The sun shines green
Tough local budgets don’t necessarily put the brakes on green drives
Government layoffs! Reduced services! Death and disaster! It is easy to listen to—and be depressed by—TV news or read the headlines in the daily newspaper and believe that all the ecological gains sorely won during the last federal administration are being undermined by the economic downturn caused by that same administration.
Not so fast. While the crappy economic situation does have impact on the local green movement, particularly through government layoffs, some of the stimulus dollars have inoculated the local movement against budgetary problems. The long and short of it, according to city of Reno environmental services administrator Jason Geddes, is that a lot of the money that’s moving green projects ahead (and that can’t be used for other purposes) in Reno and Sparks hasn’t been affected like, say, the police and fire departments have.
“Not so far,” he said. “We’ll see in the next round of cuts, but so far the mayor and council and the manager have been supportive. I’ve lost about 20-25 percent of my operating budget, but we’ll still be able to do the Green Summit this year on the lower budget. (The date for the Green Summit, in which local entities come together to decide the year’s foci for green initiatives, has not been decided yet. It will be around June 14).
That’s not to say it’s all been Chutes and Ladders for Northern Nevada’s greenies.
“The biggest impact so far has been on the participation on the citywide Green Team with everybody focusing on the budget and losing some of the people who were on the Green Team through the departmental cuts,” Geddes said. “For example, our redevelopment representative went away.”
But the Green Team’s big priorities for the year, energy and recycling, haven’t been particularly undermined. The energy programs—the wind, solar and retrofits—have been funded through grants, including money from the stimulus and green power funds. And in Reno, the energy conservation projects have also resulted in energy savings, which in turn put a little more money in the city’s coffers.
“Recycling, that’s a greater issue with the economy,” said Geddes, a doctor of environmental sciences and health who sits on the Nevada Board of Regents.
Recycling could be affected because customers are probably looking at increased prices in order to build a Material Recovery Facility, where recyclables are sorted.
“To do the new [recycling] program, we need to build a new one, and to build a new one will most likely require a rate increase. I’m not sure there’d be much support for the rate increase,” he said.
Geddes does say there are many oases in the green landscape. For example, just last week the city received approval from the Department of Energy to move forward on some wind turbines.
“We started construction of our second turbine over there at Mira Loma Park, and we should be bringing that up in mid-April, and the ones on City Hall should be coming up in May,” he said. “We’ll be adding the rest through August.”