Climate Action!

It’s Friday! So here’s a quick update on the Conservation and Climate Action Plan.

Today, you’ll learn who is in charge of making this plan real. Well, maybe you already know.

The next section of the plan, page 7, talks about strategies, and there’s some that need attention ASAP. They are establishing a “full-time,” dedicated staff person; setting up data monitoring and reporting; and creating a budget and financing strategy.

“Progress must begin immediately,” reads the plan. “Below (above!) are crucial steps that should be taken as soon as possible to facilitate the implementation.”

The staff person is Chase Jones, and his job sounds like a big one.

“This staff person would take responsibility for the coordination of the City’s conservation and climate action efforts,” reads the plan. “This would include strategy implementation and establishing timelines for review and updates to the City’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory and Conservation and Climate Action Plan.”

You remember the emissions inventory, right? I wrote about it last Friday.

That’s all for now. I took that picture with an iPhone using the ProCamera app and used some fancy filter so it looks weird and cool.

One more thing, switching gears: Do you have budget questions? Send them to me so I can ask the city finance director when I talk with him.

Ah, but that’s next week. Let’s enjoy the weekend first.

– Keila Szpaller

Coordinate, coordinate, Missoula coordinates

Did you mark your calendar? Mayor John Engen releases his budget proposal to the Missoula City Council on April 10.

I’m looking forward to it ’cause many new ideas are floating out there this year, and the mayor’s budget is the starting point for budget discussions. The council doesn’t usually change it much.

Yesterday, councilors talked about funding a couple coordinator positions.

One would be a “healthy relationships coordinator” for the city. That person would keep up the campaign to end sexual violence. See the stickers?

The other coordinator would get the plan to end homelessness off the ground.

Also, Engen is considering funding five community service officers to the budget at the cost of $250,000 to $300,000. Those officers wouldn’t have guns, but they could give out tickets.

What else? A couple requests came from council members, and more on those another time.

– Keila Szpaller

Climate Action Plan! TGIF.

So we’re getting through the plan little by little.

It’s Friday again, day to look at the Conservation and Climate Action Plan.

The next section, if you recall, is the emissions inventory.

University of Montana environmental studies professor Robin Saha and UM students did the inventory, and here is what they found:

“Municipal emissions for 2008 totaled 11,540 metric tons of Carbon Dioxide equivalents (mtCO2e).”

I remember the presentation a couple years ago when Saha shared this number with the Missoula City Council. He made it tangible.

I thought it would be good to convert it to Subaru Outback equivalents,” Saha said back then.

It’s the weight of 7,500 Subaru Outbacks, according to the earlier story, and that many wagons would stretch bumper to bumper from Missoula to Lolo and all the way back again.

It’s a lot of Subarus.

I wanted to know how you even calculate emissions, and Saha explained in an email, which said actual emissions are probably higher than reported. He gave a short version and a longer version.

Short version: “You look at greenhouse gas emissions (primarily carbon dioxide) associated mainly with energy and fuel use, so yes, utility and fuel (gasoline, diesel, propane, and biodiesel, though the latter two are not significant or no longer used) bills paid by the City.”

I’m going to paste the long version at the end of this post. It explains why – get this – emissions are probably higher than the estimate reported.

In the plan, the inventory included recommended actions, and one of them was to set a reduction target. You probably already know what it is: CARBON NEUTRAL BY 2025.

But one interim goal is to cut down emissions 10 percent by 2015.

On a side note, back in 2010, the city contracted with Johnson Controls to do some energy conservation upgrades for an estimated $1.37 million.

Now, three years later, the city is supposed to have saved $108,538 a year because of those upgrades. The savings were guaranteed, so if they didn’t work, the company was going to pay the difference.

Sounds like a good idea to follow up, doesn’t it? A phone call to Mr. Sustainability and Vehicle Maintenance Superintendent Jack Stucky is in order soon.

Next up with the Conservation and Climate Action Plan? Task Force and Working Groups and Strategies.

You await with bated breath.

TGIF, and as promised, from Saha, the long version of how you arrive at an emissions count:

The City of Missoula has nearly 300 accounts with NorthWestern Energy.  The 2010 emissions inventory also accounted for energy used by city employees to commute to work and back, and energy used to pump, treat and distribute water for city parks and other municipal uses.  That information came from Mountain Water.

