CAP Implementation Recommendations.

Over 65 individuals, a diverse team of technical experts and advisors, have collectively and voluntarily invested more than 1400 hours of their time to help our region implement the Routt County Climate Action Plan (CAP). Their work has culminated in the identification of 40 actionable projects and initiatives that best drive actions across Energy, Waste, Transportation, Land Use and Economy sectors.

All CAP Implementation Recommendations are directly tied to identified CAP Strategies. Follow CAP recommendation progress here.

Detailed summaries of all six Energy recommendations.

Recommendation 1: All CAP governments approve the IECC 2021 building code and adopt planning/zoning regulations that minimize outdoor energy use unless it is provided by a low/no carbon energy source or offset by 100% renewable energy.

Brief Description: A primary responsibility of the Routt County Building Department is to ensure that buildings and structures are reviewed, permitted and inspected in compliance with adopted Building Codes. The Building Department intends to adopt the 2021 ICC Building Codes with an effective date of January 1st, 2024. Outdoor energy use is not included in the ICC code. The Routt County code adoption process allows the addition of permitted uses beyond the ICC Code. Given the huge energy and carbon footprint of outdoor energy use (especially snow melt) the Building Department is proposing to restrict outdoor energy use in the 2021 code adoption process.

Recommendation 2: CAP governments implement an energy and carbon reduction program targeting high-energy use existing buildings based on their variance from an established energy use profile.

Brief Description: Energy auditors use a measure called Energy Utilization Index or “EUI” to enable comparisons between different buildings. EUI is the amount of energy consumed (measured in Thousands of British Thermal Units {MBTU’s}) and divided by the gross conditioned area in square feet. Identifying buildings with higher than average EUIs will enable the targeting of these buildings for energy efficiency and electrification retrofits. The intent is to identify and improve the least energy efficient buildings in the county.

Recommendation 3: CAP governments adopt policies requiring that all new municipal building construction and capital energy equipment replacements require best practice and life cycle cost decision making that includes a social cost of carbon.

Brief Description: The CAP governments have an obligation to “lead by example”. Processes and best practices have been developed to assist governments obtain the best design and equipment selection possible to meet high energy performance standards.

Recommendation 4: Engage with Atmos Energy to position Routt County as a targeted market area and implementation partner in their Clean Heat Plan scheduled for implementation in 2023.

Brief Description: In 2021, the Colorado General Assembly required gas distribution utilities including Atmos Energy to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 4% by 2025 and by 22% by 2030, from a 2015 baseline. To show that they are meeting these targets, gas utilities will file “Clean Heat Plans” or CHPs with the Commission starting in 2023. A CHP may include a mix of supply-side resources which replace traditional gas and demand-side resources which reduce the gas customers use. Together, these are called clean heat resources, and include energy efficiency and beneficial electrification programs. Atmos has been a participant in the CAP Energy Working Group and continuing this relationship through the Clean Heat program effort will be beneficial to meeting CAP goals through active efforts in Routt County.

Recommendation 5: CAP governments and partners develop a local renewable energy plan that will replace 5% of CAP baseline electricity and 5% of baseline natural gas with local renewable energy.

Brief Description: The CAP sets a broad objective of advancing the adoption of renewable or other clean energy and fuel sources. This recommendation sets a goal for developing local renewable electricity and natural gas supplies.

Recommendation 6: CAP governments develop a strategic action plan that will meet the 2050 CAP energy efficiency and beneficial electrification (BE) goals for existing residential, commercial, and industrial buildings.

Brief Description: Residential and commercial buildings account for 54% of the carbon emissions in the County. A well-developed strategic action plan will be required to identify the timeline, action items, and efficiency and electrification technologies required to reduce the carbon emissions from this building stock. This plan is intended to provide a roadmap, budget, and timeline for the successful obtainment of the broad emission reduction goals outlined in the CAP.

Detailed summaries of all six Transportation recommendations.

Recommendation 1: Adopt and implement an individual or county-wide EV Readiness plan.

Brief Description: Brief Description: The City of Steamboat Springs adopted an Electric Vehicle (EV) Readiness Plan in 2021. The other CAP governments can individually or collectively develop a similar plan for their citizens to advance EV adoption in the region.

Recommendation 2: Adopt and implement community or county-wide vehicle miles traveled (VMT) reduction plan(s) with specific goals and benchmarks.

Brief Description: Vehicle miles traveled (VMT) is a transportation planning metric that supports greenhouse gas emission reductions and improves multimodal transportation options, both key goals of the CAP. The City of Steamboat Springs has adopted a Transportation & Mobility Plan that includes VMT goals. The CAP transportation goals will be further advanced if the other participating governments individually or collectively adopt a similar VMT plan.

Recommendation 3: City of Steamboat Springs identify and pursue dedicated revenue streams, other than the general fund, to support the expansion of Steamboat Springs Transit services. Transit expansion would include increased route availability, timing and an expanded service area resulting in a 25% increase in levels of service over 2023 levels of service.

Brief Description: The Steamboat Springs Transit System is funded through the City’s general fund through sales tax revenue. Sales tax revenue fluctuates based on economic activity in the city and funding for the City Transit System is falling behind the amount needed to maintain historic service levels. The CAP identified the need to secure dedicated funding for local transit (TS1 A2 T1). The CAP also identified a goal of increasing transit ridership by 25 percent by 2030 and 50 percent by 2050.

