Commission to Recommend ‘Green New Deal’

The Sustainable Burbank Commission voted this week to encourage the City Council to look at a number of potential ordinances which advocates say would reduce local carbon emissions.

The municipal commission has worked with representatives from Sunrise Movement Los Angeles — the local chapter of an organization that seeks to stop climate change — on ideas for improving the city’s sustainability. Proponents plan to recommend their ideas, collectively called a “Green New Deal” like similar federal-level proposals, to the City Council during its next meeting on Tuesday.

Advocates hope that the council will then direct city employees to analyze the feasibility, costs and benefits of the plan and return to the panel with a recommendation about whether to adopt them.

The potential Green New Deal would direct Burbank Water and Power to move to 100% carbon-neutral electricity by 2030 and become a “net exporter of clean energy” by 2040.

California leaders have set similar deadlines. In 2018, then- Gov. Jerry Brown signed an executive order mandating that California become carbon-neutral by 2045. And last year, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order phasing out sales of gas-powered cars by 2035.

Nicole Perez, a Burbank resident and Sunrise Movement representative who addressed the Sustainable Burbank Commission during its Monday meeting, estimated that the Green New Deal could reduce emissions in the city by about 40% by 2030.

“This is even without federal or state help — that’s really important to mention,” she said, “because for a lot of us here in Burbank, we kind of are at the mercy of what Sacramento and the federal government put forward, and it’s good to know that we have some local control and some ability to control how and when we meet those standards.”

Some of the proposals include having BWP consider expanding energy efficiency programs and creating incentives from the city to encourage private employers to offer work-from-home or hybrid work schedules after the pandemic, which Perez believes could reduce emissions from traffic.

About 83% of transit emissions in Burbank are from passenger vehicles, according to the city’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan, another document that guides municipal sustainability policies.

Other points in the Green New Deal include requiring future buildings to be all-electric and directing Burbank Water and Power to implement a program for residences and businesses that would offer incentives for using less electricity during periods of high demand.

Perez credited the municipal utility for its past work on addressing climate change, pointing out that in 2007, it made Burbank the first city in the region — and potentially in the nation — to commit to making 33% of its energy renewable by 2020. BWP achieved that goal in 2015, and according to the draft 2021 Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan, the city has reduced its carbon footprint by 29% compared to 2010 levels.

Perez and Tom Pike, another representative of the Sunrise Movement, emphasized to commissioners that the suggestions in the Green New Deal — crafted through much discussion with BWP officials and local community members — were intentionally put in general terms to allow city staff members to adjust them as needed.

Particularly, they said they wanted the ideas to be “cost-neutral,” either because the city won’t have to pay to implement them, or because they’ll eventually pay for themselves. They also acknowledged concerns from commissioners that passing ordinances that affect private businesses could invite lawsuits.

“Ultimately, we felt it wasn’t really our place to say that the ordinance should just be enacted,” Pike added. “We felt it should be reviewed by the city’s legal team … and if they came back and said this wouldn’t be enforceable, then that would be that.”

Heather Robb, the commission’s chair, is expected to address the City Council regarding the Green New Deal during its Tuesday meeting public comment portion. Perez and Pike also said they plan to present a second batch of ordinances to the commission in May.