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EC Cleveland Director Supports Creation of Cuyahoga County Sustainability Department

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Noting that Cuyahoga County, Ohio, was ranked fourth worst in the nation for greenhouse gas emissions in 2008, Emerald Cities (EC) Cleveland Director Shanelle Smith recently testified at a hearing of the County Council’s Education, Sustainability and Environment Committee in support of the creation of a Department of Sustainability. Council Member Sunny M. Simon, who chairs that committee, sponsored the bill (Ordinance No. 02014-0023) to create the new department.

The opportunity presented by this “unfortunate fact,” Smith said, was for the county “to become a leader in reducing our region’s carbon footprint by actively promoting and coordinating clean energy infrastructure, low-emission buildings and sustainable economic development.”

She pointed out that clean energy and energy efficiency jobs pay above average, family-sustaining wages; cannot be outsourced; and offer career pathways. She said that for every $1 million invested in energy efficiency, 21 direct and indirect jobs are created. Such direct jobs go to electricians, HVAC installers, carpenters, architects, engineers, contractors and others.

Smith added that beyond construction-related jobs, the clean energy supply chain offers work in fields as far-ranging as facilities management, design and engineering, renewable energy equipment, technology development, real estate and financial services. Energy efficiency investments typically create indirect jobs in the ​manufacturing, transportation and retail sectors as well.

Promoting Environmental Sustainability
The proposed county department would:

  • Promote environmentally-sustainable business practices and collaborate with business, nonprofits and government agencies to develop programs incorporating environmental sustainability;
  • Promote economic development to support businesses that provide environmentally-sustainable goods and services;
  • Educate the public about environmentally-sustainable practices; and
  • Advise the county executive and council on environmentally-sustainable programs and policies.

Others testifying in support of the new department included State Rep. Mike Foley (14th House District); Green City Blue Lake Director David Beach; Council of Small Enterprises Director of Energy Services Nicole Sitka; Environmental Health Watch Executive Director Mike Piepsny; Surehouse Baptist Church Pastor Aaron Phillips; and City of South Euclid Housing Manager Sally Martin.

RENEW Success
In her prepared statement, Smith spoke about the success of EC Cleveland’s recently-launched $1.9 million RENEW (Retrofits for Energy Efficiency Works) program in Seven Hills, Ohio, that will make energy-saving upgrades to a number of city facilities, with projected energy savings more than covering the project’s financing costs.

A critical feature of RENEW – and what sets apart the work of Emerald Cities around the country – is high road standards that calls for local residents to be first in line for project jobs.

Smith indicated that the ways in which the RENEW model would benefit Cuyahoga County at large: “By starting with upgrades to its own building stock, the county can lead by example and help create a large-scale clean energy industry that promotes local business opportunities, empowers local workforce utilization and significantly reduces building operating costs,” she said.

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