Yes, use zoning and building codes to effect local changes

Gadfly:

Kathy Fox hits the nail on the head with addressing these kinds of issues using zoning and building codes to effect local changes. Too bad city officials don’t.

Why not require solar panels on the roofs of buildings over a certain square footage? Why not require warehouses to then provide onsite rest parking for diesel fuel drinking semis? Why not use the solar energy created to allow those semis to plug in instead of running engines that pollute, while a driver rests? Why not up the ante on reconstruction and new construction with more environmentally friendly energy standards/requirements?

Yes, there is much that could be done to address environmental concerns, but it seems that election time rhetoric is the only time we hear about soon to be forgotten ideas, in the name of getting elected.

This is a practice and philosophy, not a campaign bullet point.

Dana Grubb

A question for prospective city council members

(The latest in a series of posts relating to the environment, Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan, Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council, and candidates for election)

Kathy Fox is a member of the Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council, a co-chair of the Northampton County Council of Democratic Women’s Environmental Committee, and a member of the Board of Directors of the Bethlehem Food Co-op.  Kathy involves herself in positive organizations and activities that foster community, environmental awareness, education, and good health. 

Gadfly:

Thank you for your continued interest in the issue of climate change.  While we dilly-dally on the federal level on workable solutions, here in Bethlehem we should also be concentrating on making changes in our community and in local government zoning and planning because this is where we have the most control.

Even before the next election, I want to see the current city council and mayor to step up their game.  Climate change is not only a world issue, it is a local issue.

I want to hear our six (so far) prospective city council members talk about their specific solutions to climate change on a city level.

Years ago I sent an e-mail to the council members and the mayor urging them to change the city ordinance/building codes to require more stringent energy efficiency rules than the 2009 Pennsylvania building code regulations.  I never heard that the city made any changes.

Last year, Pennsylvania updated their building code regulations, and now the city must comply with the updated codes.  However, the city still needs to increase the energy efficiency requirements on all new buildings and renovations to require some level of LEED certification.  You do not need a written Climate Action Plan to start changing our buildings codes and ordinances.  The longer we wait, the direr the consequences will be.

As for the last fact presented by Jonah Goldberg in your blog post regarding the decrease in emissions in 2017, it fails to mention that in 2018 U.S. emissions increased 3.4% — “a jarring increase that comes as scientists say the world needs to be aggressively cutting its emissions to avoid the most devastating effects of climate change.”

See “U.S. greenhouse gas emissions spiked in 2018 — and it couldn’t happen at a worse time,” by Chris Mooney and Brady Dennis.

So prospective city council members, what changes in the existing City of Bethlehem zoning, planning, building codes, etc. are you willing to propose and support to more effectively battle climate change on a local level, and how quickly will you do this once you are elected?

Kathy

Bethlehem Authority: a long history of superior forest stewardship

(The latest in a series of posts relating to the environment, Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan, and Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council)

Stephen Repasch is Executive Director of the Bethlehem Authority.

Gadfly should check out the web page of the Bethlehem Authority on the City’s website to learn about its role in the climate picture. I’ve excerpted a few lines below from the “Watershed Forest Management” section:

“Dating back to the purchase of the watershed properties, the Bethlehem Authority (Authority) and the City of Bethlehem have a long history of superior forest stewardship that is distinguished from most private land owners in the region. Through the efforts of long time City Forester, John Anspach, the watershed forests have been a model for proper forest management activities. Plantations of various indigenous species were developed and nurtured under Mr. Anspach’s guiding forestry principles. . . .

In 2011, following over a year of negotiations, the Authority entered into a conservation easement with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) that was part of TNC’s Working Woodland’s Program. TNC is an international private nonprofit organization whose mission is to preserve the plants, animals, and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive. The outcome of this arrangement was the development of a comprehensive Forest Management Plan (FMP) that became Forest Stewardship Council or FSC® certified in 2012. FSC ® is the preeminent sustainable forest certification entity in the world today.

