350 Austin Special Meeting

350 Austin Special Meeting

350 Austin Special Meeting – “The IPCC Report: Taking Action in Austin” THIS MEETING IS REPLACING THE READING GROUP FOR THIS MONTH ONLY.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018, 7:00 – 8:30 pm at Cepeda Branch, Austin Public Library, 651 N Pleasant Valley Rd, Austin, Texas 78702

You are no doubt aware that the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report last week on the necessity of urgent, systemic action on climate change that has finally gotten the attention of the mainstream media. The normally cautious and conservative body of scientists produced a report that left no doubt that if we do not cut greenhouse gas emissions fast – a target of 12 years – we won’t be able to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius. It is now clear that 2 degrees of warming will bring about devastating conditions for all of life.

Although it omitted key tipping points that indicate we likely have less than 12 years to act decisively, the IPCC report has nevertheless created a moment in which decision-makers may actually respond to the climate crisis.

At 350 Austin, we want to capitalize on this moment to make significant progress on our campaigns: push Austin Energy to be Fossil Free Faster; push the LCRA to shut down the Fayette Coal Plant; and encourage local institutions to divest from fossil fuels and invest in an equitable, low-carbon economy.

We are thus calling a special meeting to share ideas and visions on how to blow open the tiny window of opportunity the IPCC report has provided.

The 350 Austin Reading Group leader, Mike Ignatowski, has graciously agreed to share the time and space normally devoted to the reading group for our special meeting. The short article by George Monbiot that Mike had selected for the group provides a perfect springboard for our discussion. Is it time for Non-violent Direct Action (NVDA)?

If you can, read George Monbiot’s short article. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/oct/18/governments-no-longer-trusted-climate-change-citizens-revolt

Please go to our Facebook Event to RSVP and invite friends.

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.

Austin Mayoral Candidate Questionnaire on Climate & Energy

Austin Mayoral Candidate Questionnaire on Climate & Energy

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 2, Solar Austin, 350 Austin, Earth Day Austin, and Shades of Green are hosting a Mayoral Climate & Energy Forum for mayoral candidates to speak to Austinites about their climate change and energy priorities. Four mayoral candidates will be joining us for the forum: Alex Stenger, Laura Morrison, Mayor Steve Adler, and Travis Duncan.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018 @ 6:30pm – 9:00pm
Mayoral Climate & Energy Forum
First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin
4700 Grover Ave, Austin, Texas 78756

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.

Alex Stenger
1. What are your top three priorities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Austin, and what actions would you take to implement needed changes?
As an avid cyclist, I strongly encourage alternative modes of transportation. We the people are overly reliant on the fossil fuel industry and that is largely due to the fact that our public transportation system is an absolute joke. As Mayor, I will work thoroughly to increase the reliability of our public transportation system and utilize our Electric Cabs and dockless scooters to serve as a liasons for our public transportation needs. I plan on working with our neighborhood associations in order to implement more bike lanes throughout our City. Furthermore, I believe that our city needs to do a better job of encouraging residents to place solar panels on their roofs so that we rely less on the Fayette Coal Plant.

2. As mayor, 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?
Yes. All City Owned buildings need to work towards complete sustainability for their power needs and we will design programs in order to incentivize home owners to put solar panels on their roofs.

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. This is a good idea that I fully support. We need to do whatever is in our power to save the planet. I, along with everybody else in Austin, want to live.

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. What’s there to explain? My answer is yes. We need to continue doing this.

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?
Extreme weather events. Saving humanity is good. We need to do a better job of fighting climate change not only here in Austin, but also in our neighboring cities. Our City needs to do a better job of interacting with our neighboring cities in order to ensure that they are as environmentally friendly as we are.

