Sierra Club volunteer-leaders, together with community members and partner organizations, have helped secure another step on the path to a fossil fuel-free Rochester!
In May, despite having publicly pledged to reach 100% renewable electricity by 2031, Rochester Public Utilities (RPU) signaled that it intended to spend upwards of $2 million planning for a new fracked gas plant.
Rochester-area Sierrans leapt into action once again. They sat through hours of RPU board meetings, delivered impassioned public comments, wrote letters to the editor, and spoke with local elected leaders and RPU board members. As a result, at the following RPU board meeting, board members voted to also fund planning for an alternative 2031 plan that would require no new fossil fuel plants.
As new volunteer-leader Amanada Barbeau put the question, "Why are we living in the dark ages of energy? When we know we can do better, why aren't we?"
While we must stay vigilant against further regressive attempts, this victory demonstrates the hard won, consistent, and remarkable progress that Rochester Sierra Clubbers have made over the last decade. In 2009, our members helped start the Rochester Energy Commission. That commission's charter marked the first time the words “climate change" appeared in any official Rochester document. Then, in 2014, after shuttering the downtown coal plant, the city committed to coal-free electricity by 2031! Having hit that major milestone, we set our next target: 100% renewable electricity by 2031.
Three years later, the Energy Commission's Energy Action Plan was adopted as a part of Rochester’s Comprehensive Plan, a state-mandated core development plan for the city. Two years after that, in 2018, the RPU board asked its engineering consultant to include a pathway to 100% renewable energy. One year and about 2000 petitions later, the RPU board voted to pursue two possible paths that will both reach 100% net renewable energy -- meaning that we will produce enough renewable electricity credits to "offset" the fossil fuels we burn – by 2031.
Long time Sierra Club activist Alan Hoffman reflected on his time helping secure each of these wins: "All of these boards and commissions are planning for 30 years down the line - they're making decisions they won't have to live with, but young people will. I want to be a voice for the people who aren't in the room."
Our task now is to ensure that they actually keep those commitments and avoid long term investments that conflict with that goal. So Sierrans, continue to push, petition, lobby, write, and show up to make sure that we don't just stop at "net" 100% renewable electricity, but instead finish the drive to a 100% fossil-free future.
As Sierra Club member leader Ed Cohen said, "Rochester prides itself as 'America's City for Health' - and if we want to make good on that claim, there's no way we can power our homes and businesses with fracked gas for the next 30 years!"