• For more information on Green Party membership or to contact Green Party leadership, email info@greensofarlington.org Join the Arlington Greens on Wednesday, March 4, at 7:00 pm at Ballston Firehouse Community Room (George Mason Drive & Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA)

March 13, 2020

Tear downs and Large Energy Wasteful Houses Contribute to Rising Carbon Emissions in Arlington

Development,environment — @ 4:31 pm

Energy use in Arlington for homes has been rising over the past few years, in part fueled by more residents but also by changes in the size of new houses being built, particularly detached houses.  The 9-percent rise in residents in Arlington during 2010-18 increased use of electricity and natural gas in apartments and houses, but so did having more new McMansions.[1]  During 2010-18, residential use of electricity in Arlington rose 3 percent to 809 million kilo watt hours (kwhs), while use of natural gas rose 28 percent to 91 million therms. [2]

The average house in the United State has about 1,971 square feet of living space; the average house in Virginia is slightly larger at 2,227 square feet, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.[3]  The larger the living area, the more energy is required to heat, cool, and power devices and appliances in that space.

In Arlington over the past decade or so, more and more older detached houses, generally with under 1,500 square feet of living space, are torn down, and replaced by a new 4,000 or larger square foot house.  In 2019, the number of such tear downs amounted to 158.[4]

While the new house may have better insulation and often more energy saving appliances than the demolished house, the much larger living space overwhelms any such energy efficiency savings.  Studies of energy use in U.S. houses indicate that a 4,000 square foot house uses about 160 percent more electricity than a 1,500 square foot house, and about 76 percent more natural gas, as outlined here.[5]

Energy use by size of house in the United States:

Size of house                   Electricity    Natural gas    Combined Carbon 

(Annual in kwhs)  (Annual in therms)    (Metric tons)

Average 1,500 ft2 house     12,000                   10                       8.9

Average 4,000 ft2 house     31,200                   18                     22.0

Increase (percent)               160                          76                      146

 

From a carbon emissions basis, the larger house uses 146 percent more carbon than the 1,500 square foot house.   The larger house is 167 percent larger in living space, but uses about 146 percent more carbon.  Thus, standard building or appliance efficiency does not overcome the effects of the larger living space.   A new larger house would need to cut its emissions by 146 percent and that would require solar panels, much better insulation, geothermal heating and cooling, and other passive building technology.

[1] The population of Arlington rose 9 percent from 207,000 to 225,000, according to Arlington County VA,  Profile 2018, and Profile 2008 https://arlingtonva.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/31/2018/04/2018Profile.pdf

[2] A therm is the heat value of natural gas; 100 cubic feet of gas (CCF) equal 1.036 therms.

[3]  U.S. Dept. of Energy,  “Household energy use in Virginia,” based on 2009 data,  www.eia.gov/consumption/residential

[4] Arlington County, “Quarterly Development Tracking Report,” for 2019, https://projects.arlingtonva.us/data-research/development/quarterly-tracking-report/

[5] Natural gas use data from Http://pemc.coop, and electricity use from https://comparepower.com/kwh-electricity-energy-usage-calculator/  Energy data were converted to carbon equivalents as follows:  1,000 therms equals 5.3 metric tons of carbon; 1,423 kwhs equals 1 metric ton of carbon.  Source:  EPA.

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February 26, 2020

Why is the State of Virginia Giving $37 million to Coal Companies to Mine more Coal?  Why are we taxpayers subsidizing more coal production in Virginia?

environment — @ 5:34 pm

If one completes their Virginia income taxes this year, they may note an obscure tax credit listed on the tax form called “the Virginia Coal and Production Incentive Tax Credit” that gives a tax credit to Virginia mining companies (up to $3 per ton of coal mined).  (Code of VA 58.1-433.1)  In the latest year for which data are available (2015), the State of Virginia gave out $37 million to 56 corporations to subsidize their mining of coal.  This tax boondoggle started in 1988, and has given out so far over $610 million to coal owners and operators.   Yes $600 million to encourage more coal mining in our state.