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

Build high‐capacity transit. Vehicle emissions will soon overtake electrical generation as the main contributor to greenhouse gases in the Austin area. As our city continues to grow, we must find ways to significantly reduce the number of vehicles on our roads. As mayor, I will work with residents, Cap Metro and other governmental partners, to build high‐capacity transit in Austin.
As mayor, I will lead an effort for a successful transit proposal which must be community‐driven and must gain the support of broad coalitions, including organizations and individuals committed to the environment, job access, equity, and public health. It must include: proactive plans to minimize displacement that may arise from rising property values near planned transit centers; programs to stabilize local businesses that may be disrupted during constructions; and an innovative, realistic and transparent finance plan.
Many other cities, including some in Texas, have made recent strides in implementing high‐capacity transit, and we can learn from their success. We must also learn from Austin’s past mistakes. A major failure of the most recent light rail election was the planners’ rejection of community input on the proposed route, which undoubtedly contributed to its defeat at the polls.
Achieve the goal of retiring Fayette by 2022. I am proud of my strong environmental record on energy issues as a council member from 2008 ‐ 2014, a commitment I will continue as mayor. A key goal that we set in the 2014 Austin Energy Resource, Generation and Climate Protection Plan, was to set a retirement date for the Fayette Coal plant for the first time: 2022. Setting a goal is certainly an important first step, but not enough. As mayor I will work to ensure that the goal is met.
In particular, I will ask that quarterly progress reports on reaching the retirement goal be placed on the agenda of the Austin Energy Oversight Council Committee. We must adequately adequately address the particular challenge due to the fact that the City does not own any of the Fayette units outright. To highlight the importance of this goal to the City Manager, I would include its progress as an explicit element in his annual performance evaluation.
In addition, the cost of the retirement scenario must be planned for. The Austin Energy non‐nuclear decommissioning fund likely will need significant additions to cover the cost. I will ask the staff to provide recommendations on how to adequately prepare financially for the Fayette Plant retirement, beginning now if possible or, at a minimum, by including it as an element of the cost of service study that will be done for the next rate case.
As a Council Member, I led the 2013 effort to maintain City Council authority over Austin Energy to ensure that community values for climate protection and renewable energy remain integrated in its operations. The Austin Energy
Oversight Committee of the Whole was an outgrowth of that effort. The retirement of Fayette is a perfect example of how important that 2013 effort was.
Ensure peak‐carbon is reached by 2020 in Austin and raise community awareness on carbon emission reduction progress toward the 2050 goal. It is interesting to note the recent announcement that 27 major cities have achieved peak carbon as part of their local commitment to the Paris Agreement, while their populations and economies are growing. If Austin is to be part of the solution on climate change, we will need to meet that milestone by 2020, according to the report. An Austin plan to achieve this, if it exists, has not garnered attention, and would provide yet another means for monitoring our progress. In particular it could spotlight the frequency of running the Fayette plant which may be done at times even when renewable sources are available for the sake of financial gain and thus provide an opportunity for a discussion on the topic. As mayor, I will bring this action forward.
Given that individual choices impact greenhouse gas emissions, it is imperative that we take all opportunities such as a peak‐carbon goal, to engender individual behavioral changes. A near‐term goal to reach peak carbon is one such opportunity. But more can be done to enlist the community in taking action to reach the goal of being carbon free by 2050, by way of education and friendly competition.

2. As mayor, 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 Council that adopted a goal for Austin Energy power generation to be carbon free by 2030, I remain committed to that goal. As with the retirement of Fayette, I will ask that quarterly progress reports on an effort to reach this goal be placed on the agenda of the Austin Energy Oversight Council Committee. Council Resolution 20170817‐061 called for modelling on how to achieve the 2030 goal with a report to the Oversight Committee by September 2019. As mayor, I will take appropriate steps after hearing that report. To highlight the importance of this goal to the City Manager, I would include its progress as an explicit element in his annual performance evaluation.

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. Expanded access to rooftop solar programs will be a key element in meeting our 2030 goal to fully transition away from fossil fuels. I strongly support developing targeted programs and policies to help bring solar options to more low‐income residents and multi‐family housing tenants.
All people in Austin should be able to be part of our efforts to save the planet: environmental equity demands it and the savings using solar can have meaningful impacts on the budgets of families with lower incomes. There are great examples of programs to learn from, often discussed in the Union of Concerned Scientists monthly newsletter (which I read regularly).

