March 17, 2014

Adding solar panels on Arlington public buildings–start with new homeless shelter bldg

Open letter from AGP webmaster John Reeder to Arlington County Board, March 14, 2014

wintershelter building2
Dear County Board members:

Yesterday during a break while on jury duty at the Arlington Courthouse tenth floor, I looked out the window and recognized below the roof of the new county building that will house our long needed homeless shelter and county employee office.

Would it be possible given that this building and utility systems must be totally redone, to add solar panels on the roof and/or a green roof, both of which would reduce its carbon footprint and the cost of electricity?

Such a solar system would be a significant public example of the county government leading the way as an environmental model. It appears the roof of the building has unobstructed south view, perfect for solar panels.

By the way, I would like to add that I and the Arlington Green Party have long supported a year round homeless shelter, despite what individual Green members may have stated recently about their personal views. The year round shelter with the ASPAN office a long overdue step in our affordable housing program. I applaud the opening of this shelter as soon as possible, and would support keeping the current shelter building open until the new one is ready.

However, as you are aware, there are virtually no places in which to located many of the clients of the homeless shelter. Our group homes and group townhouses are totally full, and there are few if any vacancies in our committed affordable apartment (CAFs) and these will not accept previously-homeless people making well under $30,000 a year. There are seven vacancies in our CAF apartments this month, and the minimum income needed is around $34,000.

Moreover, many of the homeless have mental and/or addiction issues so that realistically they need to be placed in a specialized residential program outside the shelter. Right now these longer term residential programs are totally full. You need to fund more group homes and group town houses.

thank you for your attention to improving the new homeless shelter,

John Reeder
winter shelter building

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January 10, 2014

More cities ban polystyrene foam, citing environment, USA Today, Dec. 21, 2013

environment — @ 5:24 pm

More cities are banning the material used in everything from packing to takeout containers.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/12/21/polystyrene-foam-ban/4141835/

And it's increasingly unwelcome in communities across the USA.

The New York City Council last week passed a ban on polystyrene foam food containers, as well as the sale of loose polystyrene foam "peanuts" used in packing. Both go into effect July 1, 2015. Albany County, N.Y., passed a law in November banning use of polystyrene foam food containers, joining the ranks of such cities as Portland, Ore.; San Francisco; Seattle; and Amherst, Mass.

Washington, D.C., Mayor Vincent Gray is proposing a ban there.

"Some businesses ... are already phasing it out. It's a matter of pushing it, making it a policy," said Chicago Alderman George Cardenas, who is co-sponsor of legislation introduced earlier this month that would ban the sale of polystyrene food packaging in the Windy City. "It's not eco-friendly, if you will. This is just something that needs to be done."

The bans are the result of decades-long campaigns by environmental advocates, said Andrew Moesel, a spokesman with the New York State Restaurant Association: "Styrofoam is a useful material. It maintains heat. It's cost effective. But the fact is, it's not very good for the environment."

Technically, Styrofoam is a trademarked polystyrene product of Dow Chemical used in such applications as building insulation and craft products, not in food containers.

For foes of polystyrene foam food containers, its problems are numerous. "Polystyrene foam doesn't break down easily, and it's easily dispersed by the wind," creating a litter problem in streets and local waterways, said Garth Schultz, city operations and environmental services manager for El Cerrito, Calif., where a ban will go into effect Jan. 1.

Aside from the litter problem, Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy pointed to concerns about the health affects of the chemicals that make up extruded polystyrene foam in justifying the ban. "You get takeout, the steam melts that lid," he said. "It's going into your food. Eventually, you're going to get sick from it."

Opponents of such bans, such as the American Chemistry Council, have been pushing for communitywide polystyrene recycling programs in places like New York City as an alternative to proposed bans there.

Restaurants themselves are increasingly turning a cold shoulder to polystyrene foam food containers. Fast-food titan McDonald's Corp. announced in September it would phase out foam cups at its 14,000 U.S. restaurants in favor of paper cups in coming months. It quit using polystyrene clamshell containers for burgers in 1990.