Mountain top coal removal in WVA, from EarthJustice

Given our climate emergency, one would have thought that encouraging more coal mining is the last thing on Earth we Virginia taxpayers should be doing.  The Virginia Sierra Club and the Virginia Conservation Network have repeatedly called for ending this tax subsidy for coal mine owners and operators. http://www.vcnva.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/HB2198.pdf  But, the Virginia General assembly has refused to stop this carbon emission madness.

What if this $37 million each year was given to homeowners as a $1,000 tax credit to install their own solar panels or put in $1,000 of insulation and weatherization in their home?   This would help 37,000 Virginia homeowners lower their utility bills either through solar panels or just more weatherization and insulation.   The home owners’ utility bills would be markedly lower, and so would carbon emissions in Virginia.

Alternatively, this $37 million or a portion of it could be used to pay for re-training, pensions, and re-location of Virginia coal miners who lose their jobs inevitably.  There are only about 2,000 coal miners left in Virginia, and their days of employment coming to an end.  The State of Virginia could re-train the younger ones, and provide pensions to older workers unable to retain or to relocate to an area in Virginia with low unemployment

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February 21, 2020

Arlington Greens will meet on Wednesday, March 4, at 7 pm, Ballston Firehouse

Arlington Greens will meet at the Ballston Firehouse Community Room (located at George Mason Drive and Wilson Blvd).
Major topics are:
Outcome of our March 2 Green Buildings Certification talk by professor John Scofield
Next steps for the Arlington Community Energy Plan including our advocacy for local powers to require new green buildings
County board and school board openings this year
Virginia Green Party nominees for president
Affordable housing–advocacy for housing grants at March county board budget hearing in late March
Plan to attend.   Any Arlington resident can join at the meeting–membership is $5 a year.   Public can attend but cannot vote.
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February 5, 2020

Are LEED Commercial Buildings Really Green–Talk by Oberlin College professor with Q&A

Development,environment,Events — @ 12:30 pm

Measured Energy Savings & Greenhouse Gas Emissions from LEED-Certified Buildings, Talk by Oberlin College Professor John Scofield, followed by Q&A on implications for 2020 Arlington Energy Plan for Carbon Neutrality

Monday, March 02 at 7-9 PM  Arlington Central Library   (1015 N. Quincy Street)  Arlington, VA 22203

Oberlin College professor John Scofield, a national expert on U.S. green building certification, will speak about his research on energy savings and greenhouse gas emissions from LEED buildings that demonstrate such building certifications do not significantly reduce emission from commercial buildings.   Discussion follows on Arlington County’s own green building program, and the forthcoming 2020 Community Energy Plan in Arlington that proposes to make Arlington carbon neutral.  Attendance is free.   EcoAction Arlington is co-sponsor with the Arlington Greens.   Attendance is free.

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January 9, 2020

Greens ask Virginia General Assembly to give Arlington local powers over energy/environmental building codes

Development,environment — @ 5:55 pm

At the January 7 meeting, Arlington Greens agreed to ask Arlington state delegates and state senators to support granting Arlington County local powers over energy/environmental building codes so that Arlington can achieve carbon emissions cut set by Paris Climate Treaty.  We ask that Greens and community members also contact their delegates and senators to support this common sense environmental legislation:

Petition to Arlington state delegates and state senators, January 2020 on allowing local authority to achieve environmental/energy plan

To:   Virginia General Assembly Delegates Patrick Hope, Alfonso Lopez, Mark Levine, Rip Sullivan, and State Senators Barbara Favola, Adam Ebin, and Janet Howell:

As residents of Arlington, we ask that you support environmental legislation in this session of the General Assembly that would allow the Arlington County Board of Supervisors to modify the existing Virginia building codes so as to strengthen energy savings and environmental protection for any buildings in Arlington.   We ask that Arlington be permitted a local option to override Virginia State building codes so that Arlington can fulfill its Community Energy Plan that would meet the required carbon emissions stipulated in the Paris Climate Treaty.  The Arlington County Board approved its community energy plan in September 2019, but does not have the full authority under state law today to implement it.

