Monday, January 5, 2009

New Year Goals and Coal

Dear People: I meant to get to this yesterday, but time slipped away. In this email, I discuss the agenda for tonight's meeting (7 pm, Bryan Ctr), and will reflect a little on this past year's work and my concerns about our electrical power sources. I'll be in my office hours TODAY (new time for spring!), in the Emporium, from 12-1 or so.

1) Ordinance to approve a temporary budget as an emergency while we sort out our plans for this year's budget.
2 & 3) 2 Resolutions paying dues to Ohio Municipal League and the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission.
4) CBE Development and Funding agreement: This is an extension of a 2007 agreement with Community Resources to complete the infrastructure on the CBE, a project that we hope to complete very soon.

Code Enforcement/ Zoning: We received a list of all the properties in town that requested building permits, variance applications to the Board of Zoning Appeals, and the public hearings conducted by the Planning commission. I suspect Ed Amrhein will simply go over this report with us.

1) Setting Budget Workshop dates.
2) Rescheduling our reception for new manager Mark Cundiff
3) An update from Visioning and Planning on the numerous responses to our RFP and their process of evaluating those responses.

2008 Goal Report and scheduling goal sessions: Contact me and I'll be happy to email you an initial draft put together by Judith Hempfling and Karen Wintrow of all the things Council has accomplished this past year in relation to our 2008 goals--Karen will be doing a power point of this review tonight. Please take a moment to read the report over, and share any comments or concerns you have with me--better yet, plan to come to Council tonight to do so. Some of these items clearly need follow-up--e.g., especially, the sidewalk issue.

I think we will keep similar overarching goals for 2009, which can serve sort of like a mission statement for us, but will seek this year to be much more specific in our main objectives under each goal. We need to finish the improvements on the wastewater treatment plant, complete the infrastructure work on the CBE site, to deal with our sidewalk problems, etc.

Another issue that we are thinking carefully about is our electric system and this Council's decision to reject helping to build two new coal plants this past year, and how we will replace that lost power source.

A little history: The decision to vote against those plants was actually very challenging to me. Since the new plants would have had much lower emissions than our current base-power providers, there was a logic in supporting them that was hard to refute, and which kept me awake at night: if we reject these new coal-burning plants, will we just wind up buying more expensive and dirtier electricity, from older and less efficient plants, on the open market--and not reducing our actual carbon footprint at all, indeed possibly, arguably, raising it?

But when Elisa Young of Meigs County came and spoke about the farm she lives on that's been in her family since the Revolutionary War, how they already have 4 big coal-burning plants in view, the high cancer rates that already exist in the county, the ash they wipe off their cars every morning, and the effectiveness of big coal companies at keeping the problems with coal mining, burning, and dealing with the waste from public view, I was solidified in my decision. In addition to all the problems with committing to a 200-year old technology for burning coal, for yet another 50 years or so, during a time of global warming, I couldn't see approving coal plants as anything but a NIMBY move on our part.

In her power point presentation to the village shortly before our vote on the AMP-OH plant, Elisa pointed out that large piles of toxic ash were typically created, sometimes within yards of elementary schools, and that there have been problems with on-going leakage and major spills from these toxic ash piles in the past. Well, 3 days before Christmas,the worst ash spill in history happened at the ash-heap in Kingston, Tennessee, creating environmental devastation that was immediately quite visible by NASA satellites, as you can see in these pictures.

"Clean coal" is obviously a misnomer: coal is not clean at any stage of the process, from mining to burning to dealing with the ash heaps that remain long after the energy is used, not to mention the warming of our planet. But we need to be seriously thinking about what alternatives we can possibly tap into. We are in the process of re-commissioning an Electric System Task force to help us think about our future energy needs and how to move forward on this front. Now that the Antioch campus is closed, etc., do we need the same levels of electrical service as were being predicted? What electricity levels do we need, and can we find alternative energy sources to provide those needs?

Those are the questions I'm especially taking into this new year.


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