BCLocalNews.com – Greenhouse gas inventory first priority for new environment coordinator

After about a month on the job, new City of Revelstoke environmental sustainability coordinator Penny Page-Brittin has had a bit of a chance to settle into her new position. At the request of the Times Review, she sat down for an interview last week so we could find out more about what exactly her role is.

Many may be familiar with Page-Brittin as the former Revelstoke Bear Aware coordinator, a position she left to assume the environmental sustainability coordinator position at the city.

Page-Brittin received her honours degree in biology from Queen’s University and previously worked in genetics in Toronto and Calgary. She moved to Revelstoke in 2007 with her husband and two kids for the “small town quality of life.”

She has been hired on a contract basis, part-time (20 hours per week) for one year. It’s unknown what will happen after that.

So, can she wrap up all of Revelstoke’s environmental issues in a year, part-time? The tongue-in-cheek question gets a laugh, but Page-Brittin says there is a tendency amongst some to assume her mandate is far broader than it actually is.

In reality, her role is quite specific. At this point, she is focusing on three main tasks, as assigned by a special committee overseeing her work. “There’s a little bit of a misconceptions because people sometimes think that I’ve been hired to address all sorts of environmental concerns,” she says.

Her first and most pressing priority is completing a greenhouse gas inventory of city operations, including a forecast, and then look at ways the city can reduce their emissions. This includes the city vehicle fleet, city facilities and other emissions from city operations. “By doing that the city will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and what is not reduced they’ll pay carbon offsets for,” says Page-Brittin. “That’s how you become carbon neutral – reduce what you can and pay carbon offsets on the rest.”

Revelstoke is a signatory to the B.C. Climate Action Charter, which commits the municipality to carbon neutrality by 2012. Page-Brittin is getting the municipality ready for the deadline, and putting together a plan for future reductions.

Once that’s completed, she’ll look past just city operations and see how the community as a whole can reduce emissions, including initiatives like increasing recycling, reducing waste, increasing composting and creating a more walkable and bike-friendly community.

Her second focus is the cosmetic pesticides bylaw. Followers of the ongoing pesticide debate in Revelstoke know that this spring city council asked city staff for proposals for a new bylaw that will extend the existing cosmetic pesticide ban on public property to private property. Although councillor Tony Scarcella has continued to express his opposition to the move, mathematically there still appears to be ample support for the bylaw at the council table.

The real issue will be the type of bylaw staff presents. Many existing municipal anti-cosmetic pesticide bylaws are considered weak and ineffective by anti-pesticide campaigners. Even plans with the best intentions will face enforcement issues.

Are we going to have a ‘strict’ bylaw, or will it be watered down? “I will be working with city staff to provide information on cosmetic pesticides, what’s been done in other communities, with what result, and how we could apply that to our community,” was Page-Brittin’s first answer. I rephrased the question two other ways, but didn’t get any more information from Page-Brittin, who evidently preferred to leave the political issue for council deliberations.

Her third and final focus is air quality. She’s looking at ways of implementing the air quality plan created during the official community plan (OCP) process, but she says she hasn’t had much time to look into it because the greenhouse gas work is on the front burner.

For now, these three issues are her focus. “My job is looking at these tasks and analysing the information that is available and coming up with a good step forward for Revelstoke, to address climate change,” she said.

BCLocalNews.com – Greenhouse gas inventory first priority for new environment coordinator.