The Virginia Board of Housing and Community Development (BHCD) has repeatedly failed (as recently as 2017) to approve the minimal International Environmental Conservation Code that would have achieved at least a 30 percent savings in energy use in new buildings, and thus new buildings in Virginia are very energy wasteful.

Arlington County needs authority to require builders of new structures to meet stringent energy savings including carbon neutral buildings, mandating geothermal and solar voltaic panels, enhanced insulation, among other features in order to meet its community energy plan goal to have a carbon neutrality goal by 2050.  It cannot do this since 80 percent of carbon emissions in Arlington occurs in buildings without stricter building codes.

We therefore act that authority be delegated to Arlington County or to any other jurisdiction that may also want to implement its own strict environmental energy plan (such as the City of Alexandria) to strengthen building codes so as to achieve energy savings and thus meet environmental goal on carbon emissions.

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December 12, 2019

Statement to the Arlington County Board:  Reject the Rezoning Request for Amazon’s Buildings in Pentagon City

The Arlington County Board will consider a zoning request from Amazon to build a 2.1 million square foot complex in Pentagon City that will hold 12,000 employees plus retail stores on December 14.  Amazon has offered the county $20 million for affordable housing construction in exchange for an extra half million square feet of office space. We urge Arlington residents to attend and speak against Amazon for the following three reasons:

    the 2.1 million square foot project will lead to excessive carbon emissions;

Amazon’s offer of $20 million for an extra half million square feet of additional office space is far     below the economic value of that space;

Amazon’s $20 million offer does nothing to significantly mitigate the negative effect of this project on affordable housing in Arlington.

Environmental effect of project undercuts County’s goal to meet Paris Climate Treaty.–This proposed project is not carbon neutral and not a green building despite a LEED certificate.  The project will not use 100 percent renewable electricity until at least 2030.   There is already abundant renewable energy available for large companies like Amazon if they decide to pursue it.  Google already does this for its new facilities in the U.S.   Amazon should pledge it will use only renewable electricity immediately in the project; and add on-site solar panels and geothermal heating and cooling to cut carbon emissions.

This project will use 36 million kilowatt hours of electricity and 67 million cubic feet of natural gas annually.  This will increase commercial use of electricity and natural gas in Arlington by 2 percent each and contribute 30,000 metric tons of carbon emissions a year.

In September, the county board approved goals for the community energy plan that require a drop of about 5 percent annually in carbon emissions; the board cannot approve Amazon’s project as presented today, and expect that we can reduce carbon emissions in Arlington.  What do we choose: the Paris Climate Treaty or Amazon?

A half million square feet of extra office space approval is worth a lot more than $20 million.–Amazon wants you to allow it to add a half million more square feet of office space not allowed under current zoning.  Office space in Pentagon City rents for about $40 per square foot annually; 500,000 square feet thus provide an annual rent of about $20 million a year or over 30 years $600 million.   How about asking Amazon for a $200 million lump sum?

 $20 million will not offset at all Amazon’s negative effect on affordable housing.–Housing prices in Arlington since HQ2 was announced have risen 10-30 percent; rental costs are also expected to follow a similar pattern.  A 10-percent rise in rents in Arlington will cost renters about $100 million more a year.   $20 million in AHIF will finance the building of about 200 new CAF units for 200 households.  There are about 50,000 rental households in Arlington—14,000 households earning under 60 percent AMI.  Does financing 200 new subsidized units offset the harm to 50,000 rental households in Arlington?  No.   Amazon should offer ten times the $20 million offered at the least.

 

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November 9, 2019

Greens support temporary halt to new buildings in Arlington until energy plan is approved

Development,environment — @ 12:20 pm

Arlington Greens voted at their meeting on Nov. 6 to support a petition to the Arlington County Board to temporarily halt new building construction permits until the county board is able to approve an effective Community Energy Plan that will force buildings to have green building and green energy in all new buildings.

