On Monday, City Council unanimously passed resolutions to support a carbon fee and dividend plan in Ann Arbor. They also approved a land lease agreement with the University of Michigan.

At the start of the meeting City Administrator Howard Lazarus noted that on Friday, racist and anti-semitic graffiti was found in the Skate Park at Veterans Park. Lazarus thanked city staff for promptly removing the hurtful messages; he said such behavior is not tolerated in Ann Arbor.

“I also want to reassure the members of the public that the officers at the Ann Arbor Police Department are investigating the crime … and once the vandalists are identified the city will prosecute to the full extent of the law,” he said.

During the public comments portion of the meeting, Ginny Rogers, a volunteer with the Ann Arbor chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby — an organization that aims to implement environmentally friendly practices and fight climate change — encouraged council members to pass the carbon fee and dividend plan resolution. The resolution was sponsored by Councilmembers Jason Frenzel (D–Ward 1) and Chip Smith (D–Ward 5).

Carbon Fee and Dividend legislation puts a fee on the amount of carbon dioxide in fossil fuels, according to the CCL website. Fossil fuel companies pay a steadily rising fee based on carbon dioxide at its point of entry — at a well or mine, for example. The fee is collected and the revenues are given to U.S. households to protect them from the financial impact of the transition to a clean energy economy.  

“First, (the resolution) does not obligate the city to take any action or allocate financial resources — it would merely express support for a simple, fair and effective policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions — nor would it limit the city from supporting any other policies that are aimed at addressing climate change,” Rogers said.

The dividend portion of the policy, according to Rogers, makes it revenue-neutral and sets it apart from other carbon taxes. The revenue-neutral aspect of the policy, meaning the government still receives the same amount of money, according to Rogers, is essential to bipartisan support of such legislation. It also benefits consumers.

“Several economic studies of this type of proposal show that a majority of households will have a net financial benefit — that is, they would be financially better off under carbon fee and dividend than without it,” she said. “Not only that but the lowest income quintiles would have the biggest net benefit as the percent of income.”

Rogers said Ann Arbor has an ambitious Climate Action Plan, but the city has a long way to go to achieve its goals. She said a national carbon price would greatly incentivize the transition to clean energy.  

Rackham student Chris Karounos also spoke on the subject. Karounos said climate change is one of the biggest problems facing the world today and something that creeps up on humanity slowly. He noted climate change cannot be seen unless one examines data across the world over a long timespan; as a result, he said, there isn’t nearly as much as fear as their needs to be on the matter.

“As a student at (the University of) Michigan who studies climate change, and a future delegate of the United Nations Conference of the Parties on Climate Change, I’m here to tell you that it’s very bad that we don’t have this fight or flight response to climate change,” Karounos said.

Karounos spoke in favor of the new system, again noting its bipartisan nature as an asset to the federal government, as politicians claiming not to believe in climate change do not accurately reflect their constituents’ thoughts.

“In fact, 91 percent of Republicans believe that Climate Change is occurring and the majority of them also believe that mankind is contributing,” he said. 

He explained 67 percent of Americans disagree with President Donald Trump’s plans to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.

Also speaking on the resolution, Frenzel noted there are over 50 other municipalities that support fee and dividend structures; he echoed the public comments speakers who highlighted the bipartisan appeal of the resolution as evident through the dividend aspect.

“The fee component is critical and useful to businesses because it outlines a specific set of costs that will be inflated over a set of years … so it’s well-liked by the business community as much as fees are because it is clear at the outset,” he said.

Though Frenzel mentioned the cap and trade process as an alternative incentive to put a price on carbon, he said the proposed system is better.

“(The fee and dividend method) is the best way that is currently believed to go about that,” he said. “This (also) does not prevent us or the state or federal government from moving forward a competing process that may at some point in the future become more advantageous for some reason.”

Councilmember Sumi Kailasapathy (D–Ward 1) expressed concern that the resolution puts forth “no action.”

“This resolution, it seems like it’s kind of hanging loose,” she said. “… I was wondering whether there should be another resolved clause that asks staff to send this on to the federal level, other representatives like Debbie Dingell or state level, because otherwise — a couple of people actually asked me what this was trying to do.”

Chip Smith suggested the creation of an amendment, which passed unanimously, to accomplish exactly what Kailasapathy suggested.

The amendment will first direct staff to forward the city council endorsement proposal to the CCL, the Climate Leadership Council, Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D–Mich.) and Gary Peters (D–Mich.) and Rep. Debbie Dingell (D–Mich.). It will also direct the City Administrator to devise a plan to effectively agitate the carbon fee and dividend and describe actual efforts the city can take to get that plan adopted.

Councilmember Chuck Warpehoski (D–Ward 5), who moderated the meeting in place of Mayor Chris Taylor who was absent, thanked Frenzel and Smith for their work on the resolution.

“It is the most politically viable way to (put a price on carbon),” he said. “I think there’s a lot of really strong points about its structure as a policy framework.”

City Council also unanimously passed a resolution to approve a land lease agreement with the University to lease the three parking lots at Fuller Park; prior to doing so, they passed an amendment to modify language in the contract and one to alter the resolution. The lots provide parking for park visitors and for the University at different times.

The amendment to the contract, proposed by Councilmember Jack Eaton (D–Ward 4), removed a paragraph addressing what might happen if a new rail station is to infringe on the area. The deleted paragraph stated the city would notify the University if such efforts are to take place and the city would work cooperatively with the University to consider subsequent repercussions.  

Debate ensued over communication between the city and the University, with some council members stating that by cutting the paragraph, the language would actually be more permissive and that the city would still be able to reach out to the University, even though such action is not explicitly stated.

Councilmember Zachary Ackerman (D–Ward 3) said given its more permissive nature, he would accept the amendment.

“I am completely happy to accept this amendment if it makes members of the public feel more comfortable with transparency (in the) process moving forward,” he said. “I do want to underscore first we do want to be a … partner with the University when it comes to planning our future infrastructure investments in the same way we hope they would be a ready and willing partner with us. But then also this doesn’t serve to limit any next steps when it comes to a possible train station at the foresight.”

As for the amendment to the resolution itself, Jane Lumm (I–Ward 2) proposed removal of a clause that allowed the city administrator to execute four one-year administrative renewals of the lease; Lumm felt administrative renewals would not be an appropriate way to keep the issue on city council’s radar.

“We’re using park land for a non-park purpose, and I think that is something that should be revisited periodically,” she said.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.