Arlington, VA

After months of debate and discussion, the Arlington County Board has unanimously approved a plan to reach carbon neutrality in Arlington by 2050.

The plan, approved at the Saturday (Sept. 21) County Board meeting, has environmental goals across six categories, from new building regulations to transportation goals and standards. More from a county press release:

The plan incorporates goals for buildings; resilience; renewable energy; transportation, County government actions, and education and human behavior. It envisions a carbon neutral Arlington by 2050 that will be more resilient, where all electricity will come from renewable sources, where more residents will drive electric vehicles and more will use transit, and where homes and buildings will be more energy-efficient.

The plan has been criticized as both too aspirational and not ambitious enough. While there was near-universal support for the idea behind the plan among speakers at the meeting, various members of the public and commission representatives expressed concerns about its implementation.

“We need to ensure sensitivity to individual circumstances isn’t lost in said implementation,” said Scott Pedowitz, government affairs manager for the Arlington Chamber of Commerce. “Businesses and residents should have the flexibility to meet the targets in a matter that makes practical and economic sense for their particular circumstance.”

Most of those who spoke represented various social and environmental groups and expressed support for tighter local environmental regulations. Several dozen gathered at a Sierra Club-organized rally outside of the County government headquarters at 2100 Clarendon Blvd to support the new plan and its clean energy goals

“We are excited about the clean energy bill coming from Arlington,” Karen Nightengale, president of the Arlington branch of the NAACP, told ARLnow. “The community needs it. It is really impacting multiple communities, especially brown and black communities living in low lying areas. We are excited about Arlington taking this step to go forward.”

Others testifying in the public hearing said they hoped for even earlier deadlines and stricter environmental measures.

“To really aim for a cleaner County, we need an earlier deadline for this plan,” said Jason Spitzak.

Elenor Hodges, executive director of EcoAction Arlington, said the recent protests in D.C. and activist Greta Thunberg’s testimony at the House of Foreign Affairs and Climate Crisis Committee were inspiring.

“We saw Greta Thunberg sail across the Atlantic and yesterday, thousands marched across the world in a climate strike,” Hodges said. “I hope we can take on [this] ambitious plan.”

Hodges said she’d like to see all new construction meet zero-carbon emissions standards and for Arlington’s tree canopy to be preserved or expanded.

In a three-page letter to the County Board, William Ross, chair of the Park and Recreation Commission, said he was disappointed in the final product. Ross argued the plan doesn’t do enough to promote or explore new green space options in Arlington.

“For all of the technical intensity of the plan, it misses some critical opportunities to improve our carbon footprint and mitigate the negative aspects of energy consumption because the plan fails to adequately address aspects of energy efficiency and environmental protection that are not wholly dependent on technology-based solutions,” Ross said.

After the plan’s approval, the Arlington County website says staff will now get to work on an implementation framework to be brought back to the County Board next June.

Jay Westcott contributed to this story

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored column is written by the Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy team (AIRE). This county program helps you make smart energy decisions that save you money and leaves a lighter footprint on the environment.

Climate change is serious. Businesses, residents and governments must act.

Today, the Arlington County Board has adopted sweeping updates to the Community Energy Plan setting ambitious targets for transforming the County’s energy sector.

Some highlights of Arlington’s Community Energy Plan include:

  • Sets goal of a carbon neutral Arlington by 2050
  • Government operations to achieve 100% renewable electricity by 2025
  • Community to achieve 100% renewable electricity by 2035
  • Considering energy equity during implementation

“This plan is bold, because nothing less than a bold response from every community across this nation and across the globe is essential to address the dire threat to our planet posed by climate change,” Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey said.

“Arlington’s updated Community Energy Plan is based on the latest climate science and views energy decisions through the lenses of energy security, economic competitiveness, environmental commitment and equity. It will maintain Arlington County’s position as a leader in America on climate change mitigation and adaptation.”

The plan incorporates goals for buildings; resilience; renewable energy; transportation, County government actions, and education and human behavior. It envisions an Arlington that by 2050 will be more resilient, where all electricity will come from renewable sources, where more residents will drive electric vehicles and more will use transit, and where homes and buildings will be more energy-efficient.

Just this week similar announcements were made by Governor Northam to achieve 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050 for all of Virginia as well as an announcement by Amazon to fight climate change by achieving carbon neutrality by 2040.

