Balto. Co. to create 'sustainability' plan

The Baltimore Sun

A plan to reduce energy use by Baltimore County and find other ways to minimize the environmental impact of government services will be created under a measure unanimously approved by the Baltimore County Council last night.

The resolution, co-sponsored by all seven council members, directs county agencies and the Planning Board to develop a countywide "sustainability program."

"If we can save even the slightest, it will have a significant impact," said Councilman Vincent J. Gardina, a Towson-Perry Hall Democrat, during a council work session last week.

Members of the Baltimore County Advisory Commission on Environmental Quality and other environmental groups - all of whom support the measure - have also asked the county lawmakers to consider defining specific goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and energy use.

But council Chairman Kevin Kamenetz said he was reluctant to impose a deadline on county planning staff, who are in the midst of an extensive review of county zoning designations.

"I think the council is making clear that this a priority," Kamenetz, a Pikesville-Ruxton Democrat, said during the work session.

The advisory commission, whose members include scientists and educators, has already been working on several plans to reduce the government's environmental impacts, such as planting less grass around public buildings, said Shirley Carl, a spokeswoman for the group.

By mowing less frequently or not at all, Carl said, the county is conserving energy and reducing pollution emitted from the mowers.

The commission compiled suggestions in a "conservation landscape" report given to council members and the county executive in October and created a county version of the Sierra Club's "Cool Cities" report, which was submitted to county officials and council members in November.

The county is already acting upon some of the recommendations, such as adding hybrid vehicles to the county's fleet and upgrading to more energy-efficient lights in traffic signals, said Ellen Kobler, a county spokeswoman.

Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. is "extremely supportive" of the sustainability program, Kobler said.

Baltimore County's efforts are part of a trend in efforts by governments to save energy and use higher environmental standards. Gov. Martin O'Malley, for example, has proposed legislation that would require using energy- and resource-efficient building design and materials in all newly constructed or significantly renovated state buildings and state-financed public school buildings.

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