Dayton pledges transition to renewable sources on eve of Earth Day

Street maintenance trucks parked outside of Dayton City Hall in 2019. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF
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Street maintenance trucks parked outside of Dayton City Hall in 2019. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

Dayton’s elected leaders have declared a “climate emergency” and pledged to transition electric consumption in the city to all renewable sources in coming decades.

On Wednesday night, less than six hours before Earth Day, the city commission approved a resolution stating the city is committed to switching to clean energy and replacing its fleet with vehicles powered by alternative energy sources.

“They are all aspirational goals, but we think they are realistic,” said Mark Charles, Dayton’s sustainability manager. “This is a pretty significant development, because this generates a lot of sub-projects.”

The emergency declaration comes eight months after the city commission endorsed a sustainability strategy with 115 recommendations for actions meant to reduce green house gas emissions.

“An emergency is warranted because of the expected time it will take for the city to move many of its departments in a more sustainable direction,” said Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein.

Dayton City Hall at the corner of West Third Street and North Ludlow Street. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF
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Dayton City Hall at the corner of West Third Street and North Ludlow Street. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

The city of Dayton deserves a lot of credit for taking action to address climate change and setting clear goals and timelines for achieving those objectives, said Mike Shelton, associate director of the Sustainability Institute at The Ohio State University.

“It is especially encouraging to see the city plan to address its own operational emission footprint, as well as the wider Dayton community’s footprint,” Shelton said.

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Today is Earth Day, and uncoincidentally the Dayton City Commission also approved a resolution declaring a climate emergency.

Due to climate change, Dayton is expected to experience more severe weather events, including flash flooding and drought conditions, as well as warmer winters and hotter summers, the resolution states.

Climate change potentially could cost the U.S. economy hundreds of billions of dollars and threatens to damage property and negatively impact infrastructure, human health and natural resources, the city said.

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Dayton says it will conduct a greenhouse gas inventory by 2025 to ensure the city develops sufficient measures to curb emissions.

The city wants to identify facilities and operations that are the largest sources of emissions to help prioritize clean energy projects, said Charles, the sustainability manager.

By 2035, the city commits to buying 100% renewable energy for municipal electric consumption and converting its entire fleet of vehicles to transport powered by electricity or renewable energy.

More electric vehicles are hitting the market every year, Charles said, and in coming years and decades hopefully there will be electric vehicle options for waste disposal, street and sewer maintenance and other basic services, like firefighting and public safety.

The city currently has more than 900 vehicles, he said.

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An electric vehicle is charged at a charging station near Day Air Ballpark, where the Dayton Dragons play. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF
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An electric vehicle is charged at a charging station near Day Air Ballpark, where the Dayton Dragons play. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

The city also says it will purchase or secure renewable energy for the community-wide electric supply by 2040.

By the end of the subsequent decade, the city says it will buy or secure renewable energy for all energy sectors, including transportation.

The city wants the community to transition to renewable and clean energy sources like wind, solar and hydroelectric power, Charles said.

Dayton wants to take aggressive action to reduce and ideally eliminate the community’s reliance on fossil fuels to help in the urgent global fight against climate change, Charles said.

Charles said hopefully there will a substantial amount of federal funding available for green energy projects and infrastructure investments.

President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan calls for constructing 500,000 new electric vehicle charging stations, rebates and tax incentives for electric vehicle purchases and other clean energy improvements.

“We expect considerable federal funds to help pay for most of this, if not all of these initiatives, as part of the American Recovery Plan and the infrastructure bills,” said Dickstein.

The lobby of Dayton City Hall. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF
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The lobby of Dayton City Hall. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

Shelton, with the Sustainability Institute at OSU, said Dayton seems to have a strong overall plan to address emissions across different sectors, and the proposed timelines look reasonable.

He said the city may be able to achieve some goals quicker than anticipated, especially when it comes to buying renewable energy.

Ohio already is experiencing climate change, with increased rain storm events of higher intensity that cause flooding and more frequent hot days, Shelton said.

If climate change is not addressed, he said, southwest Ohio could become more like southern U.S. cities, with summer temperatures up to 12 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than current temperatures, he said.

By 2030, Dayton and southwest Ohio could feel much more like St. Louis does now and western Virginia does in the winter, he said.

Dayton’s climate emergency resolution also says that the transition to renewable energy provides an opportunity to remedy “historical inequities” in the community.

The city vowed to help train and hire underrepresented people of color and women to help with the conversion to renewable energy.

“We plan to integrate equity and environmental justice concerns into the initiatives as opportunities present themselves,” said Dickstein.

The city also says it will complete a jobs analysis so that existing fossil fuel jobs are maintained or transitioned into positions of comparable pay.

More than 200,000 Ohioans work in the state’s natural gas industry, and a growing economy demands abundant and reliable energy, said Mike Chadsey, director of public relations with the Ohio Oil and Gas Association.

Natural gas currently is the largest source of power in Ohio, which results in burning less coal and reducing carbon emissions across the state, he said.

More electric vehicles will lead to a higher demand for natural gas and the industry is “ready, willing and able” to meet those growing needs, Chadsey said.

“We believe in customer choice and that the free market should drive decisions on sources of energy,” he said. “Thankfully, Ohio is an energy rich and energy diverse state from natural gas, to coal, to nuclear to wind and solar, and that is good thing.”