Energy Forum for City Council candidates from Districts 1 & 3 to speak to Austinites about their climate change and energy priorities. These candidates will be joining us for the forum:
City Council District 1: Natasha Harper-Madison, Lewis Conway Jr, Vincent Harding, Mariana Salazar, Reedy Spigner III, Mitrah Avini
City Council District 3: Pio Renteria, Susana Almanza, Amit Motwani, Justin Jacobson

Tuesday, October 16, 2018 @ 6:30pm – 9:00pm
Climate and Energy Candidate Forum – Austin City Council Districts 1 & 3

Dickey-Lawless Auditorium at Huston-Tillotson University
900 Chicon St, Austin, Texas 78702

Directions & Parking:
Please park in the Huston-Tillotson lot on Chalmers Ave (#25 on the map), directly across from the west entrance to campus. The auditorium is in building #1 on the map, just a short walk across campus from the west entrance. The parking is free and open, no permit required. Visitor parking on campus is very limited and must be arranged ahead of time as needed.

All candidates were required to respond to a written questionnaire in order to participate. Their answers are available below. Click on a candidate’s name to read their responses.
 

City Council District 1

Natasha Harper-Madison
1. What are your top three priorities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Austin, and what actions would you take to implement needed changes?
Currently, emissions are permitted by our city’s land use and transportation patterns which are fundamentally unsustainable. Electric cars and other technological solutions can help, but we can achieve a much greater reduction in carbon emissions by stopping sprawl and building a compact, connected city with walkable, transit-accessible communities.
1. We need a new, simplified land development code that encourages our growth to transition from a car-centric design to a people-centric design and facilitates pedestrian friendly streets and public transportation.
2. I will work to improve transit service by making riding the bus more accessible and a more attractive option to all Austinites.
3. I will work with the development community to increase close proximity co-working options near all types of new housing and included on property as amenities driven development in multifamily development projects.

2. As council member, you will be a member of the Austin Energy Utility Oversight Committee. What will you do to make sure that Austin Energy takes the necessary steps to phase out its use of fossil fuels for power generation by 2030?
I will be diligent and intentional about monitoring the future planning of Austin Energy by way of RMC and other energy specific boards and commissions appointments and open communications. Addiotionally, I look forward to working alongside local climate reality leaders to deploy the most effective strategies to achieve this goal. Lastly, it’s of the utmost importance that we recruit and engage the youngest and brightest minds in our city to innovate alongside veterans who have been fighting this fight to free ourselves from fossil fuel power generation for decades.

3. Despite declining costs of solar, many low income residents and multi-family housing tenants are challenged to participate in Austin Energy’s existing rooftop solar programs. Do you think it is important to expand access to solar by developing targeted programs and policies at Austin Energy? Please explain.
Absolutely. No one benefits from energy savings more than low income consumers, who allocate a much higher portion of their income toward energy than middle and high income earners. However, there are barriers to low income residents accessing these long term cost savings, like high-upfront installation costs, housing type, and lack of information and time.

Low income Austinites live in a variety of housing types, many not suitable for solar installation like multi-family housing and older homes, and more than half of Austin Energy customers are renters and have limited access to rooftop solar. Policies should address the range and not just one segment of housing type. We need to further invest in community solar farms that partner with the Customer Assistance Program (CAP) to power the homes of low-income residents at a discounted rate – no solar installation required.

Additionally, we need to collaborate with community partners and providers to create a successful community outreach program that is promoted citywide to ensure greater buy-in and program enrollment.

4. Local, distributed scale solar installation has produced values to the utility, community and the local economy. Do you support the expansion of utility investment programs (including rebates) for installing solar locally within the Austin Energy territory? Please explain.
As previously mentioned, I absolutely support the expansion of utility investment programs within Austin Energy territory. Investing in programs like Community Solar provides access to clean, renewable, energy to all our resident regardless of housing type or income.

5. What specific role and responsibility do you see Austin taking in responding to local, regional and international impacts of climate change, including preparing for large numbers of people displaced by extreme weather events?
As a climate reality leader, I understand and fully appreciate the dangers of our rapidly changing climate. It is important to recognize that I also appreciate the finite resources we have as a city, including our ability to respond to impacts of climate change. As a city, land–use is arguably the most pervasive force driving the degradation of our ecosystems. Our outdated land development code mandates unsustainable land use and transportation patterns that increase emissions and exposure to flood hazards.

Lewis Conway, Jr.
1. What are your top three priorities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Austin, and what actions would you take to implement needed changes?
Transportation​ (nearly 28.5 percent of 2016 greenhouse gas emissions)
Electricity production​ (28.4 percent of 2016 greenhouse gas emissions)
Industry​ (22 percent of 2016 greenhouse gas emissions)
Recommendation: I​n regards to East Austin and District 1, the best plan forward is one advocated for by PODER and T.EJ.A.S.

2. As council member, you will be a member of the Austin Energy Utility Oversight Committee. What will you do to make sure that Austin Energy takes the necessary steps to phase out its use of fossil fuels for power generation by 2030?
I pledge to seek total adherence to the mission, scope, and responsibilities of relevant advisory committees guidelines established in 2013:
● strategic and generation plans;
● major capital purchases or transactions;
● rates, annual budgets, the general fiand transfer and any other utility transfers;
● financial policies and the financial status of the utility;
● the sale and/or lease of utility property;
● AE programs for low-income customers;
● energy efficiency and solar programs;
● customer protection;
● fuel hedging and related financial strategies;
● key accounts and special tariffs; and
● competitive matters.

3. Despite declining costs of solar, many low income residents and multi-family housing tenants are challenged to participate in Austin Energy’s existing rooftop solar programs. Do you think it is important to expand access to solar by developing targeted programs and policies at Austin Energy? Please explain.
Absolutely. In fact, we can utilize lakes and waterways (Decker Lake) during off-peak season as a way to supplement our current system. The methodology I propose is a system of floating solar power plants that generate solar photovoltaic (PV) power.

4. Local, distributed scale solar installation has produced values to the utility, community and the local economy. Do you support the expansion of utility investment programs (including rebates) for installing solar locally within the Austin Energy territory? Please explain.
Absolutely, rebates and credits should be used to incentivize consumers to seek solar solutions.

5. What specific role and responsibility do you see Austin taking in responding to local, regional and international impacts of climate change, including preparing for large numbers of people displaced by extreme weather events?
We are advocating that COA develop an environmental justice strategy that lists programs, policies, planning and public participation processes, enforcement and/or rulemakings related to human health or the environment that should be revised to
(1) promote enforcement of all health and environmental statutes in areas with minority populations and low-income populations;
(2) ensure greater public participation;
(3) improve research and data collection relating to the health of and environment of minority populations and low-income populations; and
(4) identify differential patterns of consumption of natural resources among minority populations.
Include in the Strategy, where appropriate, a timetable for undertaking identified revisions and consideration of economic and social implications of the revisions.

