Environment committee OKs strategic initiatives

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Matthew Pearson, Ottawa Citizen

The environment committee on Tuesday endorsed more than $50 million in spending over the next four years on strategic initiatives including a new sewage storage tunnel, a climate change plan and increased tree planting.

But it was several initiatives not outlined on the list — such as setting more measurable goals for reducing Ottawa's overall level of greenhouse gas emissions, divesting from fossil fuels and taking a tougher stance on the proposed Energy East pipeline — that garnered the most attention from concerned residents who spoke at the meeting.

The "elephant in the room," said one speaker, is that residents are responsible for 95 per cent of emissions in Ottawa, yet the city's proposed plan focuses only on making municipal operations more efficient.

Others urged the council to speak out loudly against TransCanada Corp.'s proposed pipeline, which would ship 1.1 million barrels of crude a day from the Alberta oilsands to refineries in Quebec and New Brunswick through 4,600 kilometres of pipeline (including parts of Ottawa).

"We should be raising a lot more concern than we are," said Lynda Kitchikeesic.

The city has been closely following the proceedings of the National Energy Board, which will ultimately decide the pipeline's fate, but has so far reserved official comment, said committee chair David Chernushenko.

He's hoping the city's position will be debated at environment committee in the fall or early winter, at which time the committee would also hear from public delegations.

As for pushing residents to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Chernushenko said the city can do its part, but much of what can be done through policy and fiscal tools must happen at higher levels of government.

"The strategic initiatives took the focus of getting our own house in order," he said.

In addition to approving the 10 strategic initiatives as presented, the committee also supported Kitichissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper's motion to add a new urban forest management strategy to the list.

It won't cost anything extra because funding for the project was previously approved in the 2015 capital budget, but Leiper pushed to have the item included as a strategic initiative to ensure the project will actually get done by 2018.

There are 63 strategic initiatives in all, totalling more than $37 million for 2015 (there's an additional $25 million each for 2016, 2017 and 2018). Council is scheduled to debate and vote on all of them on July 8.

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