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. Increasing the use of local, distributed solar installations will be a key element in meeting our 2030 goal. I fully support expanding utility investment programs, including rebates, to promote local solar installations within the Austin Energy service area.
While I was on the Council, there was considerable push back against expanding our local solar goals. This led me to initiate the Local Solar Advisory Committee to do a deep dive into the costs and benefits of local solar. The Committee’s recommendations, which we subsequently adopted, were based not only on environmental considerations but economic analyses that showed strong potential for creation of jobs if a significant goal was adopted.
It is critical that we expand the utility investment programs to ensure those goals are met and hopefully exceeded.

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 major city in our region, Austin must be prepared to take a lead role in responding to the local impacts of climate change, just as it must redouble its efforts to reduce greenhouse gases and other activities that contribute to its causes. I hold a graduate certificate in public health, community preparedness and disaster response, and prior to entering public service, I spent 10 years as an engineer and program manager for a global aerospace company, supervising a team of other engineers and managing a multimillion‐dollar budget. This background has prepared me to work with city staff, other first responders and the community to establish effective response plans for extreme weather events and other possible impacts of our changing climate such as wildfires, to ensure the safety of all area residents. As mayor, I will work with our regional partners to ensure we have realistic and comprehensive emergency plans in Austin and coordinated with surrounding jurisdictions.
With my education, I understand specifically the role of the mayor in disaster response within the overall well‐defined structure of a response, in particular to be a key in crisis communication, as a representative of the area in coordination with other areas, and as an authority as needed to make resources available. Mayor Will Wynn provided a great model for the role and responsibility of mayor in responding to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He was in regular contact with leaders in other cities and oversaw the quick setup of a major operation to accommodate evacuees in Austin that essentially created a small city at the Convention Center. He did it with astute ability and compassion, greeting each individual on each plane that came in from New Orleans.

Mayor Steve Adler
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 for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Austin are: 1) carbon neutrality for the City of Austin by 2020, 2) net-zero community-wide greenhouse gases by 2050 and 3) building a resilient and adaptive community in the face of undeniable climate change. I will continue to undertake these important actions, among others, towards those goals: pushing for as much renewable energy as is possible (consistent with our affordability goals that help protect lower income Austinites), closing the coal plant, facilitating electrification of and actually electrifying cars and buses (both public fleets and private vehicles) including expanding the number and location of charging stations, new mobility technologies, and procurement, keeping Austin on the leading edge of the Zero Waste movement, advancing large scale battery research and testing, and advancing the conservation and supply distribution practices for Austin Energy and our water utility (including development of new business models for each as called for in the Water Forward plan). Austin has long taken steps in these or similar directions, especially in recent years. But city leadership, together with stakeholder groups, needs to keep pressing forward.

2. As mayor, 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 Vice-Chair of the Austin Energy Utility Oversight Committee, I have and will continue to support closing our remaining coal plant and minimizing reliance on gas plants, increasing the renewable power generation in our portfolio, promote energy efficiency and distributed and community renewable power generation, development of new battery and storage capabilities and technologies, expansion of automotive electrification and supportive infrastructure. Please see the response to the preceding question, no. 1.
Ultimately, we need a new business plan for Austin Energy that is less dependent on selling generated power. In the meantime, this 10-1 council has passed the most cost-effective utility-scale solar contracts in the world, at the time they were passed. More than half of the city’s energy will be renewable by 2020, and we have set aggressive goals to reach 65% by 2027 and to push for 75% in that same time frame.
Austin’s solar advocates should be proud of their role in our progress to date. In 2016, Austin Energy had 1,000 mobile installations of rooftop solar- more than the combined total for all prior (8) years of the rebate program. In 2017, our 10-1 Council approved an update to Austin’s Resource, Generation and Climate Protection Plan affirming our strong commitments, laid out above, through 2027. And later this year, the Council will have an opportunity to consider a landmark solar purchase power agreement – for 144 MWs – that would allow us to exceed our local goal of 110 MW by 2020 and meet 72% of our total local solar goal for 2025.