And Dunkin' Brands Group, the parent company of the Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin-Robins chains, said in its most-recent corporate social responsibility report that it is rolling out an in-store foam cup recycling program at all its locations, but that it hopes to introduce an alternative cup within two to three years.

Moesel said the restaurant industry "generally likes to be on the cutting edge of environmental protection, make it more green. But (alternatives) have to be affordable. Our concern has always been the bottom line, especially with mom-and-pop and ethnic-type restaurants. If you're running a small Chinese restaurant, you can run through 500 cartons a day."

Brookline, Mass., which started a ban on polystyrene foam food containers and disposable plastic store bags in November, has so far handed out more than 50 waivers to affected businesses as they look for workable alternatives and work through the stock they have on hand, said Alan Balsam, director of public health and human services

Starting next month, the town will probably start issuing warnings. "Ultimately, we'll fine people, (but) we don't want to hurt anybody's business," Balsam said. "With the (town's) trans fat ban, after the waivers expired, people complied. I think the same will happen here."

Moesel said that as more major communities such as New York City change over, "that will have an impact on the marketplace. That hopefully will ultimately drive down the price of alternatives. We believe this is the future."

Daneman also reports for the Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle

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January 4, 2014

Adding Solar Panels to Your Arlington House in 2014

environment — @ 11:40 am

house with solar A homeowner in the Westover neighborhood of Arlington is promoting a bulk purchase for solar panels, coordinated bythe World Wildlife Fund. Individual homeowners anywhere in Arlington can sign up to get the bulk discount being organized by Community Power Network in conjunction with WWF.

Here’s the information:

The WWF’s Solar Bulk Purchase: install solar on the roof of your own house with a group of other homeowners so that it is easier and cheaper. Join us! www.CommunityPowerNetwork.com/WWF ”
According to this information, in addition to a discounted rate, you can get a 30% Federal tax credit (not deduction, but actual credit).

Apparently this would be a 3.34 kWatt system. The cost after an estimated group discount of $2,700 and the 30-percent federal tax credit would be about $7,000.

Your savings on electricity would vary, depending on your house, current electricity use, etc. Electricity today costs about 11 cents per kilowatt hour in Arlington. A typical house may save $40 per month or more from having a 3.35 kW solar system.

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November 19, 2013

Solar power in Arizona and why not in Arlington?

environment — @ 3:12 pm
Beaver Creek Elementary School, Arizona 2013

Beaver Creek Elementary School, Arizona 2013

solar panels flagstaff az at county bldgpic1
Recently on a family trip to Arizona,I was impressed by the many solar panels in both public buildings and private homes in that sunny state. The city hall building in Flagstaff, AZ has built solar panels over its parking lot (see attached photo). A public school building in Beaver Creek, AZ has solar panels on a south facing hill next to it.

Admitedly Arizona has many many more days of sun than Virginia, but solar power is still financially feasible for most new public buildings, and if the State of Virginia would provide tax credits like Maryland does, feasible for homeowners and apartments. Clearly solar power is renewable reduces carbon emissions particularly our case in Virginia when a high proportion of electricity is coal generated.

As importantly solar panels on buildings would provide us with energy security as what happens a year ago with Hurrican Sandy leaving many in Arlington without power for 3-5 days.

Unfortunately, the main Arizona private electric utility APS that relies heavily on coal and nuclear is trying to impose fees on solar panel users in Arizon can cut off the growing solar industry there just like the situation in Virginia with Dominion Power.

