City talks climate change

After listening to several audience members comment on the last agenda item during its June 26 meeting, the Portola City Council plans to prepare a resolution regarding climate change.

Robbin Anderson, a Portola resident and member of the Citizens Climate Lobby, rose first and said, “It’s kind of amazing that I’m coming on the heels of a flood, and a dangerous burnable pile near the senior apartments, and fire wise issues, and lack of volunteer firemen — I guess that being last is important tonight. I want to say that climate change is more important than ever because people are finally talking about it.”

Anderson went on to say, “The intergovernmental panel on climate change put out its report in October 2018, it said we had 12 years to turn things around. That will be 11 years this October.”

Anderson also noted that recent 2019 surveys had noted that 71 percent of people in California District One believe in climate change, and of those, 61 percent are worried about it. According to Anderson, another recent study survey also noted that 75 percent of Republicans under the age of 40 are worried about climate change and want something done about it.

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Anderson herself lobbied for climate change in Washington D.C. two weeks ago and noted that youth in the United States are also taking an interest to lobby as well. “I couldn’t do this if I didn’t have some good news,” she said.

Anderson also noted that solar energy was currently down to $3.03 per watt, and suggested that for those interested in solar, now is the time, in order to still qualify for the full government rebate of 30 percent of the cost of solar installation through federal taxes.

Anderson then said, “I’m here tonight to ask you to pass a resolution that takes a stand on climate change. At the very least, I ask you to please recognize that climate change is real, and it’s hurting all of us, and it will only get worse if we leave it alone. If you feel so motivated, I ask you to support the Carbon Fee and Dividend plan as the best way forward for our country.”

Anderson then introduced her colleagues that attended to speak on the subject of climate change, beginning with Jason Christian, economist, resident of Portola and lifelong Loyalton native.

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Christian said the state of California today recognizes a crisis in climate change, caused by the rising atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

He went on to state that California is developing and pursuing policies to improve forest health, both to mitigate wild fires as well as improve the contributions the forests around us make to removing CO2 from the atmosphere and converting it into stable, sold forms.

“There is carbon sequestration technology being developed, but when I look out the window right there, I see one of the most efficient factories in the world for taking CO2 out of the air, and it’s at risk, and it’s those trees out there,” Christian said.

Christian went on to explain job development at the Loyalton Biomass plant, and said that as valuable as current activities are, they are not enough. He said forest health requires removal of biomass volumes many times larger than what can be converted to energy in Loyalton.

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“ARP and the Union Pacific Railroad, in cooperation with state officials, have launched a preliminary study of the feasibility, costs and commercial arrangements to resume rail service from the Portola yard to Loyalton. The implications for the city of Portola and for Loyalton are obvious,” Christian said with emotion.

Christian noted that infrastructure planning should look carefully toward proper planning target identification, and that the healthy forest program to address climate change and protect the forest promises long term viability and health in our communities.

“We’re the ones who take care of the watersheds and the forests,” he said. “It’s the working people in this town. The city of Portola has a role to play in this program.”

Kathy Kogge, a resident of Gold Mountain and the chair of the Gold Mountain FireWise committee, commended the work that Chief Bob Frank of EPRFPD has been doing for them.

“Climate change is global, but what can we do on a local level?” Kogge asked the room. Kogge expressed her devout belief that climate change is real and not a theory. “If we can be as pollutant free as possible as a city, I think it would be helpful. I feel that this is a very important topic that needs to keep on being reviewed.”

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Donna Lindquist, a 20-year resident and biologist, also spoke, stating that as she has followed the climate change issue from the academic side for the past 10 years, she has been mystified by how the topic has been politicized.

“This is a human issue; it’s about sustaining our environment. It goes above politics, and it’s getting distorted as global climate change rages on uncontrolled,” Lindquist said.

“I would like to emphasize that we are concerned on the local and global level, and we want to make our voices heard, and as a community we can support the work being done on the issues that affect us all.”

Larry Douglas also commented, noting that rising water temperatures are also predicted to cause different varieties of trout to go extinct.

Leela Mowry, another longtime local, stated that she believed that global warming is the number one threat to our planet, and said, “We can’t ignore it any longer, and I believe it is our responsibility to do something about it. If Portola is going to call themselves a fire wise community, I think they first need to be a climate wise community.”

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Jean Dansby, her daughter Kate, and her grandson Brennan stood together to speak briefly, with Jean stating her support for climate change action, and Kate also noting that as a new mother, she wanted to ensure that her son has a long, happy, and healthy life, as well as her future grandchildren.

Members of council discussed the topic, with Powers saying, “The whole agenda seemed to fall together around this issue in one way or another. In my opinion, we can tighten up and rework the proposed resolution to really fit our community, and I agree with everything that was said tonight about us needing to say our piece.”

Council member Morton said, “There’s obviously climate change, you can’t deny that. I don’t mind writing something for Robbin to use stating that we believe there is climate change.”

Oels noted that warming trends on the planet are happening and have historically happened before and wasn’t sure what could be done aside from living cleaner and better. “I’m not sure what the legislation would actually accomplish, but I do feel that it is an important enough issue that we need to take a look at it,” Oels commented. “Billions of years ago, this was redwood country.”

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Powers noted that vegetation management was a large, complex issue, and that he wanted to find something that all can live with. “We can agree not to go into the dramatic part of trying to solve climate change worldwide, but to support what we can with what we’ve got to work with.”

With that, Mayor Cooley made the decision to appoint an ad-hoc committee to prepare and tailor a resolution to bring back at an early date to the council, with Council member Morton and Council member Bill Powers chosen to serve on the committee.