The FMP has the following overarching goals that will drive the management activities on the Authority properties:

· Preserve the high drinking water quality and quantity of the sources by maintaining or improving the capacity of the watershed to produce these values and maintaining or improving watershed security to insure the safety of the supply.
· Improve the capacity of the watershed and its properties to produce financial return that will better enable BA to protect and enhance the long term value of the asset. This includes sustainable timbering, potential renewable energy and monetizing ecosystem services (carbon, NRCS cost share, easements, leases etc.).
· Promote ecosystem health, diversity, and sustainable management of all resources through compliance with all federal, state, and municipal requirements, FSC standards of operation and other best management practices.
· Within constraints of other objectives, maintain or improve opportunities to allow the public active and passive recreational access to BA lands.

The FMP was developed to guide the management activities of the Authority properties in the Wild Creek and Tunkhannock Creek Watersheds. These properties are part of the Working Woodlands program of TNC, and, as a result, will be managed in accordance with the FSC® US 2010 National Standard as part of TNC’s group certificate. In addition, as part of Working Woodlands, these properties will be verified to the Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS) and provides carbon credits that are sold on the voluntary market to offset the carbon footprint of large companies. By sequestering carbon dioxide, through 2018 the Authority has received credits for revenue totaling over $946,000 from Chevy Corp. and Disney Corp. and has a commitment from Disney to buy carbon credits though 2022.

The vision for all properties within TNC’s Working Woodlands, is to restore and sustain high quality ecological values within economically productive forests. The Authority properties serve as the primary and secondary drinking water supply for over 116,000 customers, and as such have considerably high conservation value. In addition, the mesic till barrens community type of the Pocono Plateau, which dominates several thousand acres of Authority property, is home to rare and endangered species of plants, birds and insects and is considered to be the only natural community of its kind in the world.

The conservation easement provides that: the properties will be retained predominantly in their natural, scenic, and forested condition, free of additional forest fragmentation or additional development; any rare plants, animals, or plant communities will be protected; and any use that will significantly impair or interfere with the conservation values or interests of the Authority will be prevented. The easement will assure long-term, professional, independent third-party certified forest management of the property for the production, management and harvesting of economically valuable timber and related forest products while ensuring the conservation values are protected or enhanced. The easement also ensures the protection of forest and other natural resources and allows for the potential of economic return from the protection, management, maintenance, and improvement of ecosystem services provided by the property, including but not limited to the protection of water quality and quantity, carbon sequestration, and the protection of wetlands, rare species and natural communities.

The FMP will be periodically reviewed and updated to ensure that strategies to be undertaken are in compliance with TNC’s Compatible Human and Economic Use Activity Standard Operating Procedures (CHU SOP) and are in accordance with the Conservancy’s Group Certification program and the FSC® US National Standard.”

Steve

Thinking green on a white morning

(The latest in a series of posts relating to the environment, Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan, and Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council)

It was a weekend to think green – like “Green New Deal.”

The weekend of the Ocasio-Cortez/Markey joint Congressional resolution (not a legislative proposal)  “Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal.”

Gadfly, as you followers can tell, he thinks, spurred by the fact that Bethlehem is ahead of the curve on local Climate Action Plans, is trying to school himself better in this area.

Here’s four texts he spent some time on this weekend.

1) The primary source: “Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal.”  A 10-year national mobilization scheme. Always start with the primary source.

Goals:

  • building resiliency against climate change-related disasters
  • repairing and upgrading the infrastructure
  • 100% clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources
  • energy-efficient, distributed, and ‘‘smart’’ power grids
  • all buildings with maximum energy efficiency
  • massive growth in clean manufacturing
  • removing pollution/greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector
  • overhauling transportation systems to remove pollution/greenhouse gas emissions
  • mitigating/managing the health/economic/other effects of pollution/climate change
  • removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere
  • restoring and protecting threatened, endangered, and fragile ecosystems
  • cleaning up existing hazardous waste and abandoned sites
  • identifying other emission and pollution sources
  • international exchange of technology, expertise, products, funding, and services

2) Ocasio-Cortez/Markey press conference (17 mins.)

