Salem Climate Action Plan Strategies

350 Salem OR’s TOP TEN Climate Action Strategies

Submitted to the City Council September 20, 2021

To meet the Salem City Council’s goal of a 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2035 it is critical that the City focus on the most effective reduction strategies immediately, particularly related to transportation emissions. The science has spoken—business as usual is not an option. This memo focuses on these strategies. Many of our priority strategies have long lead times and must be implemented immediately, while other reduction strategies can be adopted over time as funding becomes available. 

Transportation

  1. No more widening (or adding lanes to) existing roadways. No new freeways or parkways. Invest instead in pedestrian and biking network/safety to transit network, schools and major employers
  2. Charge for city-controlled parking in and near downtown
  3. Mandate that major employers implement sustainable transportation for employees
  4. Lobby/support intercity transit and rail at the state level
  5. Improve pedestrian safety at crossings

Electric Vehicles

  • Require EV charging stations at new (and later at existing) multifamily residences

Solid Waste

7. Send all of Salem’s mixed trash to the Coffin Butte landfill. Adopt a comprehensive municipal waste program to reduce methane emissions. 

Development

8. Ban new fossil gas residential and commercial hookups

9. Exempt System Development Charges within ¼ mile of the core transit network

Administration

10. Hire a city staff person to implement CAP

Oppose

  • Consider and evaluate the potential for low carbon/RNG offerings for homes and businesses
  • Add hydrogen to natural gas system

Discussion

Below, we have provided further context and justification for our recommendations. We feel these strategies are the most important strategies for the city to pursue right away. In selecting these strategies, we prioritized potential greenhouse gas reductions, while considering other concerns, such as cost of implementation and impact on social justice.

Transportation

  1. No more widening or adding lanes to existing roadways. Instead, invest in pedestrian and biking network and safety measures to access the transit network, schools and major employers

Salem will not reduce transportation emissions by 2035 if vehicle travel increases. It should plan for no increases in driving. Widening or adding lanes does not decrease congestion. It just encourages people to live in fringe areas of Salem or in outlying communities until congestion rises again to higher levels. These funds should instead be spent making the areas near transit, schools and employment more amenable to walking, biking and transit use. This is the most important measure to quickly reduce driving and transportation emissions.

  • Charge for city-controlled parking in or near downtown

This measure is primarily to discourage commuters from using downtown parking instead of paying for parking. The City has been unsuccessful in discouraging commuters from moving their cars every few hours. Most major cities charge for on-street downtown parking. The additional funds should be used to encourage walking, biking and transit use.  Library parking should be exempt from parking fees in order to enable lower-income families to access family library programs. Education (including library programs) is a capstone of equity.

  • Mandate major employers implement sustainable transportation for employees

These measures are sometimes referred to as transportation demand management. They include a wide range of options, such as:

  • Charging for employee parking
  • Cash payments to employees for carpooling
  • Transit passes
  • Emergency ride home
  • Car/van pool coordination
  • Secure bike parking onsite
  • Showers and lockers for bicyclists(See OHSU commute rewards program).

Also, encourage employers to allow individual employees to have variable working hours and to telecommute. The City should adopt these practices as a model. 

  • Lobby/support intercity transit and rail at the state level

This strategy is essential for reducing commuting from other cities to Salem, which is a major source of congestion and wear-and-tear on city roads. The city cannot fully fund these measures but can lobby its state senators and representatives, state agencies, and the governor.

  • Improve pedestrian safety at crossings

People will not walk to transit, shopping, schools and work if they don’t feel safe. 

Electric Vehicles 

6. Require EV charging stations at new (and later at existing) multifamily residences.

This measure is required to facilitate EV ownership by apartment renters and condo owners.

Solid Waste

7. Send Salem’s solid waste to the Coffin Butte landfill instead of to the incinerator

Salem citizens should not be complicit in the annual emissions of over 160,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases from the Covanta Marion incinerator, not to mention toxic chemicals that are poisoning vulnerable communities in Brooks, Woodburn, Keizer and North Salem. Although the greenhouse gas emissions from Covanta were similar to landfilling in 2006, this situation is rapidly changing. The Department of Environmental Quality is requiring better methane controls at Coffin Butte. Covanta’s fossil fuel emissions from burning plastic are increasing with the difficulties in recycling. Most importantly, the carbon credit Covanta receives for generating power to displace emissions from grid-based power will decline rapidly with the shift to carbon-free power under recently passed HB 2021.

 Adopt a comprehensive municipal waste program to reduce methane emissions

Methane emissions occur when wet organic matter is placed in a landfill. West Salem trash already goes to the Coffin Butte landfill. The City should increase its effort to see that food waste is placed in the green trash bins for composting.  

Development

8. Ban all gas residential and commercial hookups

Attorneys for the City of Eugene think Oregon municipalities have this authority. Buildings constructed now with “natural” fossil gas hookups will lock in decades of emissions and are inconsistent with Salem being carbon neutral by 2050. The use of gas appliances is bad for indoor air quality. In particular, children living in homes with gas stoves had a 42% higher risk of experiencing asthma symptoms, and, over their lifetime, a 24 percent increase in the risk of being diagnosed with asthma

9. Exempt System Development Charges within ¼ mile of the core transit network

Studies show that developments in this area and near downtown do not require substantial street and other investments, unlike developments in fringe areas. This is the strongest measure to create walkable, compact mixed-use areas, something necessary for meeting the 2050 GHG goal.

Administration

10. Hire a city staff person to implement CAP

Implementing a CAP will require changes in operations in every department. A staff person reporting to the City manager can encourage changes, monitor progress and interface with residents.

Other items 350 Salem supports:

  • Phase out sales of fossil-fueled lawn equipment
  • Carbon capture through soil sequestration on City owned land
  • Incentivize or require EV charging stations for employees by medium and large employers

This strategy will enable PGE and Salem Electric to sell surplus solar electricity mid-day, rather than having the employees recharge their cars when they return home in the evening (hours of peak use). This change will facilitate utilities transitioning to solar power. 

  • Expand tree canopy in areas with little tree cover.

Urban trees are effective at reducing the heat island effect. Expanding tree cover in low-income areas, which are typically hotter than wealthier areas, is a climate justice measure.

  • Reduce neighborhood speed limits (“20 is plenty!” pedestrian safety measure)

Oppose

  • Consider and evaluate the potential for low carbon/RNG offerings for homes and businesses and add hydrogen to natural gas system

These two strategies are not under the jurisdiction or influence of the City. They falsely imply that natural gas has a viable role if the City is to be carbon neutral. Economically viable supplies of renewable natural gas (RNG) are highly limited. Renewable hydrogen has much more valuable uses than putting it into a natural gas pipeline, such as industrial production and aircraft fuel. Currently 99.9% of hydrogen is produced using fossil fuel.