John Reeder

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December 14, 2012

Arlington Green candidate calls for solar panels on commercial stores in Arlington

environment — @ 3:16 pm

Audrey Clement Candidate for the Arlington County Board
Speech to the Arlington County Board, July 21, 2012

The freak storm that descended on Arlington on June 29 and wreaked havoc on the region in a matter of minutes caused widespread power outages. As a result supermarkets had to rely on diesel generators that kept the stores open, but did not provide enough power to operate refrigeration equipment. So FDA embargoed all the frozen food. One HT manager estimated that tens of thousands of dollars worth of food were sent to the dumpster out back, and another employee estimated the loss to the area food stores in the millions. These losses could have been avoided had supermarkets invested in roof top solar. It has been estimated that solar panels can generate 10 to 40 percent of the power a store needs.

Newspaper accounts indicate that in other parts of the country chains like Kohl’s, Macy’s, Safeway, Whole Food, BJ’s, REI and Wal-Mart have invested in rooftop solar to cut costs by taking advantage of the surface area on the roofs of their big box stores. These stores have relied on incentives in the form of a federal tax credit to jump start the investment. But apparently the tax credit isn’t inducing area stores to invest in solar panels.

So I ask Arlington County Board whether it would consider amending its building maintenance code to require big box food stores located in the county to install rooftop solar backup generators? Not only would such a requirement further the county’s professed policy of going green, it would operate to reduce consumer panic during power emergencies and significantly reduce food waste and associated costs to grocery stores located in the county.
If the Dillon Rule prevents Arlington from so amending its code, can it ask one of its four state legislators to introduce legislation to amend the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code to mandate backup power in the form of solar generators on big box food stores?

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Solar panels are needed on every Arlington building, public, private or residential

environment — @ 3:06 pm

Arlington Greens have called for more solar panels on buildings in Arlington, particularly after the power shortages that adversely affected tens of thousands of Arlington residents in July after the Derecho and then this fall after Hurriane Sandy. Read Arlington Green candidate Audrey Clement’s speech to the county board below. Some Arlington resident went without power for over a week during the two episodes.

The New York Times reported in an op-ed by Robert Kennedy, Jr and David Crane on the need for all areas of the U.S. to begin getting solar panels installed. Not only would energy bills be sizabely reduced and carbon emissions reduced, but as hurricanes and severe weather in the U.S. disrupt the electric grid, many people could function much better with solar power from their own roofs.

Dec.12, 2012, The New York Times. Solar Panels for Every Home By DAVID CRANE and ROBERT F. KENNEDY Jr.
WE don’t think much about pitch pine poles until storms like Hurricane Sandy litter our landscape with their splintered corpses and arcing power lines. Crews from as far away as California and Quebec have worked feverishly to repair or replace those poles as utility companies rebuild their distribution systems the way they were before.

Residents of New Jersey and New York have lived through three major storms in the past 16 months, suffering through sustained blackouts, closed roads and schools, long gas lines and disrupted lives, all caused by the destruction of our electric system. When our power industry is unable to perform its most basic mission of supplying safe, affordable and reliable power, we need to ask whether it is really sensible to run the 21st century by using an antiquated and vulnerable system of copper wires and wooden poles.

Some of our neighbors have taken matters into their own hands, purchasing portable gas-powered generators in order to give themselves varying degrees of “grid independence.” But these dirty, noisy and expensive devices have no value outside of a power failure. And they’re not much help during a failure if gasoline is impossible to procure.

Having spent our careers in and around the power industry, we believe there is a better way to secure grid independence for our homes and businesses. (Disclosure: Mr. Crane’s company, based in Princeton, N.J., generates power from coal, natural gas, and nuclear, wind and solar energy.) Solar photovoltaic technology can significantly reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and our dependence on the grid. Electricity-producing photovoltaic panels installed on houses, on the roofs of warehouses and big box stores and over parking lots can be wired so that they deliver power when the grid fails.

Solar panels have dropped in price by 80 percent in the past five years and can provide electricity at a cost that is at or below the current retail cost of grid power in 20 states, including many of the Northeast states. So why isn’t there more of a push for this clean, affordable, safe and inexhaustible source of electricity?