We are proud of the work we’ve done to date to save money and energy. We are equally energized about the work ahead to reach carbon neutrality in Arlington by 2050.

Some simple actions you can take today to act and stay connected:

Please join us as we move forward. Every action makes a difference.

Together we can create a carbon-neutral Arlington by 2050.

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Morning Notes

Woman Arrested for Burning Flag Near W-L High — “A woman was arrested for burning an American flag on an overpass over I-66 in Arlington, police say. Kayla Caniff, 22, was charged with property destruction after police say she burned a flag attached to a chain link fence on the N. Stafford Street overpass, north of the Ballston area, at about 11:55 p.m. Thursday.” [NBC Washington]

County Website Goes Down — The Arlington County website was down for an extended period of time over Labor Day weekend. [Twitter]

Lucky Dog Takes in Pups from Hurricane’s Path — “While Hurricane Dorian battered the Bahamas — thousands of miles away in Arlington, Lucky Dog Animal Rescue plotted a rescue mission… The Carolinas are projected to be in the storm’s path and Lucky Dog Animal Rescue is partnered with a shelter in South Carolina. So the organization’s volunteers met an animal control officer part of the way there to take 19 of the shelter’s dogs.” [WJLA]

APS to Review Westover Tree Plan — “Facing community unrest in Westover, Arlington Public Schools plans to take another look at the potential of saving more trees during construction of a new elementary school on North McKinley Road near Washington Boulevard. Following an Aug. 29 meeting with residents, the school system has directed that ‘before the trees are removed, we have the contractor stake out the site and renumber the trees.'” [InsideNova]

Energy Plan Concerns: Feds and Trees — Arlington County’s impending update to its Community Energy Plan, which sets a net zero carbon emissions goal, is an important step in fighting climate change, some advocates say, though additional action is still needed on the state and federal level. Others, despite supporting the goal, are concerned that achieving it may come at the cost of the area’s tree canopy. [Washington Post, Arlington County]

Arlington’s Many Advocacy Orgs — “My viewing [of the Netflix documentary ‘The Family’] got me thinking of the many newsmaking organizations — of all political stripes — that have long populated our suburb so close to the action of the nation’s capital. Wilson Blvd. and Crystal City alone are home to enough colorful groups to generate a slew of political and public policy contretemps.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Reminder: Be Careful on the Roads Today — It’s the first day of school, kids will be walking to school and there are new traffic patterns around some schools. Arlington County Police are conducting “a high-visibility traffic enforcement campaign in and around school zones and bus stops” today. [ARLnow, Arlington County]

Photo courtesy David Johnson

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Arlington County is working on plans to be “carbon neutral” by 2050.

The new goal comes is part of an ambitious update to the county’s current Community Energy Plan (CEP). It’s the result of community feedback that the earlier plan didn’t go far enough in addressing energy efficiency concerns, according to a staff report on the plan.

A pair of public hearings on the updates are expected to be scheduled for September at this weekend’s County Board meeting.

Carbon neutrality means reaching net zero metric tons of emissions each year. The idea behind the update is that, in 30 years, any carbon emissions would require some form of carbon offset in equivalent exchange.

The current plan, approved in 2013, targeted reaching three metric tons of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) per capita by 2050. The updated goal relies on technology that is still science fiction as of 2019 and admittedly strains the boundaries of what the County is allowed to promise.

“Arlington’s community leaders point to today’s climate science reports as a need for people to take action and for a stronger, bolder CEP,” the report noted. “It is important to note that Virginia is a Dillon Rule state, that is, local governments have limited authority, and can pass ordinances only in areas where the General Assembly has granted clear authority. A more aspirational 2050 target of zero metric tons of CO2e per capita per year simultaneously pushes the limits local jurisdictions have in Dillon Rule states, and assumes numerous technological advancements and disruptions take place.”

Rich Dooley, Arlington’s community energy coordinator, said the Dillon Rule also means Arlington can’t require developers to build energy-efficient buildings above what is required by the state, they can only continue to offer incentives like bonus density for going above-and-beyond the state’s standards.

Even so, the report on the update points to several places where Arlington could be more energy efficient, from requiring greater levels of energy efficiency in new buildings to prioritizing public transit infrastructure over cars.