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. Rooftop solar can get expensive and the upfront cost has been prohibitive for many. It is important to look at equitable access to renewable energy, in all respects, including whether and how renters and low- income families, as well as Austinites utilizing our Customer Assistance Program might participate. I have enthusiastically gone out into the community to promote targeted programs like Austin Energy’s Community Solar program, which provides access to locally-generated solar energy for residential customers who wants to promote clean, local energy – that includes renters, homeowners with shaded roofs, or anyone who doesn’t want to install and maintain a rooftop solar system with support for those that need financial assistance to participate. Such a policy meets both our renewable energy generation goals and our underlying goal in all things to promote equity.

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 have been consistently supportive of utility investment programs, including our rebate program. We must continue to do this in a way that appropriately calibrates rebates to maximize participation in community solar while keeping overall utility rates as affordable as possible for low income families and individuals.

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 taken on an ever greater and increasingly visible leadership role among cities in Texas, the country, and internationally through the C40 Cities alliance and the Under2 Coalition, and we have a responsibility to expand and elevate further this role. International leadership has now expects Austin to take an increasing leadership role. Since taking office, I have been proud to be an environmental Mayor. I’ve traveled to Paris and Mexico City, and around the US, to represent our city at climate meetings to share best practices, learn, and help build momentum power the voice for climate change mitigation. Adhering to the Mayors Compact that I was privileged to sign – C40 Cities and the Under2 Coalition of international, subnational governments, and the Paris Climate Accords – are top priorities. Our city is assuming a leadership role in climate change other ways, too. Two recent
examples would be our successfully competing for Bloomberg Foundation environmental grants and our recent electrification/equity project that received a best practice national award from the United States Conference of Mayors. I have worked for us to achieve both. I have been assuming increasing leadership roles among my peer mayors in these organizations to help build momentum and alliances in this space. I have also been clear, both in the larger national conversations about refugees and migrants, and in specific instances such as our welcoming response to Harvey evacuees, that displaced persons, including those displaced by extreme weather events, are welcome in our city. This of course, also means being prepared ourselves. In addition to our own city’s Climate Resilience Action Plan for City of Austin Assets and Operations, the City of Austin has several plans in place or underway to increase the climate resilience and adaptation of the community at large. Those plans include Imagine Austin, the forthcoming Water Forward Plan, the Onion Creek and Williamson Creek Buyout Programs, our Heat Island Mitigation
Program, the Austin/Travis County Community Wildfire Protection Plan, City of Austin Hazard Mitigation Plan, Austin Urban Forest Plan, Austin Energy Weatherization Assistance and the Get Back in Business (Small Business Preparedness Program).

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

Regional Environmental Toxins Ban – As public servants, it is our duty to ensure the public safety. This includes the protection of fundamental liberties and sovereignty of every being and the planet itself. A core principle of public safety protection is to ensure the sustainability and harmony with our planet, to protect the
rights of future generations to self-determine. If we damage or alter the natural environment such that it limits their options and even threatens their very existence, that is a violation of their sovereignty on Earth. It is not one individual’s or entity’s right to infringe upon any other sovereign individual or entity’s rights to have access to Earth’s resources. This planet is not owned by any one single individual. Therefore, under the authority given to us by the 9th amendment of the United States Constitution, and Article 2 of the Texas Constitution, I will lead our legal action to protect public safety as our number one priority, by asserting that all damaging environmental toxins must cease being created and distributed, in Austin and any regional are that is ecologically connected to Austin. This would include the burning of fossil fuels, the use of petro-based/non-biodegradable single-use plastics, soil chemicals that disturb balance, neurotoxins (& more) in water supply, fracked gas, toxic concretes and building materials, air-polluting air conditioners, genetically modified foods, and any other product or thing that is damaging to collective human health, even when used by an individual. For example, it would be a violation of fundamental rights for someone to dump toxic fertilizers or pesticides in their yard, because it would likely cause the neighbors to not be able to grow organic foods in their garden. This very simple principle of full-sovereignty adherence will actually cause us to be more considerate of our choices we may think are individual, but have a larger collective effect on the greater health of humanity, and so it is reasonable to assert that we protect the maximum human expression of life, especially given that when these factors become multiplied and compounded, they begin to cause massive scale damages to the Earth (this is not helped by the
maximum sales driven industrial behavior). We will also be given tremendous innovative opportunity to solve these major problems locally (create non-toxic substitutes) and then market these products to the world. For those who are driven by profit, we can also accommodate within the reasonable bounds of Earth-Protection and Full-Sovereignty of ALL life. Austin, Texas being the first city on the planet to take this bold step would catalyze the innovation and cutting-edge evolution locally, giving us more international notoriety.