  • resolution has many co-sponsors
  • green dream
  • great programs start with vision of the future
  • Pelosi on board
  • beginning of education phase of this idea
  • silent on any individual technology
  • some Republican support
  • also an infrastructure bill
  • appeals to swing voters
  • about the role of government
  • smart investment generating returns
  • small tax breaks as fossil fuels have gotten
  • green generation has risen up
  • among top issues in election cycle
  • people want ambitious plan
  • many different paths to the goal
  • charge of gov. expansion is hypocritical
  • Federal gov. scientists defying president
  • make default clean energy
  • this resolution outlines scope of bills that will follow
  • will be voting issue in 2020
  • resolution deals with principles

3) The politics: Ella Nilsen, “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is making the Green New Deal a 2020 litmus test.” Vox, February 7, 2019.

  • will be a litmus test
  • “Once this resolution is announced, there will be a really clear litmus test for what they support,” said Stephen O’Hanlon, spokesman for climate activist group Sunrise Movement. But there’s something larger at work here. The Green New Deal is fundamentally about making climate change a central Democratic priority in 2020 — without shoving aside health care and the economy. After years of this globally important issue languishing on the national agenda, it has come roaring back.
  • Some 2020 Democrats have also been cautious about a full-throated endorsement. While the Green New Deal has been endorsed by declared or potential candidates including Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Kirsten Gillibrand, Mike Bloomberg, and Cory Booker, exactly what that means is fuzzy. Staff for 2020 contender Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) told Axios she supports the “idea” of a Green New Deal.
  • The fact this proposal is a catch-all of the most progressive programs means it probably isn’t going anywhere in the House, where House Energy and Commerce Chair Frank Pallone has already called the plan too ambitious and unlikely to generate consensus among moderate Democrats in the House, never mind the Senate.
  • “The goal of trying to reduce fossil fuels and get to a carbon neutral economy is important and something that I agree with,” Pallone told the Asbury Park Press last month. “The Green New Deal says you can do it in 10 years. I don’t know if that’s technologically feasible. … Beyond that it’s probably not politically feasible.”
  • But to Ocasio-Cortez and Green New Deal backers, that’s not the point. They are banking that the idea will keep spreading. Even some in the House who are skeptical of whether the plan is feasible agree that the branding of the Green New Deal — harkening back to the days of FDR — is a brilliant marketing strategy.
  • Progressives are clearly using the Green New Deal to push the debate in their direction. The left wants to make sure they have fully vetted and influenced the ideas of any Democrats that have a shot at winning the White House.
  • If Democrats take back the White House and the Senate in 2020 — a big though not impossible if — activists want to have bills ready to go in 2021 to tackle climate change. Realistically, the bills that come out of the House in the next two years probably won’t be as bold as the proposal Ocasio-Cortez is floating.
  • But activists won’t be totally satisfied until 2020 candidates do two things: embrace Ocasio-Cortez’s plan and pledge not to take fossil fuel money. “We’re focusing on getting all the 2020 contenders to endorse the full vision of the Green New Deal and get specific about it,” O’Hanlon said.

4) The other side, which we always must look at: Jonah Goldberg, “Green New Deal backers embrace their fantasies.” Tribune, February 9.

  • It’s worth noting that it’s not legislation as people normally understand the term. It’s a resolution titled “Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal.” In other words, even if it passed — a considerable if — nothing would really happen.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi isn’t taking it too seriously.
  • It’s not a very serious proposal
  • Well, at least the plan isn’t too ambitious. Retrofitting “every building in America” can be done in 10 years, but eliminating all the gassy cows will take a bit longer. Maybe we’ll move them all to Hawaii, which with the near-abolition of airplanes will be effectively cut off from America anyway.
  • Even if you take these goals seriously, as a practical matter it’s a fantasy masquerading as green virtue-signaling.
  • But it’s a fantasy based on a worldview that should be treated seriously because it’s so dangerous. NPR’s Steve Inskeep asked Ocasio-Cortez whether she was comfortable with the “massive government intervention” critics say is required by such an undertaking.
  • The free market hasn’t been given free rein, and over the last 40 years the free market and government regulations alike have made laudable environmental progress. In 2017, the U.S. had the largest reductions of CO2 emissions in the world for the ninth time this century. Rather than celebrate and build on that reality, the Green New Dealers would rather embrace their fantasies — and waste a lot of time and money in the process.

Now, to Gadfly followers much more knowledgeable than he, an invitation for things to read and to think about.