Buildings currently use approximately 60 percent of all energy in Arlington, according to the update. The 2013 plan charted a gradual reduction in energy use in residential buildings, ending with 40 percent less energy usage in 2040, compared to 2007 levels. The update shifts that goal to a 38 percent reduction by 2050, compared to 2016 levels.

Arlington County would also need to significantly scale up its solar energy production and purchasing. The updated plan says by 2025, solar energy should supply 100 percent of government operations and by 2050, solar energy should supply half of all electricity use in Arlington.

Dooley noted that the plan is meant to be a high-level look at the goals and policies of the project, and some of the next steps include working on updating the “dated” implementation framework.

The report notes that the specific shift to a carbon-neutral goal by 2050 was partially the result of prodding from the Arlington County Board.

“During its work session deliberations, the County Board members noted the importance of acting now to address climate change while keeping in mind the other important CEP goals,” the update said. “The work session concluded with County Board guidance to staff to show in the 2019 CEP that the community should aspire to become Carbon Neutral by 2050.”

Dooley said that staff initially presented the update as being able to realistically reduce emissions to one metric ton, but the community spoke up at meetings and said the County should commit to going to fully carbon neutral.

“The County Board heard that and said ‘we can go ahead and get it there,'” Dooley said.

If the technology to help Arlington reach its 2050 goals doesn’t materialize over the next few years, Dooley said there carbon offsets the County can purchase.

The update also includes other renewable energy objectives for the nearer term:

  • Government operations will achieve 50% renewable electricity by 2022, and 100% renewable electricity by 2025.
  • The community will achieve 100% renewable electricity by 2035.

But other concerns remain that the plan might not be authorized by the state government or that it might fail to address consumer emissions — emissions associated with the local consumption of products that aren’t created in Arlington.

At the County Board meeting on Saturday, July 13, the Board is expected to approve advertisement of a public Planning Commission hearing on Sept. 9 and a public hearing at the County Board meeting on Sept. 21.

Image via Arlington County

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Arlington is looking for public input on a plan to use energy more efficiently.

Tonight (June 4) from 7-9 p.m. at the Central Library Auditorium (1015 N Quincy Street), county staff plan to host an open house during which the community can ask questions or offer feedback on an update to the county’s Community Energy Plan (CEP).

Goals for the project include:

  • Increase the energy and operational efficiency of all buildings: By 2050, the plan aims to have total building energy usage in Arlington be 38 percent lower than in 2007. In the report, staff says both code-required reductions for buildings and incentives for voluntary efficiencies — a carrot and stick approach — will be required.
  • Ensure Arlington’s energy resilience: The report notes — and anyone in Ballston two weeks ago can confirm — Arlington’s energy infrastructure is vulnerable to extreme weather and other factors. The report says Arlington will need to use new technologies to rely on more local sources of energy and potentially establish “microgrids” to make critical pieces of infrastructure like Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall and the Virginia Hospital Center more independent from blackouts across the county.
  • Increase locally generated energy supply: The plan aims to have Arlington County follow the example of Discovery Elementary, which won accolades for using all its energy generated on-site, and establish more solar energy collectors and other green energy sites across Arlington.
  • Move more people with fewer greenhouse gas emissions: The goal here is fairly self-explanatory, but the general idea is to get more Arlingtonians using buses, bicycles, and other non-car means of transportation, while encouraging those who are required to use cars to shift toward hybrid and energy-efficient vehicles.
  • Integrate energy goals into all county government activities: The report says Arlington should aim at having government facilities reduce CO2 emissions to 71 percent below their 2007 levels by 2040. The approach would involve a mix of smaller efficiencies in energy and water usage and larger shifts in making new government facilities more energy efficient from a design standpoint.
  • Support residents and businesses that reduce energy usage: The final goal of the report involves using county staff and resources to help encourage locals — from individuals to business owners — find ways to rethink energy usage in their own lives.

“We invite the community to drop in and spend as much time as needed to learn about the draft CEP update, CEP implementation details, and provide feedback on the proposed changes to the 2013 CEP,” Rich Dooley, Arlington’s community energy coordinator, said in an email.

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Arlington County officials promoted the Community Energy Plan approved last year in an online video released this week.

The plan, adopted in June 2013 after 15 months of community meetings, was designed to improve energy use through 2050 and set a national standard, County Board Chair Jay Fisette says in the eight- minute clip.

