Climate Action Plan Passes | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Climate Action Plan Passes

Councilors continue to debate the merits of Home Energy Scores

Bend City Council passed the Community Climate Action Plan 5 – 2 Wednesday night, with Councilor Justin Livingston and Councilor Bill Moseley voting against. 
Bend City councilors had been divided in the weeks before the vote, because the original resolution contained a mandate would have required home sellers to complete a Home Energy Score before putting homes on the market. Proponents of the scoring system argued it would encourage home energy efficiency upgrades and protect homebuyers from unpredictable heating bills in the winter months.

Both the Central Oregon Association of Realtors and the Central Oregon Builders Association protested the proposal, with a flood of anti-HES emails to City Council and testimony during City Council meetings. They claimed the process would interfere with real estate transactions and that it cost too much, among other concerns.

In an effort to establish broader support for the overall climate resolution, Councilor Bruce Abernethy spearheaded a move to remove the language in CCAP mandating the HES, replacing it with an initiative to promote voluntary participation.

"From my perspective, people were over reacting on both sides, so I thought it would be best to take the energy and passion behind the voluntary programs and use that in a way to help educate realtors and homeowners." -City Councilor Bruce Abernethy

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“I was one of the people willing to make the change,” Abernethy said. “Three councilors were really opposed to it (HES) being mandatory. From my perspective, I really like the Home Energy Score, and in a perfect world I would have made it mandatory. But it was polarizing and overshadowing the plan as a whole.

“From my perspective, people were over reacting on both sides, so I thought it would be best to take the energy and passion behind the voluntary programs and use that in a way to help educate realtors and homeowners.”

Because of the change, Councilor Chris Piper said he was comfortable supporting CCAP, with the caveat that he would never vote in favor of an HES mandate.

Minutes before City Council cast their deciding votes, Moseley submitted an amendment that would have made HES permanently voluntary. It was voted down by a majority of councilors. Moseley wrote in an email that he thought his changes—which focused on assistance for people in older homes—would have “helped lower- and fixed-income individuals with Bend’s skyrocketing cost of living.”

While Home Energy Scores are currently available on a voluntary basis, advocates like Mike Riley—executive director of the Environmental Center—will continue to push for it as a mandate.

“Bend prides itself on innovation and leadership,” he said. “We would not be the first to do it, but we would be one of the leaders.

“I recently heard a personal story of someone in our community that works as an office manager and they are spending $600 month on heating. We shouldn’t be building homes like that anymore. Maybe we shouldn’t be buying them.”

“I actually believe in the Home Energy Score piece,” Mayor Sally Russell said at Wednesday’s meeting, citing anecdotes about her experience as both a tenant and a landlord. “I really feel like—in terms of this huge affordability, livability issue that we have in our community—that there are some better ways to get at that information.”

In the coming months, the city will designate another steering committee to prioritize the actions and strategies outlined in the plan and present them to City Council in manageable chunks.

“I was deeply hoping that (CCAP) could be a model that other communities—and other slightly conservative communities—would also be able to embrace and use as their models,” Russell said. “I’m also really proud of everyone that contributed to it.”

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