Mariana Salazar
1. What are your top three priorities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Austin, and what actions would you take to implement needed changes?
Carbon emissions cause catastrophic and extreme weather events, and in Austin, we see the effects of climate change in flash floods, droughts & rising heat. To reduce carbon emissions, as a council member, I will support reducing usage of fossil fuels, reducing the reliance of single occupancy vehicles, and reducing waste in landfills.
● Energy from fossil fuel sources is one of our largest carbon emissions causing climate change. Texas leads the nation in wind power production and we should harness that energy. At the same time we should do it in a fashion that is affordable and makes energy accessible to owners and renters alike. Smaller cities like Georgetown are going fossil free, we can too. Austin Energy’s Resource Generation and Climate Protection Plan studies the possibility of going carbon free by 2030. I look forward to their findings and working with the community, Austin Energy and my fellow Council members to find a way to transition away from fossil fuels by 2030.
● Automobiles are our next largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from carbon combustion. In our transportation planning, we need to build better public transit to reduce our reliance on single occupancy vehicles and vehicles miles traveled and electrifying our transportation to use more electric vehicles in the city fleet & electric buses by CAPMETRO. We should increase opportunities for teleworking, carpooling and vanpooling to reduce the number of vehicles emitting harmful gases. In our land use planning, we need to reduce sprawl and develop in a compact manner to allow for shorter commutes and allow our green spaces to flourish that help clean our air and water.
● The third area of focus should be reducing waste in the landfills. Landfills emit carbon dioxide and methane. I would work towards designing programs that make Austin reuse, recycle and compost to reduce our carbon footprint at residential, commercial and industrial scales.

2. As council member, you will be a member of the Austin Energy Utility Oversight Committee. What will you do to make sure that Austin Energy takes the necessary steps to phase out its use of fossil fuels for power generation by 2030?
Energy from fossil fuel sources is one of our largest sources of carbon emissions causing climate change. While we should work towards that goal of phasing out fossil fuels, we should do it in a fashion that is affordable and makes energy accessible to owners and renters alike.
Smaller cities like Georgetown are going fossil free, and for then is much simpler as they only have to deal with one contract/supplier. I will work to ensure Austin takes the necessary steps to phase out its use of fossil fuels by:

Supporting the closing of the coal-fired Fayette Power Plant
Burning coal for energy causes air pollution that leads to negative health impacts like respiratory disorders. Coal plants also use a large amount of water which is a limited resource in Central Texas. I support the 2025 Plan directing Austin Energy to “strive to retire its share of the Fayette Power Project as soon as legally, economically and technologically possible. While Austin Energy should continue to talk with LCRA about retiring Units 1 and 2 as soon as economically and technologically feasible, Austin Energy will explore negotiation with LCRA for control of one unit to chart a path toward an early retirement of Austin Energy’s share of Fayette starting in 2022.

● Holding Austin Energy accountable for implementing the Austin Energy Resource Generation and Climate Protection Plan.

● Ensuring we continue to have a municipal electric utility company which enable us to have high renewable energy power supply (higher than California) and enable us to keep residential rates low, including rate that low-income customers can pay.

3. Despite declining costs of solar, many low income residents and multi-family housing tenants are challenged to participate in Austin Energy’s existing rooftop solar programs. Do you think it is important to expand access to solar by developing targeted programs and policies at Austin Energy? Please explain.
I recognize that installing solar panels is not cheap and it’s hard for low-income families to be able to prepay it when the payback period can be as much as 10-12 years. I also recognize that we all benefit from solar power regardless of who owns it. I support expanding access to the community solar programs – beyond the Palmer Events Center and La Loma – to a much broader audience so more customers can sign up to have solar power. Austin Energy has developed programs like Green Choice for our community to participate in the wind energy program and a community solar program for our community to participate in solar energy production. The design of this program allows owners but also multi-family housing tenants to participate. AE also has various customer assistance programs that aid low income or other vulnerable populations. These are great examples of programs we can expand upon.

4. Local, distributed scale solar installation has produced values to the utility, community and the local economy. Do you support the expansion of utility investment programs (including rebates) for installing solar locally within the Austin Energy territory? Please explain.
I would want to learn more about it’s trade off, costs and alternative investments, but in general, I would support the expansion of utility investment programs for installing solar locally within the Austin Energy territory.

5. What specific role and responsibility do you see Austin taking in responding to local, regional and international impacts of climate change, including preparing for large numbers of people displaced by extreme weather events?
Austin has been a leader in climate protection locally and both regionally. I am proud of Austin’s affirmed commitment to the Paris Climate accord despite the Federal Government withdrawing support.

Moving forward I support:
● Continuing to be a leader in climate change
● Energy storage
● Growing our housing supply so we can make austin a place that people can continue to move to and keep it affordable so we can welcome climate refugees.
● Planning better emergency preparation together with friends and neighbors across the state, including having identified spaces in advance where climate refugees can seek shelter right after a weather event.

Due to climate change we will see increasing events of heavy precipitation. Coupled with development that has allowed an increase in impervious cover, Austin will see more intense and frequent flash floods. We have seen the Memorial Day flooding, Halloween flood and witnessed what Houston went through with Harvey. To avoid loss of property and lives due to such events we should explore:
● Implementing green stormwater infrastructure like rain gardens, bioswales etc. to increase runoff infiltration.
● Reducing impervious cover by growing in a compact manner, changing sizes and designs of parking lots, reduce parking requirements, and making other land use changes that allow us to reduce negative impacts of floods.
● Implementing buyout programs for properties in the floodplain.
● Acquiring land or conservation easements on property in critical areas in the watershed to maintain the infiltration capacity and reduce flood impacts downstream.

And while events of heavy precipitation increase, they will be interspersed with longer bouts of drought and increasing average temperatures, with more days above 100 F.
● We need to protect our water supply that is surface water reservoirs that lose more water to evaporation in the summer than used by the city of Austin as a whole. We can do this by diversifying our water supply source using alternate waters like rainwater harvesting, stormwater harvesting, graywater and blackwater at building, community and city scale. We can also have new storage options like aquifer storage and recovery to limit loss of
water due to evaporation.
● Drought and increasing temperatures also lead to negative impacts on our environment and ecosystem. We should plant more drought resistant landscapes that can whether the climate impacts of Central Texas.
● Droughts and increasing temperatures increase the risk of wildfire. We have seen the devastating effects of wildfires in Bastrop in 2011. We need to follow best practices in property management and have a really well designed emergency management program to respond to such situations.

Vincent Harding
1. What are your top three priorities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Austin, and what actions would you take to implement needed changes?
Expand transportation opportunities so that we as a city can move away from the one person one car model, which is unsustainable and a massive emitter of greenhouse gasses. We have to ensure that this expanded transportation is equitable and accessible, so that people don’t feel it is necessary to own a vehicle, which can also be a barrier to employment and affordable living. Secondly, commit to and continue to expand our local solar options. More incentives for local and rooftop solar, which could include incentives for developers to include solar in their projects. Look at a program that includes solar for any future City of Austin developments, from affordable housing to public works projects. Thirdly, make sure we are on target to phase out the use of coal and natural gas plants as our energy source. Whether by increased investment in battery capacity, city owned renewables, or purchasing more renewable energy, we must commit to phasing out the current fossil fuel sources we use.

