San Antonio Receives Bloomberg Staffers, Support for Climate Initiatives

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Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

(From left) Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined Mayor Ron Nirenberg in his office before the press conference.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined Mayor Ron Nirenberg on Friday to announce that San Antonio will receive two full-time staffers over the next two years to help implement San Antonio’s Climate Action and Adaptation Plan.

The two staffers are part of an award from Bloomberg Philanthropies recognizing San Antonio as a winner of the American Cities Climate Challenge. The city joins Albuquerque, Austin, Denver, and Orlando as the final five cities of 25 chosen for the award. The initiative was open to the top 100 U.S. cities by population.

Nirenberg said at Friday’s press conference that rather than President Donald Trump’s rhetoric about a national emergency on the U.S.-Mexico border, the real national emergency is climate change.

“The science is indisputable,” he said. The only question left is our action. We have an opportunity to lower your energy costs, create green jobs, to build a  stronger and healthier and more equitable San Antonio to enjoy.”

In a Thursday phone interview, Antha Williams, who heads the environment program at Bloomberg Philanthropies, said she and her colleagues were impressed with the emphasis that Nirenberg and Doug Melnick, the City’s chief sustainability officer, have put on finding climate solutions.

“We saw both an incredible ambition from the mayor and a terrific sustainability director and real potential for impact,” Williams said. “Across the board, San Antonio really emerged as a leader and as a city that’s incredibly well-positioned to deepen efforts to combat climate change.”

Bloomberg said a large part of San Antonio’s win came from its strong City Council and mayor with a willingness to solve problems. He also emphasized that becoming more sustainable fuels the economy.

Council members listen to the annoucement by Michael R. Bloomberg.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Members of City Council listen to the announcement by Michael Bloomberg.

“Climate responsibility and economic development really go together,” he said. “Companies today want to be economically friendly because their investors are demanding they are environmentally friendly.”

The selection gives San Antonio access to “additional staff capacity” and other support as part of a two-year program to assist winning cities in their work to reduce global warming greenhouse gas emissions, Williams said.

“The next step after the city’s win is working in close partnership with each city to determine what exactly the package of support will look like, but the elements of the unique package of support include additional staff capacity, technical assistance from world-class partners, and access to really intensive peer-to-peer networking among like cities,” she said.

Nirenberg said that responding to climate change includes shifting development and land-use strategies to a more sustainable path, as well as transforming San Antonio’s transportation landscape with the ConnectSA plan. Henry Cisneros, one of the tri-chairs of ConnectSA and former Mayor and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development secretary, said environmental responsibility was always behind the mobility plan.

“In all sources of carbon pollution and damage to the environment that directly impacts San Antonio, the two most [impactful] are building emissions and transportation,” he said.

ConnectSA also plans to consult with the two staff members provided by Bloomberg, Cisneros said.

Shortly after taking office, Nirenberg and new City Council members in June 2017 signed a pledge to keep San Antonio’s global warming greenhouse gas emissions within the bounds of the Paris Accord, an international agreement to curb the worst effects of climate change.

So far, the climate plan has mostly yielded data and dialogue. Technical experts produced an inventory of San Antonio’s greenhouse gas emissions and updated climate projections to show what future heat waves, droughts, and floods the city could face. Roughly 90 people representing businesses, colleges, environmental organizations, government entities, and more have been meeting regularly to discuss how best to address rapid global warming.

A draft version of the final climate plan is expected to be released Jan. 25.

San Antonio has already taken some tangible steps to cut greenhouse gas emissions, such as CPS Energy’s closure of its Deely coal plant. The utility has also expanded its energy efficiency programs and its purchases of solar and wind power It continues to provide incentives for its customers to invest in rooftop solar.

A view from an access road at Calaveras Power Station of (from left) CPS Energy Spruce units and Deely units.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

(from left) CPS Energy’s coal-burning Spruce units and Deely units at the Calaveras Power Station.

Forthcoming initiatives that could help shrink San Antonio’s carbon footprint are the City and Bexar County Connect SA transportation plan. More than $61 million in Volkswagen settlement funds earmarked for San Antonio could help the City, private industry, and other local governments convert their fleets to lower-emitting vehicles.

But it’s hard to imagine that these will be enough on their own to keep San Antonio within the bounds of the Paris Accord. Climate planners have said that San Antonio may have to cut its emissions by half to meet the goal.

The transportation plan faces a variety of hurdles, including funding. Changes to development codes to require more efficient buildings could face opposition from developers and the construction industry.

Soon after the climate planning process started, CPS Energy also announced it plans to continue relying heavily on natural gas and coal through the early 2040s.

