A day after California mandated the state to be entirely green-powered by 2045, Humboldt County has raised its own stakes.
By 2025, all of the electricity used within Humboldt County institutions will come from renewable energy resources, after the county board of supervisors unanimously voted to pass a resolution to align itself with international climate change policies.
With the resolution, the county officially declares support for the Paris Agreement — a treaty signed by nearly 200 countries agreeing to mitigate the effects of global warming. Last June, the White House famously backed out of the agreement; in the past two days, the state of California and now Humboldt County have made it clear they’re staying on board.
“Humboldt County has a long tradition of renewable energy infrastructure and use,” said 3rd District Supervisor Mike Wilson, who authored the resolution. “We’re well-respected leaders on this at a regional and national level. We should be doing whatever we can to get out in front of it.”
At its Tuesday meeting, the board stopped just short of putting the entire county itself — all 136,000 or so residents — on a path to 100 percent clean energy. Wilson had intended the original language of the resolution to cover all of Humboldt County, but 1st District Supervisor Rex Bohn was quick to point out that a plan like that would be too costly and run the risk of becoming a formality.
“I’d like to make sure that 100 percent of the energy we’re going to use will be created in Humboldt County,” Bohn said.
Often, Bohn said, local electricity companies will harvest energy from fossil fuels in county plants and then exchange it for packages of clean, renewable energy from Southern California. As a result, Bohn said, the county receives a “green energy” guise while piling on more harm to the problem of climate change.
“Buying it from an exchange in [Los Angeles] gives everyone a ‘warm fuzzy’ that really isn’t a ‘warm fuzzy,’” Bohn said. “But we’d still be using fossil fuels.”
Heeding Bohn’s advice, the supervisors amended the resolution to say “County of Humboldt” instead of “Humboldt County,” a move that stripped the resolution’s effect down from pushing the entire county toward clean energy to simply challenging county government institutions to go green.
But the resolution will still make a difference, Wilson said, especially when the county employs more than 1,000 people.
“It’s a strong statement on our part and I’m more than satisfied,” Wilson said. He called the new legislation a step forward, regardless of the last-minute change.
The next step will be developing an action plan to ensure the transition actually happens. A “highly qualified, well-educated” intern will help spearhead an action plan, said John Ford, the county’s director of planning and building.
Wilson later clarified that the county would seek out not an intern but a fellow of CivicSpark, a government AmeriCorps program working in the fields of local climate change and water management.
By the language of the resolution, the county will need to square away an action plan by 2020. The plan will directly address reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
It won’t be too difficult to make those reductions in this county, Wilson said, citing the work of the Redwood Coast Energy Authority and the Humboldt State University environmental engineering program — one of the “oldest accredited” undergraduate programs of its kind, according to the HSU website.
Most who attended Tuesday’s meeting came to support the resolution. Multiple residents spoke to natural disasters that have plagued the county for years.
The county’s decision would go in line with existing resolutions by the cities of Eureka and Arcata, in addition to unincorporated McKinleyville, to become 100 percent reliant on renewable energy resources, said Amber Shelton, a representative from the Environmental Protection Information Center.
“Already in 2018, we’ve received the great news that we have reduced greenhouse gas emissions below our target for 2020,” Shelton said. “Future greenhouse gas reductions will not be as easy without these types of actions.”
Shomik Mukherjee can be reached at 707-441-0504.
County targets 100 percent clean energy by 2025, by Shomik Mukherjee, The Eureka Times-Standard, September 12, 2018.