County’s Climate Workgroups host first meeting

August 9, 2019

This article was written by Elle Myers and originally published in The Montgomery County Sentinel on August 8, 2019.

Montgomery County’s Climate Planning Process Workgroups, which are tasked with coming up with a series of strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, held their first meeting on July 24.

According to the county, more than 60 volunteers and about 30 Montgomery County representatives attended the organizational meeting.

The three working groups were developed by County Executive Marc Elrich to create strategies to help the county meet its climate goals by reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2027 and 100% by 2035.

Adriana Hochberg serves as an assistant chief administrative officer in Montgomery County and the county’s climate change coordinator.

County Executive Marc Elrich. (File photo)

“(County Executive Elrich) recognized the tremendous expertise on climate and energy issues by members of our community,” she said. “The workgroups will seek to leverage that expertise.” Hochberg explained that climate change cannot be boiled down to just a government problem and that effective solutions should also be considered from the people the government represents.

Each working group has about 20 volunteers from the community who were selected for their environmental backgrounds and interests, according to the county. Also included in each group were 10 county representatives with environmental experience.

In his first term as county executive, Elrich had noted his commitment to addressing climate change.

“In Montgomery County, we are going to take action and establish a model for others to follow,” said Elrich. “These workgroups are an important step in the effort to consolidate past studies, efforts and experience and move forward with a concrete action plan. We are fortunate so many talented, experienced and committed people have volunteered to help address climate change and, in the process, help spur and modernize our economy, enhance our health and promote social equity.”

The workgroups are designed to focus on three key issues facing the county. The Buildings Technical Workgroup will be tasked with developing recommendations related to building codes, benchmarking and building energy-performance standards. The Transportation Technical Workgroup will look for opportunities to increase the use of electric vehicles and infrastructure such as charging stations. Finally, the Clean Energy Technical Workgroup will explore expanding the use of solar energy for hot-water heating and geo-exchange energy systems.

Gregory Knoop is the owner of Eco-Mar, which partners with communities and organizations to create conscientious architecture and urban infrastructure. He is also a volunteer on the Buildings Technical Workgroup.

Knoop said that he heard about the new climate groups through his previous work on climate issues with the county.

“This (kind of work) is what we formed our company to do, this kind of advisory work and the professional services around it,” he said. “So, we kind of put our hearts where our passions are.”

He stated that climate issues are much tougher to solve than they might look on the surface.

“There’s a lot of hard work and strategic thinking that is part of the walk across from the current state or your current trajectory to a major shift in trajectory both socially and physically and economically. (Climate change issues) are intense and involve serious work to get there; otherwise they don’t get done,” Knoop said.

Because the issues related to climate change are in some ways ominous and overwhelming, Knoop added, he wanted to be a part of the county’s working groups to come up with solutions that will bring about real progress towards healthy climate goals.

Rohini Srivastava is also a volunteer on the Buildings Technical Workgroup and a researcher at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, a non-profit organization that works toward advances in energy-efficient policies.

“I think the way I look at it is (these groups are) just such an amazing way to get expertise and an idea together,” she said. Srivastava noted that many of the volunteers had expertise in a broad range of facets like commercial building to experience serving on committees or being involved with data analytics. “So it was just such a good group of folks who could get together and brainstorm on the topics.”

She noted that the way the groups are structured with county representatives and volunteers seems to be an effective way to invoke change.

“The way it’s been structured as practitioners or people who are really interested in this topic who are really motivated to bring market solutions to the table I think is good,” she said. “That’s something that’s very unique about this group that all of us have been in the field for long enough to understand the challenges and issues and opportunities out there. How we can leverage existing structures and bring about some sort of an action that would be more impactful than just putting a policy out there and saying, hey let’s just do these upgrades.”

The groups will meet over the next five months and they will be expected to have their first reports by the end of the year, according to the county.

There will also be two additional work groups formed that cover Adaptation and Sequestration and Community Engagement and Education.