Zero-Emissions Transportation – Our transportation needs are very clear, and in other forums I have laid our plan to accelerate our construction of new projects by maximizing cooperative human energy, incentives, and regenerative investment. Whereas the traditional ways of building things may take years, we can accomplish within weeks with these new methods. In addition, we have laid out a proposal for an open-source solution-modelling platform on which any citizen can contribute their ideas for transit infrastructure plans, and then the public can interact and comment, revise and republish, and collectively ‘vote’ on the ideas that project the highest promise. The purpose of this platform is to increase our probabilities of finding the absolute best solutions. The platform serves as a sort of Google Maps/IBM Watson/Sims game, infused with the latest AI, quantum computing, machine learning, intuitive design, fluid/liquid/rank-choice democracy engagement tools, so our broader population can be the source of the solution. We obviously need a smart, quick, quiet, and innovative urban rail, which will be completely renewable, in addition to a full conversion of our bus fleet to zero-emissions. While we are switching our fleet, we will likely need to explore autonomous-enabled vehicles, and smaller pod type of vehicles that can automatically pick anyone up at their home and shuttle them quickly and safely to the nearest train or bus stop. Once we have urban rail running on every major street, multi-level, dedicated roadways, autonomously interacting vehicles, & constant-flow transit, we will nearly eliminate the need for personal cars as a mode of transportation. However, in the immediate transition period, we should develop a maximum incentive program to any household who converts their personal vehicles to zero-emissions & autonomous-enabled (this part is crucial, because rapid advancements in this technology are swiftly arriving, mainly in the area of software and coordination with the existing roadways, and we need to be as prepared for this as possible). The whole point of all of this is maximize
freedom of transportation and efficiency of system so that our air can be completely clean and our bodies can be stress free. All of this plan includes, obviously, the need for protected and unobstructed pedestrian, bike and scooter roadways. The plan is to make every place accessible to everyone using public transit and self-powered mobility, in a way that is completely safe and efficient for all involved.

Sell Fayette, Plant Hemp – Some estimates place our (Austin Energy) stake in the Fayette Coal Plant at around $400,000,000. I will lead the effort to sell this ASAP, so we can recoup the most amount of money from this deal. Then, I recommend strongly that we take this money and invest in the purchasing of land for the purpose of growing hemp. Currently, this is illegal in Texas, which is in fact a violation of our Constitutional Rights and Natural Law Rights. However, we (Austin Energy) could purchase and manage hemp farms across the nation in states where it is legal. Some hemp farmers are seeing returns of $400-800 per acre of hemp. Hemp can be used for medicine, food, construction materials, biodegradable plastics, clothing, non-toxic cleaning supplies, and much more. In addition to this, and perhaps most importantly, hemp absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and remineralizers depleted soil. This can be utilized as a new revenue stream for Austin Energy, and will contribute to our carbon offset program planetwide. It’s important we perceive ourselves as in debt to the world, since we, with the Fayette Coal Plant, have been contributing to the negative outcomes of pollution. There are likely reparations that need to paid to the surrounding communities, and one way of accomplishing a ‘clean-up’ program is to plant hemp and profit-share with the locals. I’ve intentionally left this area broad, so it can be read as an approach, a way of doing things, not a detailed proposal. There is still much to consider. However, there is no doubt that investing $400,000,000 in hemp will yield higher (& ecologically regenerative) returns than Fayette ever could. This is about Climate Justice. On that note, I also advocate that we use some of profit from our hemp investments in lobbying strongly for the clearing of ALL marijuana convictions in the state of Texas, and liberate anyone currently illegally and immorally incarcerated.