Reducing carbon emissions and making money H.R. 763

(The latest in a series of posts relating to the environment, Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan, and Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council)

“There is no reason why good cannot triumph as often as evil.
The triumph of anything is a matter of organization.”
(Kurt Vonnegut)

Remember that Bethlehem under the leadership of CM Reynolds and the good volunteer folk on the Environmental Advisory Council chaired by Lynn Rothman and with the cooperation of City Hall has a Climate Action Plan abirthing.

Martha Christine, “The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act deserves bipartisan support.” Morning Call, February 10, 2019.

Here is one of Martha’s latest drumbeats in favor of the The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act H.R. 763.

Valentine’s Day brings thoughts of love, friendship and cooperation. But can members of the federal government cooperate? Yes, and it’s happening right now.

The House has introduced a bipartisan bill to address climate change. The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (H.R. 763) will reduce carbon emissions while providing a monthly dividend check to offset higher costs of energy. It will create new jobs and improve health. It’s revenue neutral so it won’t grow the government.

Senators are cooperating, too. They’ve re-introduced bipartisan legislation to reduce drug costs. I believe Republican and Democrat senators will work together to support the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act. The Chamber of Commerce has recognized that bipartisanship benefits business, so they should also endorse this business-friendly legislation. Even the president has called for cooperation between Democrats and Republicans.

So, there’s hope for bipartisan action on climate change. I love the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act — a simple, effective solution to climate change. I encourage you to urge Representative Wild and Senators Casey and Toomey to love it, too!

You can find email links to Wild, Casey, and Toomey on the Gadfly sidebar.

Martha introduced me to the national organization the Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

The local Lehigh Valley chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby meets the Tuesday after the 2nd Saturday of the month at:

Friends (Quaker) Meeting House
4116 Bath Pike (Route 512)
Bethlehem, PA 18017

6 pm: potluck supper, welcome & introductions
6:30 pm: business meeting

That means tomorrow, Tuesday, February 12!

It’s Monday, February 11, do you know where your local Climate Action Plan is?

Martin Tower: Not all icons were built to last (4)

(4th in a series on Martin Tower)

Gadfly has felt ripples and rumblings about the fate of Martin Tower.

An old controversy whose closure has not been fully digested in some quarters.

No surer sign of the recognition of that reality in the minds of some (probably inclined to be vocal) residents than this Morning Call article by our past Mayor.

The Cunningham piece has the feel of a strategic attempt by the business/developer community to get out in front of resurgent public controversy over demolition.

The article has the feel of an attempt to preempt a resurgence of controversy, at least over the fact of demolition.

This Cunningham essay is, frankly, a rhetorically effective and powerful piece of writing.

It would have received an “A” in Gadfly’s writing class.

If there is to be a fight over Martin Tower, as Gadfly strongly suspects there will be, its focus must squarely be on the nature of future development.

Which Cunningham does not raise here.

Not at this point wasting grief or grumble, however justified, over the fate of the building itself or the process by which that fate was determined.

Or do you disagree?

What do you think?

Don Cunningham, “Business Sectors: Not all icons were built to last.” Morning Call, February 7, 2019.

Selections, but you need to read the full article:

“There’s a historic gem hidden on a wooded hillside of South Mountain in the tiny borough of Fountain Hill. It’s just beyond the southern end of Lechauweki Avenue where the road dead ends at Moravia Street and the mountainside. The casual visitor won’t notice much. There’s a small pond with a gazebo, a nature trail and lots of trees just beyond a borough sign that reads ‘Lechauweki Springs: a public recreation area’.”

“The hillside looked much different 140 years ago, in the late 1870s. It was home to the Lechauweki Springs Hotel resort. There were three buildings on the site that could house up to 120 guests. Wealthy travelers from New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia came by horse-drawn carriage to rest and relax on this hillside and to drink and bathe in the mineralized natural springs of Lechauweki.”

“Lechauweki Springs was known for its exquisite cuisine. Gourmet meals were prepared by a French chef who served all that was fresh and in season from the area countryside.”

“Lechauweki Springs Hotel resort lasted about 20 years from 1872 to 1891. The end came when a fire destroyed the main building. . . . Today all that remains other than the springs and the rebuilt pond and gazebo are some fascinating stone cisterns dug into the ground around the hill and three former resort cottages on the west side of Lechauweki Avenue that are now six twin homes. Lechauweki Springs Hotel resort disappeared almost as quickly as it surfaced.”