2. As council member, you will be a member of the Austin Energy Utility Oversight Committee. What will you do to make sure that Austin Energy takes the necessary steps to phase out its use of fossil fuels for power generation by 2030?
It is important that we maintain and continue to commit to our goals to phase out the use of fossil fuels for power generation, whether it be the Decker Power Plant or the Fayette Coal-Fired Power Plant. As a council member, I would ensure that Austin energy is meeting our set goals and deadlines. If they are not meeting deadlines as set, I will push for the council to be more aggressive in it’s push to phase out fossil fuels.

3. Despite declining costs of solar, many low income residents and multi-family housing tenants are challenged to participate in Austin Energy’s existing rooftop solar programs. Do you think it is important to expand access to solar by developing targeted programs and policies at Austin Energy? Please explain.
Yes. A main tenet of my campaign is equitability, and leaving low income residents and those in multi family housing out of existing solar programs is a problem. Climate change affects us all, and too often it is the poor and marginalized who have to pay the highest price when it comes to environmental degradation. Over 25 percent of residents in District 1 live in poverty, so we cannot force these residents to adopt something they cannot afford. If it is possible to incentivize low or no cost solar development in District 1, perhaps with public private partnerships or non-profit sources, I would welcome the opportunity.

4. Local, distributed scale solar installation has produced values to the utility, community and the local economy. Do you support the expansion of utility investment programs (including rebates) for installing solar locally within the Austin Energy territory? Please explain.
Yes. We need to continue to expand local solar with incentives. The FY 18-19 budget has $5,000,000 line itemed for local solar, and we need to maintain that program going forward. If we are not hitting our goals, such as 100 MW by the end of 2025 for local solar, look at expanding that program.

5. What specific role and responsibility do you see Austin taking in responding to local, regional and international impacts of climate change, including preparing for large numbers of people displaced by extreme weather events?
As we do in many areas, we can lead by example. Climate change affects everyone, everywhere. If the city can get to 100% renewables, and can do so in a cost effective, and equitable manner, we can lead other cities in doing so as well. Austin can create the blueprint that other large cities can use to fight climate change. At the same time, we are already seeing, and will continue to see the effects of climate change. We are currently voting for a bond that deals with flood water management, directly as a consequence of intense storms. It will be better and healthier for our city in the long run to lead the way in this arena, because climate change cannot be solved on an island. We must show the other Texas cities what can be done, and guide them in doing it as well. As for preparing for displacement, we have to look to the future. The decisions we make now must be looking, 20-30 years ahead. Whether it be housing, transportation, or energy, if we look ahead and anticipate these challenges, we won’t look back at now as we look back at 20-30 years ago,

Reedy Spigner III
1. What are your top three priorities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Austin, and what actions would you take to implement needed changes?
● Increase constituent education surrounding recycling and composting for both residential and commercial constituents.
● Increasing the number of energy efficient products purchased and used in municipal buildings.
● Advocating commercial recycling. Additionally, recycling has the added benefit of creating jobs in recycling processing.

2. As council member, you will be a member of the Austin Energy Utility Oversight Committee. What will you do to make sure that Austin Energy takes the necessary steps to phase out its use of fossil fuels for power generation by 2030?
As a member of the AEUO I will diligently research and advocate for sensible solutions to ensure the goal is met.

3. Despite declining costs of solar, many low income residents and multi-family housing tenants are challenged to participate in Austin Energy’s existing rooftop solar programs. Do you think it is important to expand access to solar by developing targeted programs and policies at Austin Energy? Please explain.
Yes. I think it is important to expand access to solar by developing targeted programs and policies at Austin Energy. For solar or any energy efficiency program to be successful it must have mass support. Mass support leads to volume discounts and efficiencies.

4. Local, distributed scale solar installation has produced values to the utility, community and the local economy. Do you support the expansion of utility investment programs (including rebates) for installing solar locally within the Austin Energy territory? Please explain.
Yes. I support the expansion of utility investment programs (including rebates) for installing solar locally within the Austin Energy. These programs serve as effective mechanisms to educate and reward consumers of energy efficiency.

5. What specific role and responsibility do you see Austin taking in responding to local, regional and international impacts of climate change, including preparing for large numbers of people displaced by extreme weather events?
As the capital city of Texas we are the standard-bearer and are expected to lead. How we react to new developments impacts the reaction of other municipalities. My experience in emergency preparedness guides my opinion that we should be prepared for all large emergencies including extreme weather events.

Mitrah Avini
1. What are your top three priorities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Austin, and what actions would you take to implement needed changes?
● Promote recycling/reuse
● Promote walking and cycling
● Encourage local consumption/growing vegetable gardens
● Preserve heavily forested wild land; ensure new development adheres to environmental standards, utilizes native plants (to reduce need for watering), preserves trees, and so on.

2. As council member, you will be a member of the Austin Energy Utility Oversight Committee. What will you do to make sure that Austin Energy takes the necessary steps to phase out its use of fossil fuels for power generation by 2030?
This is a matter of budgeting. Demand is also an issue. Addressing population growth may be necessary. Eliminating subsidies and incentive programs that attract relocation to Austin may also be necessary.

3. Despite declining costs of solar, many low income residents and multi-family housing tenants are challenged to participate in Austin Energy’s existing rooftop solar programs. Do you think it is important to expand access to solar by developing targeted programs and policies at Austin Energy? Please explain.
I do think it’s important to expand access. The up front expenses are a limiting factor in underserved communities. Much of the environmentally-friendly alternatives such as electric cars, solar, wind, et cetera, are simply out of reach.

4. Local, distributed scale solar installation has produced values to the utility, community and the local economy. Do you support the expansion of utility investment programs (including rebates) for installing solar locally within the Austin Energy territory? Please explain.
Yes, but the expansion needs to make solar accessible and affordable to low income communities.

5. What specific role and responsibility do you see Austin taking in responding to local, regional and international impacts of climate change, including preparing for large numbers of people displaced by extreme weather events?
Think globally, act locally – Austin needs to better address equity as one aspect of sustainability. Austin also needs to address the growth of the tech manufacturing industry in Austin, which is problematic.

The City cannot promote massive growth in watersheds, ignore the impact of impervious cover on flooding, and continue allowing the displacement of people of color if it wants to be a genuinely sustainable city.

City Council District 3

Pio Renteria
1. What are your top three priorities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Austin, and what actions would you take to implement needed changes?

First, I want to transition Austin Energy fully away from fossil fuels as soon as possible.

When I voted in support of the 2027 updates to the Generation, and Climate Protection Plan recommended by the Electric Utility Commission Resource Planning Working Group, we directed Austin energy to report back on the feasibility of reaching 80% use of renewable energy by 2027 and 30% by 2030.

Second, We are one of the fastest-growing metro areas in the nation and now we are the 11th largest City in the United States. The growth we are experiencing is not likely to stop anytime soon. So, we cannot continue to ignore that reality and instead we must commit ourselves to smart planning and to addressing that growth in ways that benefit our communities and protect our environment.

The elevated demand for housing and an outdated land development code have resulted in endless sprawl. That has exacerbated our traffic crisis. And that traffic affects more than just our sanity. It has a devastating environmental impact on our air and our water. That’s why we need to build the housing we need, including low-income and affordable housing, in smarter ways and in ways that will help support a multi-modal transportation system with a robust public transit network. That will have the added benefit of reducing impervious cover and helping us address flooding. On council, I have supported building more housing in central Austin and along transit corridors and will continue to do so.

