Chester County developed its first Climate Action Plan in 2010 entitled the Chester County Greenhouse Gas Reduction (GHGR) Report. This report was created by a diverse group of stakeholders who provided numerous ideas for reducing carbon emissions at the county and local levels. While many of the initiatives were implemented, more needed to be done.
In the summer of 2019, the Commissioners directed the Chester County Planning Commission to explore options for updating the GHGR report and transforming it into a new Climate Action Plan for Chester County. The PA Department of Environment Protection had just released an updated Pennsylvania Climate Action Plan in April 2019, so it was perfect timing to update the county’s plan.
July 2019 was also perfect timing for the PA Department of Environmental Protection to announce their Local Government Climate Action Assistance Program, which offered assistance to 20 local governments for creating community climate action plans. The Planning Commission, on behalf of Chester County, applied and was fortunate enough to be accepted as a program participant. Under this program, local governments are paired with PA universities and a consultant (ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability) experienced in developing greenhouse gas inventories and climate action plans. This program not only assists local governments in creating a climate action plan, but offers college students real world experience in learning how to develop these plans.
Chester County was paired with Millersville University and Dr. Kathleen Schreiber, PhD, a professor in the Geography Dept. and Chris Steuer, Sustainability Director for the MU Office of Sustainability. Dr. Schreiber’s Environmental Impact Assessment class assisted with the greenhouse gas inventory in the fall of 2019, while Chris Steuer worked on the GHG reduction strategies with three assigned students in the winter/spring of 2020. As part of the process, weekly webinars and one-on-one guidance were provided to each group by ICLEI. The Millersville University team, ICLEI, and Planning Commission staff worked in coordination throughout the process.
A working draft of the Climate Action Plan should be completed in early May 2020. During the next phase, county staff will work closely with the Environmental & Energy Advisory Board on vetting and refining the draft recommendations. The focus of the recommendations will be on what county government, municipalities, and county residents and businesses can do to reduce carbon emissions and address the impacts of climate change. Opportunities for input on the plan will be provided as we move forward on the completion of this important planning effort.
Chester County government has not been sitting still while our climate action planning moves forward. Last week, the county commissioners amended their power purchase agreement to offset 100% of the county’s electricity usage with nationally generated wind power. This is another step towards improving the environment, and the upcoming Climate Action Plan will show even more ways the county can reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.