“About two miles across the river as the crow flies in west Bethlehem another economic icon of its day is about to meet a similar fate. . . . Martin Tower, the last corporate office home of the Bethlehem Steel Corp., on Eighth Avenue in the Lehigh County section of the city will be taken down this year. It’s been vacant for 12 years.”

“The construction of Martin Tower for $35 million was just one example of a corporate leadership often more focused on building monuments, golf courses, country clubs and leasing suites at the Waldorf-Astoria than modernizing steelmaking operations and remaining cost competitive with international steelmakers and American mini-mills.”

“There are some who don’t want to see the tower go. I understand what underlies that sentiment. I was not alive to see the grand hotel of Lechauweki Springs but whenever I hike the site I wish it were still there. Of course, it can’t be there because its time came and went. Today, it would be antiquated, unsafe, wouldn’t meet modern building codes and couldn’t be cost competitive enough to stay in business. Just like Martin Tower.”

“All can’t be preserved just to make us feel better.”

“If something can be saved and repurposed it should be. The first inclination should not be to tear down and start anew.”

“But, there’s also a difference between something old and something historic.”

“The history of Bethlehem Steel happened on the South Side. . . . It was in those blast furnaces that raw materials were cooked into molten iron. And, it was in those mills where tens of thousands toiled to produce those iconic I-beams. We are fortunate the blast furnaces, former corporate offices and many of the mills remain there to remind us of our past.”

“Martin Tower is the youngest of all the steel buildings in Bethlehem. The company occupied it for just 30 years. Some things disappear nearly as quickly as they come. That often happens.”

A bridge under the bridge? (8)

(8th in a series of posts on Walkability and Bikeability)

“Tail on the Trail” challenge started last week. Are you in? Not too late.

Gadfly needs everybody in shape in case we have to march on City Hall or something.

Spring is coming.

Yeah, right.

Gadfly was trying to push the season yesterday and get some outside Tail miles in.

Was the fastest 70+ in a 5k “in support of People with Disabilities” in deliciously sunny but windswept and frigid Fogelsville. 002

(Well, truth be told, he was the the ONLY 70+.  All others were sensible of living till 80. And, more truth be told, he was 4th from last. Just in front of 3 strolling women of a certain age eagerly engaged in a really quite interesting conversation — sprinkled with biographical admissions and evidentiary anecdotes — about whether if they were dating now would they find the Bezos-Sanchez pictorial email interchange a matter of routine. Normal conversation for a “Cupid” race in which participants — Only in America! — wore shirts marked “available” and “unavailable.”  The conversation actually helped keep Gadfly warm. )

Not Spring-y at all.

But he was thinking about Spring.

And realizing that he has let this thread go dark for about two weeks.

And so he went looking for several City studies done on walkability and bikeability.

Like the 2016 “Beth Connects: A Trail Study.”

Seemed beautifully done. Stem to stern. Soup to nuts.

Divides the Bethlehem trail system into eight easily identified geographical sections.

Take a look. Easy reading.

Because a pedestrian bridge has been in the news lately (funds for a feasibility study on the horizon), Gadfly was especially looking for info about a bridge.

See pps. 46-49 of the report itself.

I wondered where such a bridge would be.

Ok, possible bridge from the foot of Main St. at Sand Island over to Union Station area.

And, quite interestingly, possibly a bridge UNDER the Fahy Bridge.

Wheeee!

Belle Island

See as an example: Richmond: Belle Isle Pedestrian Bridge

http://www.rvariverfront.com/trails/belleisle.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THldCVllv7M

Has anything been done with this “Beth Connects” report? Does anybody know?

Gadfly has a vague recollection of news stories about the City with plans to purchase land to connect the east end of the Greenway with the Saucon Rail Trail.

Having worked in Academia, Gadfly is used to reports that collect dust. In fact, he wrote several of them.

Granted, all the Beth Connects recommendations have hefty price-tags.

But Gadfly hopes dust collecting is not happening here. Certainly looks like a lot of productive work was put into this study.