Third, I am a proponent of multimodal transportation options including buses, trains, bicycling, and walking. I have championed initiatives and funding for active transportation improvements like the 2016 Mobility Bond which included $37.5 million for sidewalks, $27.5 million for Safe Routes to Schools, $26 million for urban trails, $20 million for bicycle infrastructure, and $15 million for safety-related intersection upgrades.

2. As council member, you will be a member of the Austin Energy Utility Oversight Committee. What will you do to make sure that Austin Energy takes the necessary steps to phase out its use of fossil fuels for power generation by 2030?
I support transitioning Austin Energy fully away from fossil fuels as soon as possible. When I voted in support of the 2027 updates to the Generation, and Climate Protection Plan recommended by the Electric Utility Commission Resource Planning Working Group, we directed Austin energy to report back on the feasibility of reaching 80% use of renewable energy by 2027 and 30% by 2030. I will continue to monitor progress on that front and will do all I can to help Austin Energy reach those goals.

3. Despite declining costs of solar, many low income residents and multi-family housing tenants are challenged to participate in Austin Energy’s existing rooftop solar programs. Do you think it is important to expand access to solar by developing targeted programs and policies at Austin Energy? Please explain.

Absolutely.

When we take on environmental issues, we must consider also consider justice and equity. When Austin Energy built the La Loma Community Solar Farm in my District, I worked with City and Austin Energy Staff to create policies that would allow folks enrolled in the Customer Assistance Program (CAP) to participate in the Community Solar Program. I would continue to support and develop these types of programs. And I would support exploring innovative financing options to allow low-income families to participate in rooftop solar programs.

4. Local, distributed scale solar installation has produced values to the utility, community and the local economy. Do you support the expansion of utility investment programs (including rebates) for installing solar locally within the Austin Energy territory? Please explain.

Yes.  I strongly support efforts to make solar accessible to more people.

5. What specific role and responsibility do you see Austin taking in responding to local, regional and international impacts of climate change, including preparing for large numbers of people displaced by extreme weather events?
We must do our part to limit climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  On the regional level, climate change may place more strain on our already strained water resources. That is why I support efforts to preserve water and protect our watersheds.

Our region is going to continue to experience significant population growth.  That growth may be accelerated by displacement from extreme weather events. We must plan for that growth and manage it responsibly by allowing for the construction of housing that is affordable, environmentally sustainable, and located in places where people can easily walk, bike, and use public transit.

Susana Almanza
1. What are your top three priorities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Austin, and what actions would you take to implement needed changes?

1) Explore financing mechanisms to enable energy efficiency, demand response, distributed generation, and energy storage.
2) Support efforts to work with large employers and academic institutions to implement and improve trip reduction programs that include a regular survey of how the workforce commutes, explanation of benefits to commuters, and includes promotion of transportation alternatives (e.g. carpool/vanpool, bus/rail, bike/walk, flex/compressed work schedules) to their employees; celebrate successful programs.
3) City adopts procurement specifications for materials reuse, reduced packaging, products with low embodied energy, materials with recycled content, and locally manufactured products and the City encourages other agencies and enterprises to follow suit

2. As council member, you will be a member of the Austin Energy Utility Oversight Committee. What will you do to make sure that Austin Energy takes the necessary steps to phase out its use of fossil fuels for power generation by 2030?

1) Focus just as much effort on energy efficiency and renewable energy sources
2) Move toward a cleaner, carbon-free energy future

3. Despite declining costs of solar, many low income residents and multi-family housing tenants are challenged to participate in Austin Energy’s existing rooftop solar programs. Do you think it is important to expand access to solar by developing targeted programs and policies at Austin Energy? Please explain.

Yes, there should be targeted programs. Low-income residents should be subsidized for installation of solar panels. The residents that need assistance for utilities should be prioritized for solar installation.

4. Local, distributed scale solar installation has produced values to the utility, community and the local economy. Do you support the expansion of utility investment programs (including rebates) for installing solar locally within the Austin Energy territory? Please explain.

Yes, there should be targeted programs. Rebates should be targeted. Low-income residents should be subsidized for installation of solar panels. The residents that need assistance for utilities should be prioritized for solar installation.

5. What specific role and responsibility do you see Austin taking in responding to local, regional and international impacts of climate change, including preparing for large numbers of people displaced by extreme weather events?
All future City planning efforts should incorporate climate change impacts as a key consideration in order to effectively and efficiently manage resources, operations, assets, and infrastructure. Becoming more resilient will involve coordination with regional partner organizations, such as the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG), Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO), Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT), and Travis and other surrounding counties. Becoming more climate resilient will be an iterative process of responding to evolving changes in vulnerability, risk, demographics, and City infrastructure. The work will be on-going and will need to be assessed on an on-going basis, using the most current projections and data.

Amit Motwani
1. What are your top three priorities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Austin, and what actions would you take to implement needed changes?
● Priority 1 – Pull out of Fayette Plant Contract ASAP (reduce GHG from electricity production)
Actions: (barring legal issues, policy fiat seems to be the answer, and economic viability seems to solve for itself, given studies)
● Priority 2 – More solar Energy production (reduce GHG from electricity production)
Actions: Increase commercial and residential incentives for solar, including rebates, tax benefits, and increased VoS return rates (all this coupled with outreach and edu around how to leverage existing incentives)
● Priority 3 – Reduce GHG from on road cars trucks
Actions: strong outreach/edu around leveraging existing tax breaks for electric vehicle use, strong promotion of new city-based incentives around electric vehicle usage, improvement and development of multimodal transit and mass transit systems that are powered by clean renewable energy sources.

2. As council member, you will be a member of the Austin Energy Utility Oversight Committee. What will you do to make sure that Austin Energy takes the necessary steps to phase out its use of fossil fuels for power generation by 2030?
Work with experts to develop accompanying actionable project plan and milestones inclusive of mandated monitoring, reporting, and continuous improvement of the same.

3. Despite declining costs of solar, many low income residents and multi-family housing tenants are challenged to participate in Austin Energy’s existing rooftop solar programs. Do you think it is important to expand access to solar by developing targeted programs and policies at Austin Energy? Please explain.
Yes, I think it’s important. Participation in environmental stewardship through progressive strategies is often inaccessible to lower-income households, and therefore targeted programs that align incentive by demonstrating both reduced buy-in risk and clear return on investment, coupled with culturally appropriate outreach and education are the right combination to promote solar energy production and reduce dependence on high-GHG energy production source (see response to #1)

4. Local, distributed scale solar installation has produced values to the utility, community and the local economy. Do you support the expansion of utility investment programs (including rebates) for installing solar locally within the Austin Energy territory? Please explain.
Yes, it creates a public investment that dilutes investment risk and spreads the benefits to all community members while paying non-monetary dividends in environmental quality. Also results in increased solar production which improves market leverage for AE., immediate savings for lower income users who qualify, and empirically proven to create local mid-high skills jobs.

