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Climate Change Contacts

Pacific Southwest, Region 9

Serving: Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Pacific Islands, Tribal Nations

Climate Change in the Pacific Southwest
— Local Governments

EPA's State & Local Climate Energy Program
EPA's State & Local Climate Energy Program
anaerobic digesters at ebmud

East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) Uses Anaerobic Digestion to Produce 4.5 MW of Power

EBMUD treats 45,000 tons of sludge annually.  While the sludge is primarily municipal sewage, they also digest 40 tons of food waste per day.  Co-digesting these materials yields 4.5 MW of power, enough to provide power to about 4,500 homes.

Photo courtesy of EBMUD.

U.S. mayors, city staff and local organizations are taking the lead to address climate change at the local community level. Cities are signing agreements, setting targets, and writing climate action plans to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has the tools, resources and programs in the following areas which your city can use to implement your action plans.

On this page:

Waste Minimization/ Materials Management

Establishing waste minimization programs is one of the quickest, most cost effective strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and conserve natural resources.

  • Implement Pay-As-You-Throw
  • Calculate the GHG reductions from reduced consumption, reuse, recycling, and composting using EPA’s Waste Reduction Model (WARM)
  • Adopt a composting or construction and demolition material recycling ordinance
  • Purchase materials with recycled content and calculate the GHG benefits using EPA’s ReCon calculator
  • Create a grease collection system and biodiesel-run fleets
  • Divert food waste, fats, oils, and grease to an anaerobic digester


Smart Growth

Communities across the country are using creative strategies to develop in ways that preserve natural lands and critical environmental areas, protect water and air quality, and reuse already-developed land.  For example, local governments can:

  • Allow or require mixed-use zone (commercial and residential uses to create lively neighborhoods)
  • Use urban dimensions in urban places
  • Rein in and reform the use of planned unit developments
  • Fix parking requirements
  • Increase density and intensity in centers
  • Modernize street standards for more complete streets
  • Enact standards to foster walkable places
  • Designate and support preferred growth areas and development sites
  • Use green infrastructure to manage stormwater
  • Adopt smart annexation policies
  • Encourage appropriate density developments on the edge


Renewable Energy

san francisco solar installations
San Francisco has set a city wide goal of 10,000 new solar energy installations by 2010. | View San Francisco Solar Map Exiting EPA (disclaimer)

Cities can take the lead in providing renewable energy to their citizens. Although most cities do not own their own power utility, cities can buy renewable energy for city buildings and can make it easy for citizens to site solar on their homes through expedited permitting and local policy solutions. Reuse of contaminated lands -- such as brownfields, landfills, Superfund sites, and mining sites – for solar or wind energy can also support the growing demand for electricity production through clean and renewable alternatives.

  • Harvest energy from food waste or local landfill
  • Site renewable energy on contaminated lands
  • Site renewable energy on municipal buildings
  • Fast-track distributed solar electric permit applications
  • Adopt a Property-Assessed Clean Energy Financing Program (available now to cities in California and Nevada)
  • Bundle demand for clean energy from your citizens to purchase it from a renewable source
  • Site renewable energy at municipal water and wastewater treatment facilities


Green Buildings

City of Berkeley, CA Paves The Way for Innovative Solar Financing
city of berkeley climate action
City of Berkeley's Climate Action

The City of Berkeley was recognized for being the first city in the United States to allow property owners to pay for energy efficiency and solar power using their individual property tax bill. EPA established the Climate Protection Awards in 1998 to recognize exceptional leadership, outstanding innovation, personal dedication, and technical achievements in climate protection.

The Berkeley Solar Initiative is financed through the Berkeley Financing Initiative for Renewable and Solar Technology (FIRST) Program. Through this Program, the City of Berkeley is the first city in the US to allow property owners to pay for solar power system installation as a long-term assessment on their individual property tax bill. Berkeley is also exploring expansion of this program to include energy efficiency improvements. Assembly Bill 811 was recently signed by Governor Schwarzenegger authorizing all California cities to establish similar financial mechanisms to encourage energy efficiency improvements in existing homes. Senate Bill 358 was recently signed in Nevada allowing similar financing structure.

See Berkeley Solar Initiative Business Plan for further information.

