July 11, 2005

Mayors Told to Lead Global Warming Fight

SALT LAKE CITY -- Mayors from across the nation were told Monday they can't dally, hoping the federal government takes the lead in the battle against global warming.

"If we wait around for the Congress to change or to act or take steps that are going to be significant, we are not going to address this problem," New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said at a global warming conference designed specifically for city leaders.

"It's up to the mayors. It's up to the city councils," said Richardson, who served in the Clinton administration as energy secretary. "The federal government is not going to move."

The conference that attracted about 45 mayors opened Sunday in Salt Lake City and runs through Tuesday at actor Robert Redford's Sundance Resort east of Provo. Participants include scientists, energy officials and private sponsors.

Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson helped organize the conference and has been promoting his city's efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The city buys some wind power, converts sewer plant methane into energy, uses low-energy LED lights in traffic signals and runs 79 vehicles on natural gas.

"I do believe as mayors, it's important for us to leverage our collective power to move initiatives like this forward," said Irvine, Calif., Mayor Beth Krom. "I think one of the opportunities that elected leaders have is to raise visibility and bring credibility to things that are happening."

On Tuesday, she planned to return home early to sign development agreements for the Orange County Great Park. This will be created on the site of the decommissioned Marine Corps Air Station, El Toro, which began operations during World War II and was closed in 1999.

Some local officials had wanted to develop an airport on the 3,718-acre property but voters opted for a huge urban park in a 2002 referendum. The city of Irvine, which annexed the land, set aside a portion of it for private development that will finance the park on the remainder.

"That was a colossal fight to keep an international airport from being sited in this decommissioned base, which would have absolutely decimated the environmental and frankly, quality of life on so many levels," Krom said.

She is hopeful that besides recreational and educational opportunities, this project will also serve as a living laboratory for an emerging technologies in sustainable energy.

Richardson said it was up to citizens and locally elected leaders to "challenge the pre-eminence of the federal government, not in a negative way, but say we're going to take our own local actions and deal with climate change."

He called for a national commitment on the level of the Apollo space program or the Marshall Plan that resurrected Europe after World War II.