5. What specific role and responsibility do you see Austin taking in responding to local, regional and international impacts of climate change, including preparing for large numbers of people displaced by extreme weather events?
● Investment in continued and increased flood mitigation (support Prop D), including storm drain improvements, streambank stabilization, low-water crossing improvements, and buyouts in flood-prone areas
● Aggressive deeply/affordable housing development on public lands that are outside of 500 year floodplains (development practices in general that treats “500-year” flood as commensurate to previous “100-year” notion) or as directed by experts.
● Residency-exempt tenant protections for renting households, including potential insurance funds for lower income/more vulnerable households who may not have formal coverage
● Maintain and/or improve cohesive inclusion of expert groups for policy and investment guidance


Justin Jacobson
1. What are your top three priorities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Austin, and what actions would you take to implement needed changes?
A. Transportation- We need to get more folks out of their cars when occupied by one person and using more alternative means. Any purposed substitutions need to be as green as possible, i.e. battery and electric propulsion, walking, biking, all of the above. Actualizing an Austin where people can live without a car needs to become a reality.
B. Austin Energy Generation- Ensuring that Austin Energy switches to 100% renewable by our current 2030 deadline is paramount. Holding the utility accountable via oversight and providing the funds needed for the transitions is how we can get there.
C. Building Greener Structures- We need structures that help decrease our city’s energy needs while also helping to generate renewable power. There are other efficiencies we can have baked into new buildings and offer increases in entitlements for green community benefits.

2. As council member, you will be a member of the Austin Energy Utility Oversight Committee. What will you do to make sure that Austin Energy takes the necessary steps to phase out its use of fossil fuels for power generation by 2030?
I would have no reservations about being assigned to this committee. As soon as possible we need to divest from the Fayettville coal plant. Austin Energy should be giving us monthly, quarterly, and yearly reports on progress. If we’re not getting there, then council needs to step up and say something.

3. Despite declining costs of solar, many low income residents and multi-family housing tenants are challenged to participate in Austin Energy’s existing rooftop solar programs. Do you think it is important to expand access to solar by developing targeted programs and policies at Austin Energy? Please explain.
Everyone that wants to participate in solar should have the option. It shouldn’t be limited based on any given category. It’s a smart investment on the part of Austin Energy to develop more local community solar projects. We can open them up for all kinds of residents to buy into, thus, helping to reduce or emissions and providing additional revenues to expand our renewable infrastructure.

4. Local, distributed scale solar installation has produced values to the utility, community and the local economy. Do you support the expansion of utility investment programs (including rebates) for installing solar locally within the Austin Energy territory? Please explain.
I fully support expanding this program. I believe it’s the smart kind of invest that will help Austin to become a leader in localized solar programs.

5. What specific role and responsibility do you see Austin taking in responding to local, regional and international impacts of climate change, including preparing for large numbers of people displaced by extreme weather events?
Austin needs to be a leader in a world impacted by climate change. We have to figure out how we keep growing while also being cognizant of our limited water resources, climbing temperatures, and increasing risks of wild fires. The solutions that we can come up with here will impact the world. To do so, we need to make sure that we prioritize funds to deal with these issues and partner with other jurisdictions to have a well sorted plans in the event of emergencies.

Candidate Questionnaire on Climate & Energy – Austin City Council Districts 8 & 9

Candidate Questionnaire on Climate & Energy – Austin City Council Districts 8 & 9

Climate change is happening now and local governments must play a significant role in reducing emissions and helping people cope with the impacts. Austin has existing climate commitments and has made progress in expanding its use of renewable energy, but many challenges remain.

On October 9, Solar Austin, 350 Austin, Earth Day Austin, and Shades of Green are hosting a City Council Climate & Energy Forum for City Council candidates from Districts 8 & 9 to speak to Austinites about their climate change and energy priorities. Five candidates will be joining us for the forum:
City Council District 8: Rich DePalma, Bobby Levinski
City Council District 9: Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo, Danielle Skidmore, Linda O’Neal

Tuesday, October 9, 2018 @ 6:30pm – 9:00pm
Climate and Energy Candidate Forum – Austin City Council Districts 8 & 9
Wildflower Church
1314 E Oltorf St, Austin, Texas 78704

All candidates were required to respond to a written questionnaire in order to participate. Their answers are available below.

Click on a candidate’s name to read their responses.

City Council District 8

Bobby Levinski
1. What are your top three priorities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Austin, and what actions would you take to implement needed changes?
My top three priorities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would be (i) to shut down the Fayette Coal Plant (or, at least, the City’s portion thereof), which produces the majority of the City of Austin’s greenhouse gas emissions and a sizeable portion of the city’s at-large; (ii) invest in dedicated right-of-way to make transit a more viable option for commuters, by improving speed and reliability, and thereby reduce emissions from reducing trips by single occupancy vehicles; and (iii) better integrate the water-energy nexus into our utility planning, so that we are both more efficient with our water and energy use, such as using graywater to pipe through our chiller plants (as an environmental attorney who has a been a bit more focused on the water side of things, I think I can help quite a bit in this regard). I understand that there has been some ongoing legal conversations with regard to Fayette and our co-ownership of the plant with the LCRA. I think the first action I would need to take is getting up to speed on those conversations that have occurred with the City’s counsel, and then do everything I can to help make the consolidation of our city’s interest happen so we can shut down one of the units.

2. As council member, you will be a member of the Austin Energy Utility Oversight Committee. What will you do to make sure that Austin Energy takes the necessary steps to phase out its use of fossil fuels for power generation by 2030?
I mentioned the legal conversations with the LCRA above, but beyond that, we need to putting the utility in a good place from both a financial and operational perspective to enable to the switch to occur. We aren’t far off our goals, but it will require continued investment in renewable energy generation, and I’d like to build up the reserve fund a bit to help stabilize rates should the unexpected happen. We need to be well-armed with sound financials, so we can push back against the State’s interference.

3. Despite declining costs of solar, many low income residents and multi-family housing tenants are challenged to participate in Austin Energy’s existing rooftop solar programs. Do you think it is important to expand access to solar by developing targeted programs and policies at Austin Energy? Please explain.
Yes, my immediate priority would be helping our school districts install solar so that we easing some of their costs, given their current budgetary constraints. As a policy advisor to MPT Tovo, I helped ensure our energy efficiency programs were expanded to lower-income resident, because the savings that can result can have an enormous impact on a families month-to-month budget. I would love to help expand solar access for lower-income families, and partnering with multi-family complexes to provide savings to renters makes a ton of sense. Count me in.

4. Local, distributed scale solar installation has produced values to the utility, community and the local economy. Do you support the expansion of utility investment programs (including rebates) for installing solar locally within the Austin Energy territory? Please explain.
Yes, distributed-scale solar is an economically sound investment for our utility in reducing transmission and infrastructure costs. It’s no longer an idea for the future; it’s a necessity now so we can have a future.

5. What specific role and responsibility do you see Austin taking in responding to local, regional and international impacts of climate change, including preparing for large numbers of people displaced by extreme weather events?
I appreciate this question, because this is a topic that has been brought up to me by some of our first responders on the campaign trail. Our public safety needs our changing and growing, as we experience the consequences of climate change. For EMS, especially, I think there needs to be a broader recognition of the community health service they provide–especially during extreme heat and drought. And, of course, we have seen the other side of it, with flooding caused by extreme rain events. The most immediate conversation that our City must have is how we are treating drainage in our community. We need to revise the land development code to require that redeveloping responsibility control for drainage on their properties, and we need to invest in open space acquisitions upstream that can mitigate flooding consequences downstream.

