The Chester County Commissioners presented plans for the County’s new Environmental and Energy Advisory Board to an audience of municipal representatives at the County’s annual stormwater management conference on Sept. 20. The Commissioners approved a resolution to establish the advisory board at a public meeting earlier this month, with the goal of creating a Climate Action Plan for Chester County. The Environmental and Energy Advisory Board will enhance the County’s commitment to preservation and protection of the environment and focus on the balance, interplay, and impact of energy-related initiatives and issues.
“Chester County recognizes and understands the importance of protecting our environment and balancing that with energy-related issues,” said Chester County Commissioners’ Chair Michelle Kichline. “We are already making many efforts to protect our environment and preserve energy, and we are looking forward to strengthening our current policies and practices through recommendations made by this Board.”
The efforts already underway, noted by Commissioner Kichline, include a 15-year energy performance contract with energy service company Constellation that is implementing water and energy conservation measures within County facilities that will save millions of dollars and help the County reach its environmental goals. A second initiative is an agreement with C-PACE, a clean energy financing program for commercial properties that supports family-sustained jobs and the Chester County business community, as well as improves the sustainability of the County’s built environments. Chester County was the first county in the region to sign-on with C-PACE.
“The Connect goal of our comprehensive plan, Landscapes3, includes a recommendation that calls for a resilient and clean energy network,” Commissioner Kichline added. “We can achieve that by supporting a wide range of energy sources, distribution system alternatives, and energy conservation measures.”
Last year’s Chester County Citizen Survey revealed that county residents ranked “Maintaining the quality of our water” as their number-one issue. And two goal areas of Landscapes3, Chester County’s comprehensive plan, focus on preserving and protecting the environment.
“Our comprehensive plan will provide guidance to this Board on some of the County’s current environmental protection objectives,” noted Chester County Commissioner Kathi Cozzone. “The Preserve goal of Landscapes3 focuses on advancing the protection and stewardship of open space, farmland, and natural and cultural features to realize economic, ecological, and quality of life benefits. The Protect goal emphasizes the need to guard and restore critical natural resources to ensure a resilient environment that supports healthy communities.”
The Environmental and Energy Advisory Board will provide both reviews and recommendations to the Commissioners and County departments which will include: recommending best environmental and energy practices in the areas of buildings, facilities and operations; fuels, vehicles, and transportation; food; responsible purchasing; housing; energy sources; air quality; stormwater management; natural resource protection; and climate change. Further reviews and recommendations include: identifying environmental and energy policies that the County has adopted and recommending ways to promote and educate about Chester County’s environmental and energy initiatives; identifying and recommending voluntary actions, projects, and programs for municipalities, businesses, nonprofits, and other partners to implement county environmental and energy policies; reviewing and providing input into a Climate Action Plan; and recommending environmental and energy-related actions, projects, and programs to the Commissioners for implementation.
The Board will also review and advise on making strides towards the Sierra Club’s “Ready for 100” initiative, the national movement to achieve 100 percent clean, renewable and just energy across the U.S. by the year 2050.
The creation of the Climate Action Plan will be one of the Board’s first tasks. The County is working on this project with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and its contractor, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability. The Chester County Planning Commission also will receive assistance from Dr. Kathleen Schreiber’s Environmental Impact Assessment class at Millersville University. The greenhouse gas inventory portion will be completed in the fall with the Climate Action Plan development next spring.
“We are looking forward to reviewing the results of the Climate Action Plan and we appreciate all the people who will be working on this project,” stated Commissioner Terence Farrell. “We are confident that this plan will provide guidance on ways to respond to changing impacts based on weather.”
In addition to the Climate Action Plan, the Environmental and Energy Advisory Board will recommend ways the County can commemorate April 22, 2020, the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.
The Board will be comprised of Chester County residents along with representatives of businesses, energy initiatives, municipalities, land conservancies, utility companies, and County departments. The term of each of the Board members will be two years, except that, when the Board is first created, half of the members shall be appointed for three years and half for two years.
The Chester County Commissioners will accept resumes and cover letters from people who are interested in being considered for a position on the Board. Material can be sent to Deputy County Administrator Kara Rahn at email@example.com by Friday, October 18, 2019. The Commissioners will review the applications before making appointment recommendations.