Learn more about the County’s Climate Planning Process here.

4 comments on "County’s Climate Workgroups host first meeting"

  1. Ms. Dale Barnhard says:

    In response to an article, ” ‘Veganuary’ says give it up for the planet”, Style section, December 14, 2019, about an online sign-up pledge to go Vegan for the month of January to aid in the concerns for climate change, as a vegan advocate, I have compiled a short list of environmental reasons to go Vegan.

    #1- EPA show animal agriculture is the largest source of climate change. Greater then ALL transportation sector, ie. cars, trucks, trains, planes, ships.
    #2- 70 percent of crops grown in the U.S. go toward feeding livestock.
    #3- Animal agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation, water pollution & biodiversity loss on land and sea.
    #4- Animal agriculture is responsible for 90 percent of Amazon deforestation.
    #5- Animal agriculture is responsible for 55 percent of water consumption in the U.S. Water consumption by private homes is 5 percent.
    #6- 1/3 of ice-free land is occupied by livestock & livestock feed.
    #7- 80 percent of antibiotics sold in the U.S. are for livestock.
    #8- 1.5 acres can produce 37,000 lbs of plant based food.
    1.5 acres produce 375 lbs of beef.
    #9- Every MINUTE, 7 million lbs of excrement are produced by animals raised for food in the U.S. That’s 130 times more than human waste.
    #10- World population in 1812 was 1 billion. In 1912 world population was 1.5 billion. In 2012 world population was 7 billion.
    Ms. Dale Barnhard

    1. Lindsey Shaw says:

      Hi Ms. Barnhard – thank you for taking the time to share your perspective on personal ways you’re fighting climate change. We definitely agree that shifting to a plant-based diet is a key step to help reduce GHG emissions!
      Take care, Lindsey Shaw, DEP

  2. Peter Stelnyk says:

    Department of Environmental Protection
    2425 Reedie Drive, 4th Floor
    Wheaton, MD 20902
    To Whom It May Concern:
    Hi, I’m writing to file a complaint regarding the indiscriminate tree cutting being conducted across the county by Asplundh Tree , as a contractor to PEPCO Electric Services.
    I have witnessed Asplundh trimming trees to remove limbs supposedly posing a threat to PEPCO’s power lines, when in fact, Asplundh goes well beyond that goal, removing nearly all of the limbs from the tree, leaving only it’s core and ironically leaving the tree in a weakened state where it is prone to blowing over in a storm, and often dies following such severe cuttings, as a result of being decimated.
    The other element of this is the very obvious conflict of interest on the part of Asplundh as contractor to PEPCO, where their stated goal is to protect both the trees and power lines, but where Asplundh is a contractor paid for tree removal, period. In weakening the tree, it is left to die, where Asplundh can come back a 2nd time to bill PEPCO for it’s complete removal.
    I seriously question the effectiveness of the tree trimming to the extent that Asplundh and PEPCO conduct these operations, and still see trimmed trees toppled during severe storms, and needing to be removed.
    Also, this causes additional cost to the county in the trees being decimated and ultimately killed, requiring replacement by the county in the buffer area 10’ from the street and sidewalks, and reduces green space and the value of property additionally as a result.
    I would propose the county hold Asplundh and PEPCO accountable to perform ONLY the removal of lines in direct contact or less than 5’ from power lines, to retain most of the trees limbs and cover. Related, I would be happy to attend a public hearing to provide evidence and my testimony to support reform of the statute regarding how PEPCO and Asplundh conduct their operations.
    I look forward to hearing from your office regarding any ongoing efforts to remedy this on the part of concerned citizens or in response to placing this issue on the agenda for an upcoming county hearing.
    Grateful for your acknowledgement and thank you,

    Peter K Stelnyk

    1. Cat Lee says:

      Hi, thanks for getting in touch. I have removed your contact information from this comment. A staff member will follow up directly.

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