With regard to being a regional steward, I think we learned a lot from Hurricane Katrina and Rita. I was working for council at the time, and I think we can all agree that the collective after-action report was that we were unprepared. We established the Office of Emergency Management and began to prepare better. We are in a much better place now to serve that role for our neighbors, but we of course need to stay on top of it.

Rich DePalma
1. What are your top three priorities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Austin, and what actions would you take to implement needed changes?

Priority One – Reduce GHG in from cars and trucks.
Strategies include:
(i) Go beyond the the 2016 Fleet Electrification Study and Plan recommendations prioritizing light duty cars, SUVs, trucks, and equipment. The current plan of 330 plug-in electric vehicles by 2020 is not aggressive enough given the size of the city’s fleet (even the smaller amount of cars and SUVs). Financial challenges is understable but unless the city is locked into existing contracts on the remaining light duty cars, then the City should release a Request for Information that details its entire fleet (including year, model, make, mileage, existing contractual obligations) and seek information on what the private sector market would offer. The City must leverage purchasing power to replace the fleet at a higher rate. Currently, the fleet refresh/replacement schedule is only done in small numbers and definitely not at a level to warrant deep discounts. We need an analysis that includes the financial impact from moving away from traditional municipal lease to purchase agreements to straight lease agreements. The analysis should include maintenance costs comparing against a three year lease scenario versus total cost of ownership. For the remaining fleet, we must transition to alternative fuel as quickly as possible.
(ii) Invest in a robust transit infrastructure. It is imperative that we move residents from cars to other forms of sustainable transportation methods. This includes light rail, bus, commuter rail, electric shuttles, autonomous vehicles, bikes, e-bikes, e-scooters and possibly even ferry.

Priority Two – Reduce GHG from Residential and Commercial Electricity Consumption.
Strategies include:
(i) Retire the Fayette Power Plant. Coal is the largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States and the city must close Fayette. The community needs to identify and implement a way to pay off all the costs associated with closing the plant.
(ii) Continue to Move Toward Renewable Energy Options. The city must continue to pursue a mix of entering into Power Purchase Agreements for utility scale solar and wind farms along with localized rooftop solar. The Austin Energy Community Power program is an exciting opportunity for renters and others who do not have the ability to incorporate solar on to the property to receive the benefits of rooftop solar. I believe there is another opportunity to work with a third party operator for a lease purchase solar rooftop program. This program would be implemented by a third party (who can receive the tax credits and manage the program) and heavily coordinated with Austin Energy and Development Services who will help with program implementation. A successful program will address issues associated with upgrading existing electrical boxes and roofs. The program could allow for a lien on a property where in the event of a sale, the remaining loan is paid off. If structured correctly, this program could operate in a similar manner to an Energy Savings Performance Contract where solar, any needed infrastructure, and other energy improvements could be locked into the loan which is included in the utility payment. This would provide flexibility for a homeowner whose roof and electrical system is solar ready but also provide a solution to a homeowner who has an aging roof and electrical system. In the later instance, the program could help low income owners keep their home.
(iii) Energy Savings Performance Contracting. Perform a directed engineering study on all City of Austin facilities and pursue an energy savings performance contract to address lighting, solar panel installation, energy controls, and other mechanical systems. This should have been done years ago. We should not be using bond money for energy efficiency projects when it can be done through an ESPC.

Priority Three – Large Scale Carbon Capture Program.
The City of Austin with its partners (such as TreeFolks where I am board president) need to fully implement a comprehensive urban reforest and carbon capture program. The City’s urban forest has an estimated four million tree deficit since the 1970s. A robust carbon capture program that includes our headwaters, creeks, Eastern Travis County, and other parts of the city will help reduce our carbon while also cleaning our water and building our green stormwater infrastructure. The pilot program is currently stuck in Austin’s bureaucracy. I have been a part of this project and it is a passion project for me. I will aggressively pursue it as a city council member.

2. As council member, you will be a member of the Austin Energy Utility Oversight Committee. What will you do to make sure that Austin Energy takes the necessary steps to phase out its use of fossil fuels for power generation by 2030?
Step One – Work with my renewable energy advisor, Kaiba White of Public Citizen to determine the latest options.
Step Two – Direct the City Manager to Release an Request for Information for Innovative Solutions, Services and Materials directly relating to meeting the 2015 Austin Community Climate Plan and assess responses.
Step Three – Implement the Austin Energy Resource, Generation and Climate Protection Plan to 2027 (2027 Plan).
Step Four – Implement the more aggressive steps in question one.
Step Five – Review the 100% Carbon-Free Energy by 2030 model requested in the 2027 Plan and assess additional options.

3. Despite declining costs of solar, many low income residents and multi-family housing tenants are challenged to participate in Austin Energy’s existing rooftop solar programs. Do you think it is important to expand access to solar by developing targeted programs and policies at Austin Energy? Please explain.
Yes, it is important. I support expanding the community solar program along moving toward a solar program (with possible layered funding from other programs) that would assist low-income individuals in adding solar to their homes where the roof, electrical, lighting and possibly mechanical also need to be upgraded. The details of this program are provided in the answer (ii) of question of 2 above.

4. Local, distributed scale solar installation has produced values to the utility, community and the local economy. Do you support the expansion of utility investment programs (including rebates) for installing solar locally within the Austin Energy territory? Please explain.
Yes. The cost of local, distributed scale solar installation is more expensive than utility scale solar farms but utility scale solutions also come with a cost of using land that is likely undeveloped. We must find the right mix.

5. What specific role and responsibility do you see Austin taking in responding to local, regional and international impacts of climate change, including preparing for large numbers of people displaced by extreme weather events?
In August 2017, when Hurricane Harvey hit the South Texas Coast, I was present as a member of the Austin Independent School District’s (AISD) Facilities and Bond Planning Advisory Committee to see first hand at LBJ High School the coordinate response our City, County, and AISD had in in assisting our neighbors along the coast impacted by Hurricane Harvey. I was impressed with the response but there were improvements that needed such as as mobility, recreation for kids, full restrooms, and better information exchange. Our city government has a role in
actively assisting with emergency rescues, local housing, school placement, food, transportation, medical attention, and even job placement for those displaced by extreme weather events. It is a moral responsibility.

City Council District 9

Danielle Skidmore
1. What are your top three priorities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Austin, and what actions would you take to implement needed changes?