The County board in September passed a partial Community Energy Plan (CEP)that sets out the goal that Arlington will be carbon neutral within 25 years or so, but that plan had no funding or building zoning changes that would have compelled new buildings to meet this high green energy standard. New buildings–residential or commercial–will last often over 40 years, and using current wasteful, carbon-based electricity and heating will mean no reduction in carbon emissions from them for the next 40 years.

The County Board has promised to enact the full CEP by June 2020 that will include changes in building codes so that the environment and carbon emissions can be improved. The county needs to halt giving out building permits until the June CEP is approved. Amazon has proposed building two towering high rises in Pentagon City–these should NOT be approved until we have a full CEP.

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October 7, 2019

Arlington Judge Blocks Historic Preservation of Westover Apartments

Arlington Judge William Newman ruled against community efforts for historic preservation in Westover on September 29. We had asked him to require the county to complete our historic petition for Westover, but the judge says the county can take as many years or decades as it chooses to complete historic review even if all the buildings are lost. He dismissed our lawsuit without even a full hearing on the merits.

Judge Newman—a Democrat and former member of the county board himself— ruled that the county can delay forever in processing our historic petition forever. He did not even have the sense of justice to allow us to argue our case with evidence at a trial. He dismissed our case with prejudice (meaning we can never re-file).

He ruled that the county does not have to proceed at all on our historic petition which was filed about 3 ½ years ago. Since we filed our historic petition, four apartment buildings were demolished in addition to seven demolished before.

Digital Camera

It is ironic that Judge Newman is married to a billionaire and lives in a mansion on an estate in Middleburg Virginia worth many tens of millions of dollars, and ruled that it is okay for the county government to allow the demolition of 70-year old apartments that house renters who live on very small incomes. There is plenty of room in Arlington for millionaires and billionaires living in their big mansions, but no room for a disabled veteran, a school aide or a library technician getting by on under $50,000 a year.

It is a lousy and unfair justice and political system that values billionaires and developers over modest people living in Arlington. Justice deferred is justice denied. This is not justice.

We cannot appeal the judge’s egregious decision to the Virginia Supreme Court since this would cost us at least $15,000, and we can never recoup any of these legal fees even if we were to win our case. So our justice system works well for the rich and developers, but not for ordinary people in Arlington.

With our court case thrown out, we asked the county board itself to bypass the local historic review board and take up the matter itself and give us a final decision. But this is highly unlikely as the board is in league with developers who choose to demolish older and simpler homes and build new, bigger, more energy wasteful, and expensive homes for the rich. And we wonder why we have an affordable housing problem in Arlington.

We will continue as best we can to preserve Arlington along with modest apartments for middle and working income people in Arlington.

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October 1, 2019

Arlington’s Energy Plan to reach zero carbon emissions based mostly on hot air and platitudes

Development,environment — @ 11:17 am

Arlington County Board of Supervisors on September 21, 2019 updated its six-year old Community Energy Plan (CEP), and increased its goal from a 75-percent reduction in carbon emissions within Arlington County by 2045 to net carbon neutrality by 2050. The actual policies needed to do this will be considered in a separate implementation policy in June 2020. So for now, the CEP is merely hopes and not concrete actions to be taken.

Why did the county only approve goals but not at the same time the means to achieve these goals? The plan has no funding nor new county ordinances or requirements. The plan calls for the county government to use only renewable power within 6 years, and all residents and business to use only renewable power by 2035.

The problem with that is that Virginia today has NO commercial renewable electricity. In 2018, about 3.1 million megawatts of electricity were consumed by commerce, residents, and government in Arlington. To supply that amount of electricity would take the electricity generated from the largest wind tower farm in the world (the London array with a daily capacity of 7,120 megawatts) for the +200,000 residents of Arlington.

Dominion Energy proposes to build a large wind farm off Virginia coast by 2026 with a capacity of 2,600 megawatts daily capacity that could supply only one-third of Arlington’s electricity use today.

