The Fort Collins Sustainability Group (FCSG) has reviewed the Fort Collins 2022 Recommended Budget to determine how well it aligns with the City’s climate commitments. In our judgment, the Recommended Budget falls short of what is needed to maintain our community’s leadership position in addressing the climate emergency, which was formally recognized by City Council via Resolution 2019-091. Specifically, the Recommended Budget does not put us on track to achieve our 2030 goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% compared to 2005 levels.
City staff has estimated that if the recommended budget is approved, our community will reduce its overall greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by an additional 61,000 metric tons of CO2(e) in 2022.1 That figure is equal to about 2.6% of 2005 baseline GHG emissions. At that rate, Fort Collins would reduce its GHG emissions by an additional 23.4% by 2030. Adding that to the progress we have made so far – approximately 20% GHG emissions reductions by 2020 compared to 2005 – it is clear that we are not on a path toward reducing GHG emissions 80% by 2030. If we are to reach the 2030 goal, we will need to reduce our emissions by 6.7% per year for the next nine years – well over two times as much as the cuts proposed in the 2022 Recommended Budget.
We acknowledge that the Platte River Power Authority (PRPA) has set a goal of 100% renewable electricity by 2030, and that if that goal is achieved, the City will see additional GHG emissions reductions outside of the budgeting process. However, over the nearly three years that have passed since the PRPA adopted the 2030 renewable electricity goal, its management has not been moving very quickly to eliminate its reliance on fossil fuels, and has been very resistant to demands that it establish interim goals for renewable energy production. Rather, PRPA management seems to be waiting for a miracle to occur. Given PRPA’s current leadership, Fort Collins cannot rely on the PRPA to deliver on its 2030 promise.
Turning to specific budget items:
- Offer 1.11 “Utilities: Light & Power – Energy Services” is estimated by staff to achieve GHG emissions reductions of 35,000 metric tons of CO2(e) through energy efficiency incentive programs, electrification incentives (which promote the substitution of relatively clean electricity for fossil fuel), energy code development, training, and enforcement, and home energy reports. We urge City Council to expand this program at least by a factor of two to achieve annual reductions consistent with achieving the community’s 2030 climate goal.
- Transportation and Mobility offers related to public transit, bicycling, and walking are collectively estimated by staff to achieve GHG emissions reductions of 16,000 metric tons of CO2(e). A highlight in this area is the proposed acquisition of five battery electric buses and charging infrastructure under Offer 19.9. Here again, we ask City Council to consider expanding transportation offers that will reduce GHG emissions at least by a factor of two.
- Offers 2.4: “Utilities: Light & Power – Vehicles & Equipment,” 3.3: “Utilities: Customer Service & Administration – Minor Capital,” and 7.1: “Fleet Fuel” all include funding for the acquisition or fueling of compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles. The offers refer to CNG as an “alternate fuel source,” similar to battery electric vehicles. CNG is a fossil fuel – methane – with an outsized impact on the climate due to its very high global warming potential. The City should stop referring to CNG as an “alternate fuel source”, should stop acquiring new CNG vehicles, and should move to retire the ones it currently owns as quickly as possible.
- Finally, Offer 48.13 : “Local and Regional Air Quality Monitoring” includes funding for ten low-cost particle monitoring sensors, which would primarily be used to detect wildfire smoke. While this is important from the perspective of resilience, it is also important to monitor gases released from motor vehicles and gases released from oil and gas extraction, which contribute to Fort Collins’ poor air quality on many days of the year. City Council should look for ways to fund a more robust air quality monitoring system so that the true impacts of internal combustion engines and oil and gas extraction on our air quality and on the climate can be accurately assessed.
In summary, the 2022 Recommended Budget will not keep us on track to achieve the deep reductions in GHG emissions by 2030 called for by the City’s Climate Action Plan, and does not align well with the City’s 2019 declaration of a climate emergency. City Council should ask staff to enhance the budget offers we have referenced to better reflect Fort Collins stated commitments to addressing the climate crisis.
1 Correspondence with the FCSG dated 9/16/21, which will formally be presented to City Council by October 12th.