1. Embrace emerging technology and innovations. To accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles, we need to continue to work with Austin Energy to increase availability of electric vehicle infrastructure for both the municipal fleet and the city at large. The city can and should continue to provide funding and resources to transition the fleet to electric vehicles where practical. I will also work proactively with Capital Metro to help achieve the Project Connect vision of electric high-capacity transit. More generally, for the sake of our environment, we finally need to go big on public transportation. That means embracing technology to ensure faster, safer movement around our city, but also going back to the basics: a robust bus service, and sidewalks that that allow our citizens to walk (or roll) to where they need to be.
2. Overhaul public transportation. To implement this transportation reboot in Austin, we need someone with the both the technical skillset and political will to guide that process to fruition; we need someone with a long term vision that necessarily includes making policy changes to save the environment, such as going big on public transportation. If we want public transportation to be as big as it should be in Austin, we must give commuters viable alternatives to driving single occupancy vehicles and provide relatively inexpensive incentives to use transit. Movability Austin is doing good work in this area, but we need to expand the effort to give people economic incentives to change their parking habits.
3. Link land development and transit efforts. Less driving means more living. I envision a walkable, bike-friendly Austin, with transit options that fit within or improve families’ budgets and lifestyles. In order to realize a more sustainable Austin, we must create more affordable and market rate housing in walking distance to transit corridors. As we look at our key Project Connect transportation corridors and Capital Metro Remap high frequency corridors, our land development code should allow higher densities on the corridors and also for a stair-step transition of “missing middle” housing—parallel to these corridors. Our density bonus program should also be revised to ensure this new housing comes with real community benefits to affordable housing programs.

2. As council member, you will be a member of the Austin Energy Utility Oversight Committee. What will you do to make sure that Austin Energy takes the necessary steps to phase out its use of fossil fuels for power generation by 2030?
The City should retain control over Austin Energy, but I do believe we could consider an independent board with real expertise in the energy industry to supplement Council’s leadership. I am proud of Austin Energy’s leadership in sustainable energy production and think setting aggressive goals to reduce fossil fuel dependence is laudable. I will work with Austin Energy’s leadership to balance these goals with affordability targets, with a focus on a robust public discussion of the cost and benefit data. More broadly, I also think it may be most cost effective to look at overall fossil fuel usage as a city, with targeted investments in our transportation infrastructure to reduce fossil fuel demand.

3. Despite declining costs of solar, many low income residents and multi-family housing tenants are challenged to participate in Austin Energy’s existing rooftop solar programs. Do you think it is important to expand access to solar by developing targeted programs and policies at Austin Energy? Please explain.
I believe we must continue to expand access to multifamily and low income residents. Extending these benefits to these communities will require a shift in thinking in the incentive programs. As a resident of a downtown condominium with sub-metered electricity, I have not been able to easily participate in thermostat rebate programs due to the billing challenges. With respect to rooftop solar, similar challenges apply. Targeted outreach and programs for the HOA or property management could help expand the use of solar. The challenges are primarily billing/credit logistics and how to allocate this community benefit to individual units, and this could be addressed through the “virtual net metering” to program participants, as has been explored in California by their PUC:

“There are economic and technical challenges to installing one solar energy system in a multifamily housing complex where each tenant’s unit has a separate meter. This is true for affordable housing, as well as any multitenant environment. The VNM concept is designed to overcome the challenge of allocating benefits from a single solar energy system to tenants in multifamily housing whose units are individually metered. Under VNM, a single solar energy system sized to offset part or all of a building’s total load can be installed for the entire complex, but electricity produced by the system can be credited to individually metered tenants and to common areas of the building. Essentially, the electricity produced by the system would be net-balanced against total building electricity consumption, as if the building had a single, or “virtual,” master meter. Credits for solar energy system production would be allocated to all units (both tenant units and common areas) in a predetermined proportion. Staff recommends VNM credits could be allocated proportionally between tenant and common areas based on historical load data, and then allocated equally between tenants.”

Austin energy has a similar pilot program “Multifamily Shared Solar Pilot Program for Multi-Tenant Affordable Housing”, which should be expanded. Expanding Austin Energy credits to low income residents could be achieved in partnership with nonprofits, perhaps a solar cooperative that could pool costs and resources to add solar to other affordable housing programs.

4. Local, distributed scale solar installation has produced values to the utility, community and the local economy. Do you support the expansion of utility investment programs (including rebates) for installing solar locally within the Austin Energy territory? Please explain.
I absolutely support these investment programs. It is the duty of today’s energy companies to actively facilitate our broader societal transition to renewables, and incentivize families to opt into them now by offsetting their cost to do so.

5. What specific role and responsibility do you see Austin taking in responding to local, regional and international impacts of climate change, including preparing for large numbers of people displaced by extreme weather events?
Great cities are serving as an example for the whole United States on these sustainability issues. When President Trump pulled us out of the Paris Climate Accord, mayors of cities committed to exert their local power by still upholding the tenets of the accord. Austin City Council can do the same, by taking the bold and necessary actions to help redefine our city’s mobility patterns in a way that both benefits our residents and combats climate change… but we need a champion on Council with the vision and skillset to make that happen. By realizing a compact, connected city (less pavement, more people) we reduce our need to drive and the amount of greenhouse gases we’re pumping into the atmosphere. This line of thinking will also help us accommodate more people in our city, in the instance of natural disasters that will surely increase as climate change intensifies. We need to make more room for people throughout Austin—remembering that we’re not just talking about transplants from California or wherever, but new children being born in Austin all the time, and potentially future climate refugees. We just have to make sure that making that space comes with a real and tangible commitment to community benefits; affordable housing, and minimizing displacement of current residents in our communities.

As far as local and regional effects of climate change, the clearest example for Texas has been a quantifiable increase in the frequency and intensity of floods. As a civil engineer practicing in transportation and drainage engineering, the data (NOAA Atlas 14) reaffirms what we all see: it’s raining harder and longer. This directly
impacts the City of Austin by increasing the amount of land, and the number of homes that are located within a floodplain. It is terrifying to see many of my projects, designed for a “100-year” flood, see floods of equal or greater size a couple of times in the span of a few years. This flooding has affected my work and my life greatly in this way, and I know that I will be able to use my political position for environmental change once I’m in office.

Flooding has been a prevalent issue seen as a result of climate change specifically in Austin. To reduce flooding dangers, we must continue to manage our development and near floodplains carefully. Austin does a good job of regulating floodplain development, but climate change is real. It’s raining harder now, and more often. This means that our floodplain maps will continue to change as stream flood intensity increases. From a policy standpoint, that means we need to reduce the number of vulnerable properties impacted by flooding, using programs such as
buyouts, where appropriate. The other piece of the flooding solution is to continue to support compact and connected cities, and to reduce sprawl. The redevelopment of existing impervious cover is better than expanding it; we must allow development to go up instead of out, which will help preserve more green-space in the process.

Drought is another impact of climate change seen within our city, and to survive future droughts, we must continue on our current path, where we’ve seen some good success with the Austin Water Utility, and I am excited to support the Water Forward Plan.

Kathie Tovo
1. What are your top three priorities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Austin, and what actions would you take to implement needed changes?

I believe that fighting climate change requires a multi-pronged approach in which we adopt a variety of policies that improve energy efficiency, increase our public and private use of renewable resources, and reduce our use of fossil fuels.

