OUR VIEW: The greening of county government

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By The Staff

The old battle between economics and the environment is melting away under the combined pressures of overpopulation, global warming, costly energy and resource depletion. For new generations of commercial and civic leaders, environmentalism is no longer a dirty word.

While environmental problems are global in scale, from the shrinking mangrove swamps to the alpine wilderness, sustainable responses are fundamentally local.The Los Alamos County Council reviews this week a proposal to focus a new effort on environmental sustainability through an initiative that is deeper and more promising than the relatively simple changing of a name and a few job titles might imply.Solid Waste Manager Regina Wheeler would become the Environmental Manager and the Solid Waste Division would become the Environmental Services Division.The change will be both useful and profound.Environmental services are a natural and easily appreciated function of county government. In the impressive documentation in support of an Environmental Sustainability Initiative for Los Alamos County, the Environmental Platform of the National Association of Counties for 2007-2008, states the rationale even more clearly.While environmental protections are responsibilities shared by citizens, businesses and all levels of government, counties are the primary service providers and in a sense the first responders.County governments have obligations to protect the health and safety of residents with a goal of improving their quality of life.These days that just can’t happen unless there is a heaping measure of environmental sensitivity that is also sensitive to costs and efficiencies.The county and the community have taken great strides in recent years, pushing forward green projects, recently launching a building designed for the gold standard of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Recycling is now deeply embedded in our daily habits.We have made a strong contribution to public transportation in the region and vastly improved our local services. The county has adopted a renewable energy portfolio and, among many other accomplishments, has one of the best open space and trails management programs anywhere.There is no reason to slow down now, considering how much more can be done through greater planning, coordination and inter-departmental cooperation. Incremental improvements can be made in policy, building codes and daily practices that will, like compound interest, accumulate large energy savings and resource economies over time.Encouragingly, there are a number of like-minded partners, from Los Alamos National Laboratory, entrepreneurs and all levels of government, who are committed to this same goal. It turns out the environment is not only our most precious resource, but it also rightly figures into nearly every budget and planning decision, from job recruitment to investment evaluations to consumer choices.Sure, it’s St. Patrick’s Day on Monday. But we’re starting to see green all year long.We encourage the county council to move this project forward.