To convert kilowatt-hours of electricity used to pounds of C02, we used ‘grid intensity factors’ for our region (the Pacific Northwest) electricity mix and a similar conversion for therms or cubic feet of natural gas used.

These conversions were embedded in the Clean Air and Climate Protection software that we used.  Emissions inventories done at UM used a different software but rely on the same type of underlying conversion factors.  Because the energy mix in the entire region uses a greater proportion of emissions-free hydropower than we do in Montana, the emissions estimates are conservative, that is, they err on the low side, which means actual emissions are probably higher than we have reported.

Emissions associated with use of city vehicles and equipment (street cleaners, snow plows, mowers, pavers, etc.) were determined fuel use data that were obtained from Jack Stucky, who maintains a database of fuel purchases made by city employees.

Emissions associated with employee commuting were based on a survey of 125 city employees and their reported commuting behavior (# of days/week commuting, communing mode, distance from work, and type of vehicle used if applicable).  The details of those calculations are described in the emissions inventory report.

Emissions in FY2008 from the following sectors were reported (along with the percentages of total emissions):

  • Wastewater treatment (38%)
  • Municipal buildings (27%)
  • Municipal fleet (15%)
  • Employee commuting (9%)
  • Outdoor lighting (9%)
  • Water use and misc. (2%)

Emissions associated with embedded energy in products used by city staff such as office paper or paving or construction material were not included, nor were emissions from fertilizers applied to lawns or emissions from waste disposal, which are sometimes counted.  Those latter emissions are associated with: (1) the transport of solid waste to the landfill and release of methane from the landfill; and (2) composting of leaves and  collected and delivered to Eko Compost.   They are generally considered and have been found to be relatively small (less than 2% of total emission) in inventories done by other municipalities.  Also, there is no accepted or reliable way to determine those emissions.

No subtractions were made for carbon dioxide that are absorbed by urban forest, parklands or open space, which is an area for future research (carbon may only be absorbed temporarily but may be released, for example, as leaves or cut grass decomposes).

Wow. That’s amazing. It’s a lot of work. And it’s interesting. Thank you for the long version, Robin.

– Keila Szpaller

Open space rocks Missoula’s world


It’s true. We agreed at the ballot box to spend $10 million on open space.

Here’s my story about where that money has been going – and places it might go in the future.

Everybody loves, loves, loves their parks and their trails and their open space, and they’re willing to invest in them,” said Mayor John Engen in the story.

Parks and Rec open space manager Jackie Corday sent that photo above of the North Hills, and the couple shots below of the Deschamps property. Click on the story link to find out more about those projects and for a link to a couple maps of open space easements and acquisitions.

In April, the first community farm will go before the Missoula City Council as an open space project, and I’m looking forward to that discussion.

Beautiful photos, right?

– Keila Szpaller

P.S. Style note. I know this blog started a long time ago, but I’m still figuring out style for blog posts. I think “Parks and Rec” is fine on first mention in a post. Don’t you? ‘Cause if you’re reading this, you know we’re talking about the city of Missoula Parks and Recreation Department. I can’t use all those words in a blog post. So I won’t.

Talk about Parks! And Climate Action!

Give Parks and Rec your two cents about city parks in a survey! I’m going to paste the message from the department’s Becky Goodrich below.

Deadline to fill out the survey is Sunday, March 17.

Photo above? It’s from the top of Waterworks Wednesday taken with the Procamera app and using the Cyantific filter. I guess that’s open space and not a park, but it’s lovely.

Here’s the note from Parks, and below is more on Missoula’s Climate Action Plan.

Missoula Parks and Recreation is planning for the future and city officials want to know which park amenities, like playgrounds and sports fields, residents would like to see renovated or replaced. Citizens are invited to answer an online questionnaire to share their priorities for renovation of park facilities throughout the City. The questionnaire is located at and will be available through March 17.

