Proposed climate action plan for Prince George’s County: Hyattsville Environmental Committee seeks community involvement
By Christina Armeni
On Sept. 3, 2020, a storm that resulted in a tornado warning ripped through Prince George’s County brought down trees and power lines. The following week, flash flooding turned Route 50 into a river, surging with around 5 feet of brackish water. And on Dec. 16, a winter storm dumped nearly 7.5 inches of snow on the Baltimore region.
The year 2020 brought extreme weather to our area. Meteorologist Jason Samenow, who is weather editor for The Washington Post, links recent extreme events to global climate change.
The Prince George’s County Climate Action Commission was formed last summer “to develop a Climate Action Plan for Prince George’s County to prepare for and build resilience to regional climate change impacts, and to set and achieve climate stabilization goals,” according to their website.
Many local municipalities, including Bowie and College Park, supported the creation of the commission. And Hyattsville took a lead in this, as well, with the Hyattsville Environmental Committee (HEC) strongly backing the formation of a new commission aimed at combating the climate crisis.
“The area is expanding and growing so much that environmentally, we need to stay on top of it,” said HEC Secretary Jim Groves.
The CADMUS Group presented a climate action plan at the commission’s Nov. 20 virtual meeting. The CADMUS Group is a strategic and technical consulting group that has been providing environmental consulting for nearly 40 years. They also serve as a consultant for the City of Takoma Park Sustainability and Climate Action Plan and have previously worked with the Environmental Protection Agency.
“As many of you know, in the last few years there has been a real lack of federal leadership,” said Co-Project Director Ben Butterworth during the presentation, noting U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement in 2017. “There is a lot of action that can be done at the local level.”
The climate plan describes steps that will help the county reach its goal of reducing 2008 levels of greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050. According to a study by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, Prince George’s County’s greenhouse gas emissions decreased by 12% between 2005 and 2015. The main sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the county are from transportation, the natural gas and heating oil that provide space and water heating, and coal and natural gas power plants’ generation of electricity. CADMUS provided options for mitigating each type of emission, like expanding electric vehicle infrastructure and establishing solar requirements in new construction.
The Prince George’s County Climate Action Commission has until this June to submit a final action plan to the county council. The commission comprises 16 members, including county officials, representatives from the University of Maryland and Bowie State University, and a member of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. The commission chair directs the county’s Department of the Environment.
The HEC, which provides the Hyattsville City Council with information and recommendations regarding the environment, has 10 members, who serve 2-year terms. Groves has been with the group since it was formed more than 15 years ago. As a longtime Hyattsville resident and environmental activist, he says, “it’s one thing to live here, but to be a true community member, people need to be involved.” Groves recommends that residents attend council meetings, join committees or simply participate in a trash cleanup event every month.
“It’s about making your city a better place,” Groves said. “I think we’ve come a long way, and we have a much longer way to go.”
Christina Armeni was an intern with the Hyattsville Life & Times in the fall of 2020.