2. As mayor, 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?
Lead 100% Renewable ASAP Campaign – We will accomplish 100% renewable energy by 2022 once I am mayor and we get our act together. This must include a complete phase out of our current polluting forms of energy, the decommissioning of all gas-line infrastructure, the complete and total divestment of all petrochemical investments and holdings, and of course the installation and innovation of new renewable sources of local production, like solar and other quantum technologies.
Innovation is KEY. We must establish a cooperative, people-owned, universally-accessible, innovation laboratory, as a part of our greater Profit-Sharing Contributionism Business Network, where every citizen is able to contribute their time and energy into the innovation of renewable energy generation technologies, energy storage, efficient transmission, grid resilience, propulsion, & anything else deemed valuable to research and develop. Experts will lead teams of people in creating the next wave in the energy movement. There are NO limits, and we must allow the creative energy of the people to thrive! We have the facilities and the resources to provide, and the people will innovate beyond our wildest comprehension. Money Does Nothing. People Do Everything.

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, this is of crucial importance. In fact, in 2016, I came before city council to offer a plan to get solar at less cost, at a faster rate, in a way that has completely equitable, and would dramatically accelerate our installations and generations, while catalyzing a massive boom in our solar industry. They did not listen…
This plan includes three main planks: (1) People’s Power Plant (2) Wholesale (3) Cooperative Labor.
1) This plan essentially involves the people of Austin, the broader Austin Energy customer (shareholder) base, purchasing and owning the source of power generation, and generating as much of it locally as possible. AE has nearly 500,000 customers, of which pay monthly on their bills for the cost of fuel/power generation. This plan gradually and expediently reroutes this money toward the purchasing of solar panels & associated necessary equipment for the purpose of installing on any willing home or business rooftop. Localizing the solar helps with the efficiency of transmission (smaller loss), and empowers customers with eligible rooftops to get an immediate discount on their bill for allowing the PPP to use their roof without personally investing any money.
2) Wholesale purchases will enable us to get costs below $1 per watt for the materials. We will be able to work directly with manufacturers, and partner to find the best possible arrangement for this exciting transition. Let’s remember that the ultimate goal of the solar industry is to maximize the solar installed, not to make the most money from it across longer periods of time. This is an item on a checklist we need to get resolved and move on better for it.
3) Any shareholder (customer) of Austin Energy will receive free electricity in exchange for 3-6 hours per week of donated volunteer contribution, time and energy, in any needed capacity (accommodates all), to the installation projects. Much in the beginning of their time will include training, which will be constantly happening, mostly on the job. Imagine 10,000 volunteers installing solar panels across the city every weekend. Frankly, when led by a competent and safety conscious team of experts, any able-bodied person can install solar panels.
This plan dramatically increases the rate of solar installs, at a fraction of the cost, while engaging, training, and educating the broader people with practical and professional skills. We will build a sense of pride in our community by maximizing our contributing impact. If Austin is truly a place that is environmentally conscious, we will show it through our determined and relentless actions, not by our passive plans and weightless rhetoric. If we claim to believe in Austin that this is as high of a moral imperative to the human species, we WILL take much stronger action. I do believe Austin is ready for this type of program, and we have lacked the leadership and creativity to do it, until NOW. Now we have this chance to elect me as the mayor of Austin. I am determined and relentless in my dedication to the best ideas! Let’s improve upon this plan by sourcing the limitless genius of the people of Austin!

