On Monday, December 15, the Environmental Policy Commission (EPC) approved the final draft of the city’s Environmental Action Plan, Phase I (EAP I). The EAP I is the immediate product of nearly four months hard work. Since August, the members of the EPC have been working hard conducting research, amalgamating and sorting data, meeting with City officials to assess their capabilities, and reaching out to an increasingly broad cross-section the community (like EDAW, a member of Alexandria’s business community and ALIVE!, a non-profit) by hosting meetings, updating this blog, volunteering at food distribution sites, facilitating the Eco-City Open House on November 17, and handing out flyers to business owners, neighbors, and fellow citizens.
Thanks to the City of Alexandria and the Virginia Tech, the Eco-City Open House was widely publisized. Getting the word out was difficult and covincing people to come was even harder, but their assistance was indespensible for making the event the great success that it was. Not only was the event well-attended, it attracted a surprising number of citizens who had never attended an Eco-City event in the past.
After the Open House, Virginia Tech helped the EPC compile and organize all of the comments that the participants made at the meeting and submitted (via email, snail mail, in-person, or by telephone) and each sub-committee reviewed them and thought how the Environmental Action Plan plans to address them. The sub-committees reacted to the comments by incorporating them into the EAP I or referencing another goal and/or action item that addresses it. For example, several individuals wanted the EPC to place greater emphasis on climate change; one commenter specifically wanted a greater focus on how carbon emissions will contribute to a “rising Potomac River.” The Energy sub-committee incorporated the recommendations by renaming the “Emerging Threats” to “Global Climate Change and Other Emerging Threats” and referencing Goal 2, Action 1 under the renamed principle because it calls upon the City Council to “Empower the ECG [Environmental Coordinating Group] to develop adaptation planning strategies within the city.” Any comment that was not incorporated into the final draft of the EAP I was responded to in the Response to Public Comments document that the EPC will release soon. For example, one commenter wanted the EAP I to “convert the City’s traffic and street lights to LED(s) (light-emitting diode).” This was not written into the EAP I because the City is already converting its incandescent light bulbs to LEDs and/or CFLs and it falls under Goal 2 under the Energy principle.
The EPC appreciates all of the specific recommendations/criticisms it receives, but it cannot incorporate every single one of them into the EAP the EAP is designed to propose policy, not implement it. City staff is responsible for implementing policy the City Council sets based upon the recommendations of the EPC and others.
The City Council is scheduled to receive the EAP I from the EPC on January 24, 2009 and open the floor up for public comment. Private citizens, business owners and employees, leaders and members of religious, civic, cultural, neighborhood and athletic organizations are encouraged to attend the meeting to learn about, comment upon, and help the City Council refine the EAP I to ensure its passage and popular support throughout the city.