Some of my top priorities at the City related to this include retiring the Fayette Power Plant, electrifying our City fleet, and increasing private and public generation of solar and renewable energy resources. As a Council Member, I have worked toward each of these goals by supporting efforts to:
• Close the Fayette Power Plant, including supporting creating a cash reserve fund that we will use to pay off related debts so we can retire the plant.
• Identify a target for transitioning the City’s fleet to electric vehicles.
• Adopt an update to the Generation Plan that supports at least 330 new charging stations for electric vehicles by 2020.
• Approve a contract investing $3.2 million in electric vehicle infrastructure.
• Set aggressive goals for net zero public and private emissions through the Generation Plan and the Austin Community Climate Plan.
• Direct the City Manager to nearly triple the City’s portfolio of solar energy.
• Require new buildings be constructed in a way that allows them to be “solar ready.”

Additionally, I believe that we must work with our partners in Central Texas, such as CapMetro, to provide real mass transit solutions that can provide alternatives to driving. I have consistently supported urban rail and mass transit efforts. I was one of the only candidates citywide who supported the 2014 urban rail bond and have voted for projects at the City that will help provide two new train stations on the existing MetroRail line.

I look forward to continuing to lead on efforts at the City to close the Fayette Power Plant, electrify our fleet, and increase generation of renewable energy resources, as well as working with our CapMetro partners to bring Austin mass transit through Project Connect.

2. As council member, you will be a member of the Austin Energy Utility Oversight Committee. What will you do to make sure that Austin Energy takes the necessary steps to phase out its use of fossil fuels for power generation by 2030?

I have been a strong and consistent voice leading the way on increasing renewable energy and moving away from fossil fuels. As a Council Member, I have led and supported efforts to:
• Establish the Austin Generation Resource Planning Task Force, which helped develop the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2030 for city- controlled resources.
• Adopt an Austin Community Climate Plan with the goal of achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions citywide by 2050.
• Direct the City Manager to nearly triple the City’s portfolio of solar energy.
• Require new buildings be constructed in a way that allows them to be “solar ready.”
• Establish a Joint Sustainability Task Force to advise Council on policies related to the Austin Community Climate Plan.
• Create a Low-Income Consumer Advisory Task Force to recommend ways the City can offer renewable energy and energy efficiency programs to less affluent residents.
• Support the Obama Administration’s “Clean Power Plan” to control greenhouse gas emissions.
• Close the Fayette Power Plant, including supporting creating a cash reserve fund that we will use to pay off related debts so we can retire the plant.

I have also led the way on protecting our Council control of Austin Energy, which has made action on renewable energy initiatives possible. As a Council Member, I successfully fought off an effort to turn Austin Energy over to an independent board and instead supported establishing the Austin Energy Oversight Committee to ensure continued Council control and leadership.

I look forward to continuing to push to set aggressive renewable energy goals, expand our renewable energy generation, implement innovative policies, move away from fossil fuels, and protect the local control that allows us to make real progress.

3. Despite declining costs of solar, many low income residents and multi-family housing tenants are challenged to participate in Austin Energy’s existing rooftop solar programs. Do you think it is important to expand access to solar by developing targeted programs and policies at Austin Energy? Please explain.

Yes. I believe it is important for the City to expand access to solar to residents of all means in our community. As a Council Member, I have worked on efforts to help less affluent residents participate in our energy efficiency and renewable energy programs by establishing the Low-Income Consumer Advisory Task Force. I believe we need to continue to look for opportunities to expand access and, importantly, to invest in robust outreach efforts that ensure meaningful participation in these programs.

4. Local, distributed scale solar installation has produced values to the utility, community and the local economy. Do you support the expansion of utility investment programs (including rebates) for installing solar locally within the Austin Energy territory? Please explain.

Yes. I support expanding solar usage across our community. I helped lead on a successful effort to require new residential and commercial buildings be constructed in a way that allows them to be “solar-ready,” or able to be retrofitted for solar installation. Going forward, I will continue to look for opportunities to expand our
solar installation programs, make them accessible to residents of all means, and push for robust program participation.

5. What specific role and responsibility do you see Austin taking in responding to local, regional and international impacts of climate change, including preparing for large numbers of people displaced by extreme weather events?
We know climate change is a serious problem, even though the president has called it a hoax created “to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive” and the Texas Republican Party’s official platform describes it as “a political agenda promoted to control every aspect of our lives” and actively calls for defunding climate initiatives.

With the state and federal governments actively undermining progressive efforts to fight climate change, it is extremely important that our local leaders stand up for sustainability.

I have led on climate change issues at Council, including the efforts at increasing renewable energy and decreasing fossil fuel use discussed earlier in this questionnaire. Additionally, I have led on efforts to increase our resiliency in the face of drought and extreme weather events.

Two of the key challenges we face related to climate change are ensuring a sustainable water supply in the face of intense droughts and a clean water supply in the face of extreme storms. I have led on water conservation and sustainability by launching the ambitious effort to create a plan to manage our resources responsibly and meet Austin’s water needs over the next 100 years, an effort known as “Water Forward.” That draft plan is currently being reviewed by our boards and commissions. I look forward to the Council reviewing and adopting Water Forward in
the months ahead and to continuing to implement progressive policies and programs that help us conserve our resources and grow sustainably. I also have a strong record of voting to uphold our water quality protections by opposing unnecessary variances to the Save Our Springs Ordinance and other means of circumventing our watershed standards.

We need to continue to move forward on policies that can make our community more resilient to climate change and can allow us to respond rapidly to emergencies. For instance, I believe that the City should explore ways to: improve our disaster preparedness and ability to shelter displaced individuals during emergencies, move toward “greenfield development standards” which would require developers to mitigate for their flooding impacts regardless of whether their project is a new development or a redevelopment, and expand our green infrastructure requirements to improve water quality. On the latter, I supported a Council budget item to invest in hiring a consultant to help City staff develop new green infrastructure requirements that may be able to help enhance the way we integrate nature and water quality features into our community.

If re-elected, I will continue to be a leader in fighting for policies that move us forward on climate change preparedness and resiliency.

Linda O'Neal
1. What are your top three priorities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Austin, and what actions would you take to implement needed changes?
a. Rider-friendly bus service. Shorter routes, faster pick up times, sheltered bus stops. If the bus was more convenient and had faster service, more people would take the bus
b. No coal in or near Austin.
c. Incentivize carpools.

2. As council member, you will be a member of the Austin Energy Utility Oversight Committee. What will you do to make sure that Austin Energy takes the necessary steps to phase out its use of fossil fuels for power generation by 2030?
a. Support wind and solar power

3. Despite declining costs of solar, many low income residents and multi-family housing tenants are challenged to participate in Austin Energy’s existing rooftop solar programs. Do you think it is important to expand access to solar by developing targeted programs and policies at Austin Energy? Please explain.
a. Yes.. Incentives work, but even with incentives, Austin has gotten so unaffordable; the extra costs are unattainable. Incentivize developers to install solar panels. Taxpayers can afford to incentivize developers for good behavior if we stop subsidizing corporations.

4. Local, distributed scale solar installation has produced values to the utility, community and the local economy. Do you support the expansion of utility investment programs (including rebates) for installing solar locally within the Austin Energy territory? Please explain.
a. Yes.

5. What specific role and responsibility do you see Austin taking in responding to local, regional and international impacts of climate change, including preparing for large numbers of people displaced by extreme weather events?
a. Our biggest weather displacement is flooding. We need to use porous cover rather than impervious cover on streets that have very little traffic.