“A community energy plan is the next chapter of Arlington’s sustainability story,” Fisette says.

Officials explain how the county has reduced energy use in public buildings, including in the Central Library, where upgrades to lighting and other technology have cut usage by 25 percent since 2007.

Businesses and homeowners need to do their part, as the private sector accounts for 96 percent of the county’s energy use, said Community Energy Coordinator Rich Dooley.

“We’re looking at potential financial incentive programs for commercial building owners to try to get them to do more energy efficiency and renewable energy projects,” Dooley says.

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Morning Notes

Snowy Long Bridge Park and the D.C. skyline as seen from Crystal City (Flickr pool photo by Joseph Gruber)

Bikeshare Supplier Files for Bankruptcy — Bixi, the Canadian company that makes the bikes and equipment utilized by the Capital Bikeshare system, has filed for bankruptcy. Alta Bicycle Share, which runs the Capital Bikeshare system says it’s focused on making sure the system continues to operate “without interruption.” [Washington Business Journal, Capital Bikeshare]

Hope to Enter Congressional Race — Del. Patrick Hope (D-47) is planning to run for the retiring Rep. Jim Moran’s congressional seat. He’s expected to make the announcement today. [Washington Post]

Rader Clinic Recovering from Flood Damage — The Rader Clinic at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall is back up and running after a “water accident” that caused flood damage yesterday. [Facebook]

Arlington Energy Plan Wins Award — Arlington County’s Community Energy Plan has been recognized by the American Planning Association with a “2014 National Planning Achievement Award in Environmental Planning.” [Arlington County]

ARLnow Reaches 20K Twitter Followers — In the midst of snow coverage this week, ARLnow.com reached its 20,000th Twitter follower. The follower count now stands at 20,085. [Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Joseph Gruber

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The Arlington County Board is expected to vote this weekend to hold public hearings on the county’s proposed Community Energy Plan.

A draft of the ambitious plan calls for Arlington to significantly decrease energy consumption and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 through a series of six goals and 14 policies. The goals include:

  • “Buildings will be up to 60 percent more energy efficient, saving residents, tenants, and business owners on their energy bills.”
  • District energy systems will provide less expensive, more efficient cooling, heating and power to Arlingtonians in the highest-density development corridors.”
  • “Arlington will be a ‘solar leader’ by deploying 160 megawatts of solar photovoltaics, which will supply enough electricity to power 40,000 homes.”
  • “Arlington’s transportation infrastructure will be refined and expanded, providing residents and workers with more travel choices.”
  • “Arlington County Government will lead by example, reducing energy costs by improving fleet and building efficiencies.”
  • “Arlingtonians will rethink their energy use, taking advantage of new technologies to reduce personal energy consumption.”

Among the individual policies are:

  • Enforcing higher energy efficiency standards in the building code (requires state legislative approval)
  • Facilitating the creation and use of a district energy system with more than 100 megawatts of combined heat and power generation
  • Reducing County government CO2 emissions by 76% by 2050 through various strategies
  • Reducing automobile pollution by buying more efficient vehicles for the county fleet and requiring more efficient taxis
  • Deploying modern traffic control technologies to reduce vehicle idling times
  • Providing public recognition of people and organizations that help Arlington reach its energy goals.

The plan, county officials say, would improve Arlington’s business competitiveness, provide energy security, and help the environment.

The County Board is expected to vote this weekend to advertise a series of two public hearings which will be held in advance of Board consideration of the plan itself. The Board’s agenda item calls for the Planning Commission to hold a public hearing on June 3, and for the County Board to hold a hearing on June 15.

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Morning Notes

Bare trees in Ballston

APS to Benefit from State STEM Funding — Arlington Public Schools will be getting a boost from the Virginia Department of Education’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) grants. A $247,000 grant to George Mason University will provide support to 90 educators in seven school districts, including Arlington. Additionally, a $250,000 grant shared by four colleges and universities will support 76 teachers in 45 school districts, including Arlington. [Sun Gazette]

Public Hearing for School Boundary Changes — On Wednesday, the Arlington School Board will host a public hearing on the recommendations for boundary changes. Last month, Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy presented his recommendations for boundary changes. The hearing will take place at the Education Center (1426 N. Quincy Street) at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday (April 3).