The department is developing a Park Renovation, Replacement and Improvement Plan to prioritize future park maintenance projects over the next five to ten years. “Missoula has a long history of supporting a quality park system, but some of the park infrastructure is aging and in need of repair or replacement,” says Parks and Recreation Director Donna Gaukler. “Our goal, with citizen input, is to design a long-range renovation and replacement plan that’s fiscally flexible, maximizes the life of existing amenities, proactively addresses future needs and is geared to meeting the greatest needs of the community at the least cost.”

Gaukler says parks facilities are in high demand and points to the 2011 City-County Parks Needs Assessment which indicates park and trail use in Missoula is significantly higher than the national average. “It’s clear that parks are very important in Missoula and citizens are committed to maintaining a quality park system,” Gaukler says. “We’re hoping that residents will complete the questionnaire and let us know what’s most important to them when it comes to maintaining parks, playgrounds, sports fields and other park amenities.”

For more information, visit or phone David Selvage, Parks Systems & Services Manager at 552-6252.

Also: Remember how I wanted to highlight the Conservation and Climate Action Plan on Fridays?

Well, the executive summary talks about the reason the plan can come to life.

“The City of Missoula believes that it is uniquely positioned to act as a leader and catalyst for positive action in the community through conservation and climate action planning.

“Operating efficiently and saving money is a high priority for the City.”

The summary also says this: “Climate change is a present and growing risk to Missoula’s environment, economy, quality of life, and community.”

To things like parks, but I’ve heard a couple councilors talk about wanting to do more with the “urban forest.” I think parks are on their list, too.

Last weekend, I listened to some of the speakers at the “Turning the Tide” conference at St. Patrick Hospital. It was about the health impacts of climate change, and I overheard one woman complimenting the city’s Conservation and Climate Action Plan.

One participant asked what needed to be done to stop the rise of global temperatures in a timely fashion, and the keynote speaker responded.

In order to stop some of the projected effects of climate change from coming to pass, people need to shut down the use of fossil fuels in the next five or 10 years, said Jonathan Patz, the lead author for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore.

Well, that would be a gigantic undertaking.

It’s hard to imagine, and one good thing about Missoula’s plan is it has small, digestible pieces.

Step one was an emissions inventory, and that’s the next section of the plan. More on that another day, a Friday if I stay on track. Happy weekend.

– Keila Szpaller

Confusion reigns over Missoula City Council’s rules

The Missoula City Council devised a new way to approve ordinances, and no one seems to know exactly how it works.

I visited with City Clerk Marty Rehbein for an earlier story about the new method, but last night, questions came up about how it was going to work in practice.

Mayor John Engen, who runs the meetings, wasn’t certain about the process, and even council folks who adopted it were confused about it.

I wish the changes had made local government easier to approach and more simple to understand. Hopefully time and experience with the new procedure will clarify all of it.

– Keila Szpaller

Back to city affairs

The last couple weeks, I was in Judge Karen Townsend’s courtroom tweeting the trial of Jordan Johnson. He was acquitted, and as of this morning, he’s back on the Grizzlies football team.

So let’s get back to city news here. Here’s my favorite thing so far from a Missoula City Council meeting this year: A superhero of kindness in her cape.

Earlier, I’d mentioned sharing some news from the Conservation and Climate Action Plan on Fridays, and then I was sitting in court the last couple Fridays. So I want to share just one more thing from the plan here now.

The next section is a letter from Mayor John Engen. He says, “good work takes time, even when it’s urgent.”

“There’s no question that the City of Missoula feels a sense of urgency around climate change and our responsibility to do our part to temper it. …

The plan in your hands is the product of the work of an extraordinary group of committed citizen volunteers with various areas of expertise who have created a practical way for the City of Missoula to become carbon neutral over time. It’s smart, it’s understandable and we’ve committed resources to ensuring it’s put to work.

I’m glad it’s understandable ’cause I don’t want to be buried in wonk. Next up? Executive summary. Those are my favorite.

What else? The city supports the Missoula Economic Partnership, and you probably saw today that we’re not getting Frontier Airlines here.

On the climate change topic, I wonder if the MEP has any responsibility to focus on bringing in jobs that are aligned with the mayor’s commitment to “generate fewer greenhouse emissions.”

All for now.

– Keila Szpaller