It can argued that the 2013 CEP failed on nearly all of its goals, although some external and market driving factors did allow county emissions to drop slightly. A large proportion of existing office space became vacant during 2007-18, and Dominion Energy began phasing out coal-fired electricity for natural gas-fired electricity which produces less carbon emissions.

During 2010-18, net carbon emissions from buildings did drop by 4 percent or very close to the 2013 target of a 5-percent drop but only because of high rates of office vacancy. The bad news and more foreboding is that carbon emissions in residences rose by 14 percent, driven in part by a 9-percent increase in county residents.

The 2013 CEP failed owing to several factors: the State of Virginia Building code for new residential units was not strengthened to require builders to achieve a 30-percent energy savings. Secondly, no cogeneration power plants were built in Arlington that would have reduced commercial use of natural gas and electricity. Third, even the LEED certified buildings added in Arlington did not achieve significant energy savings.

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Regenerative organic agriculture has potential to halt climate change

environment — @ 10:44 am

Jeff Moyer, Rodale Institute, Organic Broadcaster, Sept 2019

We can stop the climate crisis. At least, we can start reducing the 23% of global greenhouse gases that the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently attributed to agricultural activities.

The answer is regenerative organic agriculture. And the time to implement it is now. In a recent report, the UN said humans cannot stave off the effects of climate change without making drastic changes to how we grow food and use land. Conventional, industrial agriculture depends on chemical inputs and fossil-fuel intensive synthetic fertilizers, in addition to heavy machinery and tillage, to grow food. Industrial farming also relies on factory farms for animals. These methods release large amounts of carbon, methane, and other gases into the atmosphere.

In contrast, science proves that regenerative organic systems, which prioritize soil health and good farming practices like cover cropping, crop rotations, and pasturing animals, use 45% less energy and release 40% fewer carbon emissions than conventional agriculture, with no statistical difference in yields.

The Rodale Institute Farming Systems Trial was started in 1981 and is the longest side-by-side comparison of organic and conventional grain cropping systems in North America. We’ve collected data on soil health, crop yields, energy efficiency, and more through our research trials, which have led us to discover the implications of switching to an organic system. Rodale Institute and others have concluded that if we converted all global cropland and pastures to regenerative organic systems, we could sequester more than 100% of current annual CO2 emissions. As the UN report states, we don’t have time to wait.

Regenerative organic agriculture works with natural systems to produce nutritious and abundant food, instead of relying on synthetic inputs like pesticides and artificial fertilizers. Regenerative goes beyond sustainable to improve resources, not just maintain them. Regenerative organic agriculture utilizes strategies like organic no-till, which uses cover crops to return nutrients to the soil while absorbing carbon dioxide, reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Because the soil is not disturbed in organic no-till systems, the carbon dioxide absorbed by the cover crop is sequestered in the soil instead of released into the atmosphere.

Regenerative organic prioritizes soil health, but also considers animal welfare and social fairness in its standards. Regenerative organic livestock management emphasizes rotational grazing, grazing on grass, and no antibiotics or hormones, reducing the heavy burden livestock place on climate. But we don’t need regenerative organic agriculture only to mitigate the effects of climate change. We also need it in order to feed a world that’s already been shaped by a changing climate. As extreme weather events become more frequent, agricultural systems must become more resilient. Our research has found that organic crops have the potential to produce yields up to 40% higher in times of inclement weather—like flooding or drought—than conventional systems. This means that it is possible to feed the world while reducing carbon emissions.

Jeff Moyer is the executive director of Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Organic No-Till Farming: Advancing No-Till Agriculture. https://mosesorganic.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Broadcaster-Sept.-2019.pdf
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Volume 27, #5 September | October 2019 Editor Audrey Alwell Advertising Coordinator Tom Manley Digital Content Producer their compass when things get rough. They can guide Stephanie Coffman The Organic BroadcasterTM is a bimonthly newspaper published by the Midwest Organic &
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