First, the investor-owned utilities that depend on the existing system for their profits have little economic interest in promoting a technology that empowers customers to generate their own power. Second, state regulatory agencies and local governments impose burdensome permitting and siting requirements that unnecessarily raise installation costs. Today, navigating the regulatory red tape constitutes 25 percent to 30 percent of the total cost of solar installation in the United States, according to data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and, as such, represents a higher percentage of the overall cost than the solar equipment itself.

In Germany, where sensible federal rules have fast-tracked and streamlined the permit process, the costs are considerably lower. It can take as little as eight days to license and install a solar system on a house in Germany. In the United States, depending on your state, the average ranges from 120 to 180 days. More than one million Germans have installed solar panels on their roofs, enough to provide close to 50 percent of the nation’s power, even though Germany averages the same amount of sunlight as Alaska. Australia also has a streamlined permitting process and has solar panels on 10 percent of its homes. Solar photovoltaic power would give America the potential to challenge the utility monopolies, democratize energy generation and transform millions of homes and small businesses into energy generators. Rational, market-based rules could turn every American into an energy entrepreneur. That transition to renewable power could create millions of domestic jobs and power in this country with American resourcefulness, initiative and entrepreneurial energy while taking a substantial bite out of the nation’s emissions of greenhouse gases and other dangerous pollutants.

As we restore crucial infrastructure after the storm, let’s build an electricity delivery system that is more resilient, clean, democratic and reliable than the one that Sandy washed away. We can begin by eliminating the regulatory hurdles impeding solar generation and use incentives like the renewable energy tax credit — which Congress seems poised to eliminate — to balance the subsidies enjoyed by fossil fuel producers.

And as we rebuild the tens of thousands of houses and commercial buildings damaged and destroyed by the storm, let’s incorporate solar power arrays and other clean energy technologies in their designs, and let’s allow them to be wired so they still are generating even when the centralized grid system is down.

<>We have the technology. The economics makes sense. All we need is the political will.
David Crane is the president of NRG, an energy company. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. is a senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council and president of Waterkeeper Alliance.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/13/opinion/solar-panels-for-every-home.html?_r=0

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November 17, 2012

Arlington county starts junk mail reduction program

environment — @ 11:51 am

Arlington Introduces New Waste Reduction Effort
Great news! Arlington County now offers a free online service for residents to opt out of unwanted mail, catalogs, and phonebooks. Starting now, residents can visit http://www.arlingtonva.us/departments/EnvironmentalServices/SW/page87611.aspx to manage their personalized opt-out requests. This Catalog Choice program is just one of the steps we are taking to foster waste reduction in the County.

Arlington County would greatly appreciate your help in sharing our Catalog Choice information with the community by including it in your Civic Association’s newsletters, listservs, websites, meetings, etc.

By continuing to stop unwanted mail and telling others about this program, you are supporting our goal to save the community’s natural resources. Thank you very much for your continued participation and support.

If you have any questions about this service, please feel free to contact Arlington County at 703-228-6570.

Laura G. Smith
Communications Specialist
Arlington County Government
Department of Environmental Services
T: 703.228.6596 | M: 571.255.9216 email: lgsmith@arlingtonva.us

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October 27, 2012

Voting Green in a Swing State–op editorial

Voting Green in a Swing State
By B. Sidney Smith (Page 1 of 4 pages)
OpEdNews Op Eds 10/26/2012 at 06:05:15

http://www.opednews.com/articles/Voting-Green-in-a-Swing-St-by-B-Sidney-Smith-121025-298.html

(Preface: This article isn’t really meant for everyone, so I might be able to save you some time. If you think climate change isn’t a serious electoral issue, this probably wasn’t written for you. If you think American presidents should conduct wars on their own authority and that it’s okay if they secretly assassinate whomever they (secretly) decide are bad people who might hurt us then you needn’t concern yourself with what follows. If you think the Bill of Rights of the Constitution doesn’t necessarily apply when terrorism is involved, or that letting gays have civil rights should be decided on a state-by-state basis like slavery before the civil war, or that the health of the environment isn’t more important than economic growth, or that whistleblowers who expose governmental and corporate crimes should go to prison but that privileged lawbreakers shouldn’t, or that whether a candidate is electable should depend on how much she pleases wealthy donors–if any of these approximates your own take on the issues, please read no further. You’ll be bored. Honestly.)

