Dane County, Dozens of Public, Private Partners Create New Community Organization to Confront Climate Change
May 17, 2017
Josh Wescott 608-2669069
Parisi: County, University of Wisconsin, Local Government Officials, Utilities, Businesses, Environmental Groups Team for New Collaborative to Lead Where State and Feds Won't
Dane County is spearheading a new coalition of public and private sector leaders from across the community to confront problems posed by climate change, County Executive Joe Parisi announced today. Parisi announced the new "Dane County Climate Change Council," consisting of local government officials from across the county, business leaders, representatives of the University of Wisconsin's Nelson Institute, local utilities, and environmental advocates. Together they'll team to develop strategies to not only prepare locally for the effects of the changing climate, but also to better identify ways to reduce carbon emissions and promote further development of solar and clean, green energy production.
"Leaders across our community recognize the enormous challenge that climate change poses to our economy, tourism, and our incredible quality of life here in Dane County," Parisi said. "Growing seasons are longer, ice is on the lakes many weeks shorter, we now have more ice instead of snowstorms in winter and we're seeing heavier rains more frequently in spring and summer."
The new "Dane County Climate Change Council" will begin meeting in the coming weeks. Its work will be coordinated by the brand new Dane County Office of Energy and Climate Change, a new division within the County Executive's Office created to oversee this important work. Parisi announced today he has selected Keith Reopelle, a well-respected expert in the field of clean energy, environmental sustainability, and climate change, as the first director of the new Dane County Office of Energy and Climate Change.
"Keith has been a champion of our state's natural resources for more than three decades, working to promote a greater reliance on green energy in his work with Clean Wisconsin," Parisi said. "He is the right individual to bring this community together and make a real difference in the very real challenge we face from climate change."
"I'm very excited to have this opportunity to help make Dane County a national leader in the effort to protect our children's future by reducing carbon pollution that is causing global warming," Reopelle said. "County Executive Parisi's longstanding leadership on clean energy has never been more important."
In conjunction with this new community collaboration, Dane County today launched: https://climatechange.countyofdane.com a new website to serve as a clearinghouse of information for those interested in participating in the Council's work. The website also pays tribute to former online resources once offered by the state and federal governments on climate change that have since been taken off line.
"Throughout our nation's history, change has always started at the local level, and while our Governor and President don't feel this issue is of concern, we in Dane County are going to listen to what scientists and researchers are telling us," Parisi said. "It's imperative we lead in an area so important to our economy and health and well-being, even if others won't."
Parisi noted the new council will be well-served by the extensive intellectual resources available through the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.
“Some of the world’s best research on climate change is done right here at UW-Madison,” says Nelson Institute Director Paul Robbins. “Our scientists are working hard to provide decision-ready information to help local communities, businesses, farms, municipal infrastructure and other Dane County assets adapt to change.”
The new Dane County Office of Energy and Climate Change and Climate Change Council is the latest in the County Executive's work to better ensure the county is adequately prepared for the effects of climate change while working to mitigate its effects. Since becoming County Executive in 2011 Parisi has:
*Incorporated solar power generating panels into new building projects while retro-fitting existing county facilities. To date, the county is generating 370 kilowatts of solar power from its buildings with plans to do an additional 770 kilowatts with dollars included in Parisi's 2017 budget
*Reduced the county's reliance on fossil-fuels by converting dozens of vehicles in the county's fleet, including 17 heavy-duty snow plow trucks, to run on much cleaner burning, renewable compressed natural gas (CNG). At the end of this year 75 county vehicles will run on CNG, saving tax dollars and reducing carbon emissions by 90% compared to gasoline and diesel fuel.
*Developed a pilot project to capture carbon emissions from the Dane County landfill that when fully implemented will reduce CO2 emissions by 59,000 tons a year, the equivalent of taking 10,000 cars off the road
*Coordinated partnerships to develop two "Cow Power" facilities, reducing methane emissions and phosphorus run-off from hundreds of cows in the Mendota watershed. The homegrown renewable electricity powers the equivalent of 4,000 homes.
*Proposed development of a pipeline bio-gas project, producing millions of gallons of clean burning vehicle fuel each year, while earning taxpayers millions of dollar of clean energy credits
"We want to take the work we've done in county government and help other public and private sector employers develop similar sustainability measures," Parisi said. "We can show it's good for their bottom line, the air we breathe, and the planet we're going to leave for our kids, grand-kids and future generations."