Getting to Action: Thurston Climate Mitigation Plan Update

By Tom Crawford, TCAT President

At its November 5th meeting, the Thurston Climate Mitigation Plan’s (TCMP’s) Steering Committee learned about public comments on the draft plan, and reviewed a draft agreement and scope of work for Phase 3 of the effort. Public input on the plan was very high, and very positive. The Steering Committee did not seem ready to start implementing it, looking for more information about costs, benefits and other concerns.  So TCAT called upon the cities and the county, while they gather more information, to act now on items that are immediately doable to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

As the readers of our newsletter and our volunteers know, TCAT has been building public awareness and encouraging local residents to show up and speak up on behalf of strong climate action for several months.  This work paid off in the open house and public comment period for the Plan, which took place between September 17 and October 16.  Visitors to the open house web site numbered 656, while 86 people responded to the online survey.  Nearly all who responded to the survey (86%) favored the cities and the county adopting the plan.  On top of that, there were 161 written comments; of those, 72% supported the Plan, and another 16% had suggestions or questions. Allison Osterberg, TCMP coordinator working for the Thurston Regional Planning Council (TRPC), noted that overall the level of engagement and participation was very high, especially given the restrictions because of the COVID pandemic.  One group that was especially prominent in support of the Plan was students. So thanks and congratulations to all of our newsletter readers and volunteers who reviewed and commented on the Plan! 

Of course, not everyone who commented were in favor of the Plan.  Some realtors questioned the actions related to building energy which call for increased energy efficiency reporting, converting from natural gas to electricity, and other measures. There was concern those measures would raise housing prices.  It will be important for TCAT and the TCMP partners to reach out to these folks and provide them more information about the advantages of improving building energy efficiency and using renewable energy.

The second part of the Steering Committee meeting dealt with moving forward with implementing the Plan.  TRPC staff and Steering Committee members expressed the opinion that without additional information about costs, benefits and schedule, it will be difficult to implement the actions.  With that in mind, they are considering it a framework. They considered a draft inter-local agreement (ILA) and scope of work for Phase 3 of the TCMP which defines a 12-month agreement among the cities and the county, and a continued role for TRPC as convener and coordinator. The scope of work includes formation of a Climate Action Implementation Committee (CAIC), to continue the work of the Steering Committee, with elected officials as voting members and additional non-voting members from the community.  The CAIC will meet six times a year.  The scope document also identifies, outside the scope and without funding, one or more Issue-Specific Workgroups, “to help refine strategies and actions for implementation.”  Finally, it calls for work on monitoring and assessment (including the greenhouse gas inventory, transferred from TCAT to the Thurston Regional Planning Council).

TCAT has consistently called for a TCMP that is specific, ready to be implemented, with a budget and schedule and assigned accountability.  The TCMP as we have it has clearly fallen short of that.  Still, it must be passed and adopted by each of the four jurisdictions.  It is essential, but not sufficient.  

With that in mind, TCAT will continue to call for and work toward immediate actions to move the dial on our climate emissions.  Two examples are: 

  • A COVID recovery project to bring together housing agencies throughout the county to design a county wide energy efficiency program for low-income folks hit hard by the pandemic. This will also position our county to attract federal stimulus funds, when they become available next year. The County Commissioners approved (provisionally) $37,500 for this; they are now checking with Lacey, Olympia and Tumwater to ensure the cities’ participation in the effort.
  • The county’s implementation of the Commercial Publically Assessed Clean Energy and Resiliency (C-PACER) program, which the state legislature has authorized.  This would make it easier for owners and managers of commercial buildings and multi-family housing buildings to finance energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.  TCAT briefed the Commissioners on this program earlier in the month, the response was positive, and our volunteers will continue monitoring their progress on it.

So our local governments have made significant progress toward meaningful climate action.  But the work is far from over.  TCAT will be working in the coming months to get practical solutions, that bring down emissions, on the front burner.  This of course includes needed funding.  Stay tuned for more on this.  For more information, and if you have ideas or energy or skills to contribute, contact me () or Lynn Fitz-Hugh ()