Pennington Council will decide on commitment to carbon neutrality at March meeting

Eric Sucar

When Pennington Council members review a resolution at next month’s meeting, they will decide on whether to approve a pledge for Pennington to become carbon neutral in all operations.

The resolution will go before the Pennington Council on March 1. Pennington officials started discussing this effort to become carbon neutral more than a year ago.

“We tried to get understanding from staff on what type of impact it would have and try and get buy-in from council. My original intent was to introduce the resolution sometime in 2020 and then COVID-19 happened and obviously had to switch gears,” Mayor Joe Lawver said. “This is something we have been trying to pay attention to for a long time as we look at equipment purchases and things like that.”

He added that the commitment highlights that even a small town like Pennington can have an impact on addressing climate change.

“I think it is important that Pennington stand up and be a part of the solution here. I hope Hopewell Township and Hopewell Borough will follow Pennington’s lead,” Lawver said.

If given the green light from the council, the effort to become carbon neutral by 2035 will be a process. Lawver proposed earlier this month that the easiest goal to obtain is still committing to buy and use only renewable electricity for the municipality.

“As we make our buying decisions, we have to look at what is achievable and economically responsible for us. I believe we could. I would have to check the regulations,” Lawver said. “All of my personal electricity is from 100% renewable sources. I put that out there as we may end up having to do that because there are certain parts of our operations like our water system that are electricity intensive.”

Because Pennington does not have space and current regulations it would be difficult for the municipality to provide energy for powering the water and sewage systems by establishing solar rays or wind turbines. Both systems require a lot of electricity.

“Odds are at some point if we want to meet this goal we are going to have to make a decision to get our electric energy from renewable sources,” Lawver added. “Once we are done with building renovation of Borough Hall we will look back at solar. Twelve years ago it was not economically feasible at that point. Since then costs have come way down.”

Solar rays on Borough Hall’s roof are a hope for Lawver and he hopes that it can be achieved so the municipality can check that off for utilizing renewable energy.

Pennington officials already have solar rays on the building for public works, recently bought hybrid police vehicles, and the public works department is already experimenting with battery powered tools instead of gasoline.

Additionally, if approved, the Environmental Commission will play a significant role in the borough’s process to be carbon neutral.

“They put themselves right up front by saying that they will be responsible for first measuring how much carbon we are releasing, then coming up ideas and ways to move to carbon neutral in our operations,” Lawver said.