Rock Hill goes green

Rock Hill should take pride in being only the fifth city in South Carolina to sign on to a national agreement to try to reduce pollution caused by city operations. We hope the agreement will translate into action over the next five years.

A majority of the City Council agreed last week to commit the city to reducing emissions caused by city operations to 7 percent below 2005 levels over the next five years. The pledge comes in response to the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, a campaign launched by Seattle Mayor Greg Nickles in 2005.

Joe Zdenek, chairman of Henry's Knob, a local environmental group affiliated with the S.C. Sierra Club, urged Mayor Doug Echols a year ago to get involved with the national initiative known as "Cool Cities."

Echols enthusiastically embraced the idea and, since that day, has consulted with representatives of Winthrop University and York Technical College, the York County Regional Chamber of Commerce and other local agencies about the plan. A local Cool Cities Coalition also was formed to look at ways to reduce local pollution.

The pledge made by the council last week was relatively modest compared with those of some other cities. For example, Raleigh, N.C., vowed to cut carbon emissions by 30 percent to counteract the effects of rapid growth in the 1990s. Charleston signed a $3.9 million, 15-year contract with an environmental consultant to find ways to implement energy-saving upgrades.

For now, Rock Hill staffers are focusing on easy changes, such as installing energy-efficient light bulbs at City Hall and replacing older toilets and sinks with new low-flow, water-conserving systems. The city also will add three electric all-terrain carts and five low-fuel hybrid vehicles to its fleet.

Councilman Kevin Sutton, who, along with Jim Reno, voted against the measure, questioned whether the cost to taxpayers of energy efficient upgrades could be justified. Certainly, the initial cost of upgrading to more energy efficient systems can be high, but over time most pay for themselves in energy saved. And with the cost of a barrel of oil almost certain to top $100 in the near future, those savings might accrue faster than first projected.

While the city's goal of reducing emissions by 7 percent is not extravagant, it puts the city on record as being concerned about its energy use and the pollution it produces. This pledge also could help make environmental concerns an accepted part of all decisions regarding city operations.

The technology already has been developed to meet the city's goal in an economically responsible way. And we suspect that over the next five years, new, better and cheaper technology will be developed to cut energy use and reduce harmful emissions.

Some predict that green will turn to gold as new profitable enterprises and entire industries arise to meet the growing need for energy efficiency and cleaner alternatives to fossil fuels. We're pleased that Rock Hill has aligned itself to be a part of that change and to become more environmentally responsible.

City is to be commended for pledging to cut harmful emissions over next five years.

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