The push for a green ‘burg

Bailey Tomlinson, Staff Reporter

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Ellensburg resident Paula McMinn, representing the environment and 459 people who signed a petition, proposed changes in front of the Ellensburg City Council that would put Ellensburg on track to “go green” by 2035.

Several changes were suggested to the city council as part of a comprehensive plan.  Some of the suggestions made were to alter building code to incentivise the inclusion of solar power when building and the formation of a climate change committee to manage these affairs. Particular emphasis was placed on building a solar-powered electric vehicle charging station near the Safeway and the benefits it would provide. 

“It is a good time and place for both the county and the city to show foresight and strength,” McMinn said. “We must not be shackled to energy sources of the past if there is to be a future.”

Teagan Kimbro

One of the long-term benefits of the proposed charging station, which would be larger than conventional single-car stations, is the ability to power public transit vehicles. Ellensburg’s public transit systems could switch to electric busses, according to the presentation. When not in use, the system would contribute to the city’s power grid. 

Another reason listed to encourage these changes to take place in Ellensburg is because some forms of power generation and transportation are more susceptible to failure in the face of climate change.  

“It stands to reason that community resilience will be highly challenged by climate change,” McMinn said.

The proposed changes would also support a secondary goal of increasing the community’s resilience to industry failure prior to it occurring by diversifying the city’s renewable energy sources. The presentation highlighted examples of damaging industry failure, such as hydroelectric dams failing in times of drought and gas pipelines bursting, causing harm to the communities around them. The proposed changes would not only seek to reduce Ellensburg’s contribution to a changing climate, but also increase its ability to withstand it.

Clean power has a presence in Ellensburg already, with the city getting a majority of its power from hydroelectric systems according to the city council’s website. It’s also adjacent to Puget Sound Energy (PSE)’s Wild Horse Wind and Solar Facility, which operates 149 wind turbines and 2,723 solar panels. 

The wind turbines alone generate enough electricity to serve around 60,000 households, leading to some cases where “PSE sells any [of] the excess green-energy generated by our wind facilities to other entities across the nation,” according to their website. 

The U.S. Census Bureau reported the city of Ellensburg having 7,812 households as of 2018.

Voices calling for change are not only found in city hall. Student groups on campus are also working to create environment-friendly change in Ellensburg.

“I would like to see composting, that’s one of the bigger things I think, because there’s a lot of agricultural work here,” President of the CWU Environmental Club Erica MacKenzie said. “There’s a lot of yard waste and food scraps, and that accounts for a huge amount of what people throw out every day.” 

MacKenzie also said she would support public transit switching to electric, but conditionally.

 “Mostly because of where we are in the U.S., because all of our electricity for the most part comes from hydropower. If we were somewhere else, and our electricity was coming from coal burning, it really wouldn’t matter if you were switching to an electrical vehicle.” 

The city council was not able to approve or deny changes during the meeting. However, following the presentation Ellensburg Mayor Bruce Tabb affirmed that conversations about energy efficiency have been happening and that the content was relevant at this point in time.