Cities are adopting green building policies and ordinances for both their environmental and economic benefits.  Green building policies address a host of issues related to environmental protection, sustainability and climate action.  Some of the environmental impacts associated with conventional buildings include: 30% of waste output; 70% of total U.S. electricity consumption; 30% of U.S. GHGs; 12% of the potable water in the U.S.; 40% (3 billion tons annually) of raw materials use annually.  The economic benefits include higher rent premiums and tenant occupancy rates, higher employee productivity, and superior property sales prices for green certified buildings.

  • Pass a green building ordinance for new buildings
  • Set up a retrofit program for existing buildings
  • Encourage competition among small businesses in your community


  • Take advantage of state funding and incentives by turning to the Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy (DSIRE) -- state, local, utility, and selected federal incentives that promote renewable energy
  • For local funding and incentives, the Local Government Commission (LGC) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, membership organization that provides technical assistance and networking to community leaders who are working to create healthy, walkable, and resource-efficient communities: 
  • Additionally, the Emerging Renewables Program provides rebates to consumers who install qualifying renewable energy systems


Tucson, AZ requires graywater systems on new homes
Solar Panels at Tucson Thornydale Water Treatment Facility
New Solar Panels at Tucson Thornydale Water Treatment Facility

In October, Tucson became the first city in the country to require commercial developments to harvest rainwater. Beginning in 2010, 50 percent of a development's landscaping water will come from rainfall. Additionally, all new homes built in Tucson after 2010 will need to include plumbing for a graywater system.
Tucson’s approaches to water conservation extend beyond ordinances. Exiting EPA (disclaimer) Progressive water pricing is also used to encourage sustainable water use.

Potable water charges have:

  1. a monthly service charge(based on meter size) which the customer pays regardless of the amount of water used;
  2. usage charges (based on the quantity of water used);
  3. a CAP (central Arizona project) charge; and
  4. a conservation charge. The conservation charge is used to fund a variety of conservation programs. Exiting EPA (disclaimer)
See the full story.

Saving water saves energy!  Saving energy saves water!  Cities can become more sustainable by:

  • work with water and wastewater agencies to improve their energy efficiency and helping them identify renewable energy projects
  • promote water conservation (including purchasing EPA WaterSense-labeled products)
  • promote green infrastructure and low-impact development techniques on all new projects 
  • utilize your State Revolving Fund programs to finance eligible sustainable water projects


Fleet Fuel Efficiency

Local government fleet operators can consider and select from a wide range of measures to improve the fuel efficiency of fleets servicing their community.  They can also inform private businesses about opportunities to save fuel and money.  Options to consider include:

  • Switching to clean fuels, e.g., biodiesel blends
  • Clean vehicle acquisition
  • Regular vehicle maintenance
  • Idle reduction measures
  • Optimizing fleet size & use
  • Low-rolling resistance tires
  • Setting up a fleet fuel tracking program


Collaborative Efforts to Assist Local Governments

Green Cities California  Exiting EPA (disclaimer) provides accessible, ground breaking environmental policies or Best Practises that you can immediately download and modify for your jurisdiction.

ICLEI is an association of over 1000 local governments from 67 countries who are committed to sustainable development. They provide conferences, networking, and toolkits to help local governments realize sustainable visions.

Cool California Exiting EPA (disclaimer) provides toolkit for local governments to identify cost saving actions, financial resources, and case studies to assist local governments achieve greenhouse gas emission reductions.

Cool Cities Exiting EPA (disclaimer) are cities that have made a commitment to stop global warming by signing the U.S. Mayors' Climate Protection Agreement. The Cool Cities campaign empowers city residents and local leaders to join and encourage their cities to implement smart energy solutions to save money and build a cleaner, safer future.

Clean Cities Exiting EPA (disclaimer) is a government-industry partnership sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Vehicle Technologies Office. With nearly 100 local coalitions and nearly 14,000 stakeholders, Clean Cities' mission is to reduce petroleum consumption in the transportation sector.

Smart Growth encourages the use of sustainable development principles to help cities and countries reduce carbon footprints.

Additional Resources

California Air Pollution Control Officers Association (CAPCOA) Model Policies for GHG in General Plans white paper (PDF) (250 pp, 3.2M, Large File)

HUD-DOT-EPA Interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities

Contact: Karen Irwin

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