Today Sierra Club leaders are speaking at the City Council meeting urging the council to prioritize sustainability, climate resilience, and environmental stewardship by ensuring that our “City of Health” budgets for the increased staff and capacity needed to fully implement its climate plans and show leadership that can be followed by other Minnesota cities.
This summer, many of us have felt the urgency of addressing climate change more acutely than ever. As deliberations continue on Rochester’s 2024-2025 budget, the Sierra Club is urging the council to prioritize funding its climate plans.
The recent developments surrounding the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) have highlighted a stark discrepancy between opportunities presented to us and our capacity and speed in capitalizing on them.
Right now, Rochester is missing out on federal dollars because we don't have the staff needed. Two recent examples are the delayed request for geothermal heat pump funding for city buildings when these funds could have been secured much earlier and improved the city’s cost efficiency. Second, the city hasn’t yet been able to educate residents or businesses about the benefits available to them, due to lack of staff capacity.
Without coordinated local efforts and investments, Rochester will miss out on the benefits of Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) funding, and federal rebates and tax incentives will only be accessed by a handful of moderate and high-income households. For the relatively small cost of an awareness campaign, and some words from City officials, Rochester’s housing and economy could be benefiting more from available IRA tax credits and funds.
Environmental Stewardship is one of Rochester’s six foundational principles, however sustainability programming for the city accounts for less than 1% of the city budget. Environmental stewardship can’t be called a "foundational" principle of Rochester when such a small portion of the budget is dedicated to these programs.
Kris Acuña, Climate and Clean Energy Organizer for the Sierra Club North Star Chapter, issued the following statement which will be included in this evening’s remarks at the City Council meeting:
”Rochester will need additional dedicated personnel for sustainability to actually be able to implement its climate commitments and anticipate funding opportunities. The city's sole sustainability personnel is already juggling responsibilities equivalent to a department of three full-time staff.
“The city needs to invest in making the benefits of the IRA accessible to all residents, regardless of income, race or background, and making sure that low-income and BIPOC communities – who should be the first to benefit from climate resilient strategies – are engaged in shaping and co-creating how programs are rolled out. This cannot happen without additional city personnel and resources.
“Our city's priorities are clear and now it’s time for the budget to mirror these principles with adequately funded staff and initiatives. As the third-largest city in Minnesota, let's be the leaders in sustainability we claim to be, not just in our words but in fiscal commitments and forward-thinking actions. We urge you to give this pressing matter the attention it warrants during the budgeting process, and thank you for your dedication to our city's future.”
About the Sierra Club: The Sierra Club is the largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization in the U.S. with more than 3.5 million members and supporters working to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. The Minnesota Sierra Club North Star Chapter is 50,000 Minnesotans empowered to protect our communities’ well-being through environmental protection. We work through grassroots political action, pairing volunteer energy with full-time staff, to strategically address Minnesotans' most pressing environmental issues.