JBM-HH Works with County to Reduce Use of Energy — The Directorate of Public Works at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall (JBM-HH) has been working with Arlington County to share information about energy use and conservation. Although the two entities aren’t sharing policy yet, they’re sharing information about a community plan to reduce the use of energy. [U.S. Army]

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Morning Notes

Snow tires by BrianMKA

Chamber Wants State Control of Energy Plan — One of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce’s legislative goals this year is to have the state take control of energy efficiency and green building standards. The Chamber’s call for statewide objectives and policies comes as Arlington is in the latter stages of developing its own Community Energy Plan. “The Chamber does not support the delegation of authority to localities to establish green-building codes and requirements on a locality-by-locality basis,” the group wrote. [Sun Gazette]

VSP Responds to Crashes During Storm — Yesterday’s snow, ice and rain storm resulted in dozens of crashes on Northern Virginia highways. Virginia State Police’s Fairfax division (which includes Arlington) responded to 69 crashes, 46 disabled vehicles and a total of 328 calls for service yesterday, according to VSP spokeswoman Corinne Geller. Statewide, VSP responded to 686 crashes, including one fatal wreck in Campbell County, near Lynchburg.

Population Decline Coming?Updated at 12:55 p.m. — A projection by researchers at the University of Virginia suggests that Arlington’s population will, against all conventional wisdom, actually decline in coming years. In the 2010 census Arlington had a population of 207,627; by 2040, the projection suggest the population will shrink to 197,065. The researchers cautioned against putting too much faith in the Arlington numbers. As a whole, Virginia is projected to grow, with some 2 million additional residents statewide by 2040. Arlington’s planning division projects a population of 252,400 in 2040. [Sun Gazette]

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A draft of Arlington’s Community Energy Plan (CEP) has been revealed. If approved, it would provide a guide for transforming the way energy is used, generated and distributed in Arlington through 2050.

Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan presented the draft to the County Board members at Tuesday’s Board meeting. Developing the CEP has been part of a three year effort by county staff members, who consulted with energy experts, community leaders and businesses.

“Once again, Arlington is taking a leadership role in advancing a transformative Community Energy Plan that represents the next generation of smart growth and another visionary way to support a sustainable future for our community,” Donnellan said in a press release.

The goal of the CEP is to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 3.0 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per resident per year by 2050. That equates to a reduction of about 75% from current levels.

The CEP lists six primary areas in which the county intends to implement the plan: buildings, district energy, renewable energy, transportation, county government actions, and education and human behavior.

In a press release, the county listed a number of strategies for achieving the energy goals, including the following:

  • Improving by up to 60% the energy efficiency of newly constructed and renovated residential, commercial and civic buildings. Includes financial incentives for investment in energy efficiency upgrades.
  • Managing home and building operations to reduce energy costs. Arlington County will continue to lead by example, through its Arlington Initiative to Reduce Emissions (AIRE) program, and by partnering with Arlington Public Schools.
  • Creating district energy systems in the highest density development corridors. District energy, although not a new technology, has never been deployed on a community level by any jurisdiction in the Washington, D.C. area. The CEP calls for district energy and local cogeneration of power to provide about 40% of the County’s energy needs in 2050.
  • Deploying alternative energy sources, such as solar photovoltaic and other renewable energy systems. The CEP contains an ambitious goal for solar power: 160 megawatts of solar electricity by 2050; enough electricity to power 40,000 homes.
  • Refining and expanding transportation infrastructure and operations enhancements. The CEP envisions more people walking, biking and using transit and fewer cars on the roads, in addition to cleaner-burning vehicles.
  • Changing how people in our community think about energy, helping them to understand how to have an impact on energy consumption, and actually changing human behavior to transform how we consume energy.

County staff says a community benefit of the plan is a reduction in energy use, which would lower greenhouse gas emissions and create a more sustainable environment. Individuals and businesses would be able to use money saved on energy for other investments to improve their quality of life. Lower energy costs are also cited as directly affecting business’ bottom lines, which is expected to create a more competitive economic environment. Diversifying the local energy supply with alternative options like solar is expected to provide better energy reliability and supply security.

The Board will consider adopting the plan in June of 2013. If it’s approved, county staff would then begin implementation. Prior to adoption, there will be a number of meetings for the public to review the plan, ask questions and to offer feedback.

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