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, in fact, the People’s Power Plant can be thought of as a massive utility scale installation. Using the already available local roof space in our city prevent loss of transmission when compared to a solar farm located in a rural area. This is where our engineers will have the unique and invigorating challenge of innovating how the electrical grid interprets this new localized energy production.
I do NOT support more PPAs with any private solar farm or wind farm (inherently extractive). This model has run its course. The only PPAs we need are with highly advanced, EMP resilient technologies like the quantum tech I have presented to the people of Austin. Such is the case if these technologies are not yet directly purchasable for ownership, but require advanced knowledge to operate. Over time, an equity model may present itself.
The entire point is to, over time, eliminate the cost of electricity and all energy, so the resource becomes completely DE commodified. This transition will obviously factor in the employment considerations of thousands, as well as the responsible transference of system design, so we can ultimately fortify and improve our grid stability, which is of utmost importance the protection of many generations of human life thriving on this planet.

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 the opportunity, and the obligation, to catalyze a planet-wide acceleration in our collective effort as the human species to become harmonious with the planet we’re blessed to inhabit. This starts with being absolutely honest, truthful, and factual with ourselves. The history around energy use and industrial behavior must be directly confronted, with clear vision and compassion. We must reassert what the latest science is telling us, and act accordingly. We must be prepared for a multitude of scenarios.
Specifically, as it relates to Austin, Texas, our efforts as stated in every section above will be crucial, especially the aspect of legal protections for a non-polluted planet, as must be asserted for ALL life across all perceivable time periods. We will set the legal precedent for forcing the sovereignty-violators to cease polluting activity ASAP, included with regenerative-reparations investments.
In parallel, our move toward Universal Resource Access and the transcendence of extractive taxes, will be of utmost importance in playing a role of liberating all 1,000,000 Austinites (and growing), so we will be liberated from the wage clock, be empowered and self-determining, and will all live our maximum purpose in life. This will inevitably include many solutions leaders for our planets larger issues, like ocean acidification, mass species extinctions, sea level rise, massive pollutions of microplastics, genetic modifications, and so much more. We need to ensure that we increase the probabilities of humanity surviving, and that requires us as a city, a tribe, to ensure that every single one of our people reaches the fullest potential and manifests their genius. With the entire planet still perpetuating the antiquated scarcity driven currency- extraction models, Austin will create something entirely new and catalyze a planet-wide shift toward an abundant and harmonious reality for ALL.
I am grateful for the opportunity to serve You.

Climate & Energy Forums for Austin Mayoral and City Council Candidates

Climate & Energy Forums for Austin Mayoral and City Council Candidates

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. Solar Austin, 350 Austin, Earth Day Austin, and Shades of Green are hosting three forums for mayoral and city council candidates to speak to Austinites about their climate change and energy priorities. Please join us!

Tuesday, October 2, 2018 @ 6:30pm – 9:00pm
Mayoral Climate & Energy Candidate Forum
First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin
4700 Grover Ave, Austin, Texas 78756

 

 

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

 

 

Tuesday, October 16, 2018 @ 6:30pm – 9:00pm
Districts 1 and 3 Climate and Energy Candidate Forum
Dickey-Lawless Auditorium at Huston-Tillotson University
900 Chicon St, Austin, TX 78702

 

 

 

SW Austin Rise Up – 9/8/2018

SW Austin Rise Up – 9/8/2018

On September 8, thousands of events will be held in cities and towns around the world to bring awareness to climate change, help promote green living, learn about local vendors who can help make a difference and call on our local leaders to commit to building a fossil free world that works for all of us.

We have invited city officials and local candidates to discuss their position on environmental topics. There will be local providers of good and services to help you make better decisions for yourself and the environment.

Join us at the Rusty Mule, 9201 Hwy 290 East, Austin, TX 78736, from 3:00 PM to 8:00 PM for an inspiring and informational afternoon. The Rusty Mule a family friendly outdoor venue situated on 3 acres of heavily treed open land. There is a playscape and plenty of room for kiddos to run about (but not pets, sorry), food trucks and a full service bar. There will be live music and representatives from social and environmental groups to learn more about all the possibilities to move the needle in the right direction.

For full details on the Austin events and to RSVP, click and enter your zip code.