I live in a purple part of the country (Virginia) and move in academic circles, so of course I know many, many people who will be voting for Obama. If that doesn’t strike you as funny, then you are the person I have written this for.

Of course it is impossible to know, but if I murdered Santa Claus in front of their children, the look on my Obama-voter friends’ faces could scarcely be much different than the look they get when I say I am voting for Jill Stein.

“But this is a swing state…you have to vote for Obama…what if Romney wins?!?”

The pain in their voices tugs at my sympathies; their fear is very real. I want to reassure them, but I was cured a few presidential elections ago. I won’t be drinking from that cup again.

At first they assume I don’t understand what’s at stake. They tell me about the Romney/Ryan agenda. They tell me about Obamacare. They tell me about DOMA and the Fair Pay Act. But the conversation wanes when I am not only unsurprised by the information but able to supply amplifications and corrections. I’ve read the (detailed summary of) the Affordable Care Act. I know about Romney’s probable agenda. I even know the age and bodily afflictions of key members of the Supreme Court. In short, I know what’s at stake.

This is awkward, and for some there is no plan B, but experienced partisans know where to take it next. There is something wrong with me. I’m a purist, a liberal elitist who won’t be satisfied, arrogantly “engaging in a form of rhetorical narcissism and ideological self-preoccupation.”1 I indulge in a “pernicious idealism that wants the world to be perfect and is disgruntled that it isn’t.”2 I trade the common good for private conceit.

Fortunately my friends are mature people with trained minds, so for most it is enough to mention the ad hominem fallacy, to remind them that my personal faults–which I stipulate are legion–aren’t relevant to the validity or otherwise of my position in this debate. Usually we can agree to leave that brand of “discourse” to the professional bloviators.

So at last we come down to it. What are the arguments? There seem to be only two reasons for a progressive (you’re still reading, so I suppose that includes you) to vote for Obama. Either (1) you think Obama is not so bad, really, and has done a lot of good and could do more, or (2) Obama’s record makes you green about the gills, but the thought of Romney winning is intolerable.

Obama enthusiasts have by heart a widely-circulated3 list of his achievements: The Fair Pay Act, the auto bailout, legislation for credit card reform and hate crimes and student loans, some tax cuts, repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, raising fuel efficiency standards, and ending the war in Iraq. Some also add killing bin Laden, the stimulus, and a new Start treaty with Russia. Everyone adds Obamacare.

Some of these really are achievements. The Fair Pay Act is a no-brainer, for one. Others are marginal. Credit card reform stopped some abuses but left millions imprisoned by usurious interest rates on their debt, with their homes and futures at the mercy of predatory lenders. If you are drowning it is definitely better to have fewer stones around your neck. You still drown though.

Editor’s Note–we generally only publish one page articles on Greens of Arlington; this is only page one of four pages; please go to website above for the remaining three pages.

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September 11, 2012

Arlington Greens Interviewed on Reston Impact TV Program: September 2012


Arlington Greens Don Rouse and John Reeder, along with Fairfax Green leader Paul Hughes appeared on the Reston public tv talk program, Reston Impact, on September 9, 2012. Reston Impact is the oldest public talk program in Northern Virginia and is on the Comcast tv channel in Reston, Va. John Lovelass the host of Reston Impact is a well known Reston progressive and activist and hosted this program for over 30 years. Lovelass also started the Reston farmers market, one of the largest and oldest farmers markets in the Washington, D.C. metropolian area.

The program has a broad hour long discussion about Green ideas–Jill Stein for president campaign, other Green candidates for office in Virginia.
Reston Impact -Here come the Greens – September 2012

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