Under its “Flexible Path” plan, CPS Energy’s power generation mix by then would include 50 percent wind and solar, 13 percent natural gas, 9 percent nuclear, 7 percent coal, and 5 percent energy storage, potentially through massive batteries. Another 16 percent would come from “flexible generation,” which utility officials have purposely left vague, saying they could be filled with emerging technologies.

Asked whether San Antonio’s continued reliance on fossil fuels affected Bloomberg Philanthropies’ review of the city, Williams said, “To be honest, I can’t speak to that.”

“As we looked across the application and the specific work plan, we just felt like there was a ton of opportunity in these sectors around buildings and transportation,” Williams continued. “We felt like [Nirenberg] and [Melnick] are ready to take that on, and so that’s really what pushed San Antonio to the top for us.”

9 thoughts on “San Antonio Receives Bloomberg Staffers, Support for Climate Initiatives

  1. Q: How does San Antonio rate an award when the EPA has determined that our air is not up to standards?
    Q#2: How can Bloomberg show us anything on climate change when he has financial interests in the oil industry?

  2. So if this is the case, are you going to require that the airport renovations have every possible LID feature to mitigate their position as the number one pollution producer by way of water, air, thermal, light and noise. Are you going to allow them to destroy the Salado Greenway when the tax payers aren’t even finished paying for it? Are you going to allow them to “relocate” 2 beautiful natural creeks?

    You allow developers to completely wipe out stands of trees, and then superficially plant back substandard trees that many times do not endure. You allow CPS and SAWS to make changes without environmental and impact studies and deny claims when called on it. You don’t insist on TCI using BPMs on their projects. You allow nurseries to carry invasive species. You don’t negotiate a more inclusive recycling contract because it’s not “convenient” for the companies. You allow substandard practices by road construction companies that don’t work according to time and quality standards, and continue to use supply companies that provide substandard road materials that do not last.

    When your actions show that you’re serious about being environmentally responsible, then we’ll take you seriously. You can’t pick and choose. You either are environmentally responsible or you’re not. San Antonio is not because the city’s practices are not.

    • Raine Tanner great points. Biggest issues is the development that is going on everywhere with no regard to the surrounding environment. Along 1604 From Blanco all the way to I10 the amount of development “cement” and disregard to surrounding environment is horrible. Many of your points are key in what needs to be handled for their to be any success.

  3. We have 20 Million Illegal Folks who
    Apparently flew over our Borders,
    Who cost the Americn Tax payer Billions, But Obama wanted your tax
    $$ To Fund The World in Paris, Without, China,India,Pakistan paying a Nickle Please Spare the Thought
    I believe we could affect a reduction
    Of Carbon Emission s just by Shuting
    Down our Motor cars in every drive
    Up window for Food ,Banking& lack
    Of HOv lanes on 281 & 35 South

  4. Let us say SA suddenly disappeared, does anyone really believe that the loss of one ten thousandth of the world’s population will have any noticeable effect on the climate, or anything else for that matter?

  5. AND, how about Vista Ridge, the unnecessary $3.4B, 142-mile groundwater pipeline to Burleson County — an unmitigated nightmare otherwise known as the “California Water Model.”

    Mass movement of groundwater to fuel development in dry areas is a proven climate change disaster in the state of California. It is also a massive rip-off of SAWS ratepayers SAWS (and most of your council) have been hiding. But, just you wait until your water rate hikes kick in after the May city election.

    Every citizen, regardless of your political orientation, should now be raising cane about Vista Ridge before it goes online in 2020.

    It might take 10-15 years, but the “public-private partnership” on Vista Ridge is doomed to fail, just like the SH-130 toll road.

    SAWS, under Puente and Guerra, with a wink and a nod from City Manager Sculley, and some still on the Council or now running for higher office, are responsible for this economic and environmental disaster.

    Citizens of San Antonio, we need your help. Join together with citizens across the region and across all political ideologies. Our future lies in our unity being destroyed by the party establishments. Don’t let them get away with it.

    Linda Curtis, Volunteer
    League of Independent Voters of Texas

    PS Rivard has continued to follow the Vista Ridge story — keep it up and many thanks for doing so.

  6. Anything that has Bloomberg or the Paris Accord can’t be good for taxpayers. They have left their cities in ruins now they want to push the progressive pointless agenda down our throats. I believe we need to be good stewards of our environment and take prudent cost effective measures to keep our air and water clean. But let’s get clear, I don’t want a electric cars, I don’t need solar panels nor do I want to subsidize others who do! Stop the crazies now before it’s to late.

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