Damakant Jayshi

With the goal of achieving 100% clean and sustainable energy by 2050, the Wausau Public Health and Safety Committee on Monday approved a resolution supporting reducing greenhouse gas emissions and energy security.

The proposal, put forth by the city staff at the recommendation of the Sustainability, Energy and Environment Committee, asks the staff to “develop a municipal energy plan with the goal of moving City government operations to a more secure, and 100% clean energy by 2050.” It also calls for determining the level of energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in city government operations.

The SEEC, an advisory body, approved the resolution with some modifications, like adopting a broader timeline of accomplishing the goal by 20250 and explicitly referring to greenhouse gas emissions in city government, at its meeting on Feb. 2.

Chair of the PHS Committee Lisa Rasmussen said the resolution was only applicable to the municipal government.

“It is important to recognize that this resolution, if it is passed in this committee and at the (city) council really, from a policy standpoint, is only relevant though to the municipal government operations,” she said. “We certainly don’t have the power or authority to dictate the private enterprise what they do or to individuals how they operate their homes.”

Committee member Doug Diny asked whether the city wold have to provide any financial assistance to residents and businesses since the resolution calls for providing resources and information to support them “in the transition to a cleaner energy future.”

Assistant City Planner Andrew Lynch said it is more about providing information and to direct residents or businesses to the programs or the grants for the funds that would help them. “That could change over time, obviously, but that’s the initial thought,” he said.

Another committee member, Becky McElhaney, said adopting sustainable energy would lead to tax savings and she would support the resolution.

In his memo to the Public Health and Safety Committee, Lynch said moving to a greenhouse gas free future would be done with an eye on reducing the burden of city government operations on the tax levy. “The current resolution is not a budgetary commitment or request,” the assistant city planner wrote.

Two people who addressed the PHS Committee on Monday supported the resolution and urged the body to approve it.

The committee unanimously approved the measure, which now goes to the Common Council for consideration.

Cities across the United States have been trying to adopt various measures to transition to sustainable energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In 2009, City of Wausau declared itself an eco-municipality. Two years ago, the city joined other communities Green Tier Legacy Community initiative through the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced, on Feb. 14, an initial guidance on the design of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) program under the Inflation Reduction Act.

The EPA unveiled two Federal Assistance Listings that outlined “key parameters of the grant competitions that will ultimately award nearly $27 billion to leverage private capital for clean energy and clean air investments across the country.”