Recommendation 4: Implement a voluntary carbon offset plan for the Yampa Valley Regional Airport (YVRA).

Brief Description: Offsetting is an action by individuals to compensate for carbon emissions. Airport travel offsets allow passengers to reduce the carbon footprint of their commercial aviation travel to the YVRA. The funds raised by the proposed carbon offset plan can be used locally to finance a reduction in emissions from community-based sources. A basic outline of this type of program can be found here.

Recommendation 5: Adopt EV readiness requirements in the next County-wide building code update process

Brief Description: EV infrastructure building codes require new buildings to include the equipment necessary to enable electric vehicle (EV) charging stations. Installing EV charging stations during construction can bring down charger installation costs by 75 percent or more compared to installing EV chargers during a building retrofit. The International Code Council (ICC) approved including EV charging requirements in the 2021 IEC building code. The CAP is recommending high EV adoption and the participating governments should consider more ambitious EV infrastructure requirements for new construction/parking spaces.

Recommendation 6: Complete the CDOT funded Regional Transportation Authority study and bring to the voters an RTA for the Yampa Valley including Steamboat Springs, Routt County and the City of Craig.

Brief Description: Steamboat Springs, Craig and Routt County have secured a full grant for the process of completing a Regional Transportation Authority feasibility study. The study will look at various transportation options, including bike and walking trails, roads, shared rides, rapid transit, a rail system, and a citywide gondola. It will include input from city and county stakeholders, including those who are transit dependent, as well as the Yampa Valley Housing Authority, health care providers, airports, large employers and others. Secure funding will be required to implement the RTA.

Detailed summaries of all eleven Waste recommendations.

Recommendation 1: All CAP governments ban single use plastics, including water bottles, straws, lids and utensils.

Brief Description: Plastics production continues to grow largely due to reliance on single use plastics. Single use plastics, used just once and then discarded, are estimated to account for about half of all plastics produced. Plastics are made from fossil fuels and the energy used to manufacture them is mostly fossil fuels which makes them a primary contributor of greenhouse gasses.

Recommendation 2: Require contracted residential hauling for trash and recycling in all CAP government jurisdictions.

Brief Description: Contracted residential hauling is a proven strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by taking trucks off the road, reducing vehicle miles traveled, decreasing wear and tear on roads and reducing fossil fuel use. Residents in neighborhoods with contracted residential hauling report benefits from trash being curbside only one day a week and reduced truck traffic through their neighborhoods. The bidding process provides an opportunity for communities to create contracts with competitive rates, terms and conditions that incentivize waste reduction and diversion, and a concise pathway for consistent recycling and compost education.

Recommendation 3: All CAP governments require residential volume based pricing for trash services in their jurisdictions.

Brief Description: Residential volume based pricing, also known as pay-as-you-throw (PAYT), is the most common strategy used by communities to increase residential recycling and composting rates. This strategy involves variable pricing based on the amount of trash residents generate, where those who generate the least amount of waste pay less, providing a direct financial incentive to reduce trash and to recycle and compost more. This system is known to create equity in comparison to single rate systems because in single rate systems those who generate less trash subsidize rates for those who generate more.

Recommendation 4: Require that all takeout materials in municipalities be zero waste.

Brief Description: Food and packaging containers are estimated to be about 45% of materials landfilled in the US. Given our tourist economy and large number of events, it is reasonable to estimate that Routt County’s rate is at least as high, and possibly higher, than the national average. Therefore, ensuring that takeout materials are zero waste (recyclable, compostable, reusable) is an effective strategy to reduce the amount of material disposed of in the landfill.

Recommendation 5: Revise municipal codes/design standards to include hydration stations in commercial buildings and public spaces.

Brief Description: Revise municipal codes to include hydration stations in high traffic public buildings and public spaces so that residents and visitors have access to water for refillable water bottles. It’s estimated that approximately 85% of water bottles end up in landfills, so using refillables instead will help to reduce overall waste, thereby reducing GHG emissions.

Recommendation 6: Establish a Community Recycling Center for collection of:
● traditional recyclables
● hard to recycle materials
● household hazardous waste
● C&D materials (bricks, dimensional lumber, windows, fixtures, doors, etc.)
● organics (food and yard waste)
Include satellite drop sites for recyclables.

Brief Description: Routt County relies solely on private infrastructure for waste and diversion services which makes our communities vulnerable to disruptions since it lacks consistent outlets for material diversion. A recycling facility is needed to properly divert materials, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and protect human health and the environment. Drop-off collection of traditional recyclables is a key component of rural recycling, producing source separated commodities that are cleaner and more likely to go towards their highest and best use, resulting in greater GHG emission reductions.

Recommendation 7: Support compost programs, including yard waste, and ensure composting is accessible to all CAP government jurisdictions.

Brief Description: Composting organic materials is a necessary action to reach Routt County’s waste diversion targets, as recycling alone will not be enough. It is estimated that with the addition of composting, Routt County’s waste diversion rate could double. Composting will require government support to make it successful. It is most effective as a GHG reduction strategy when collection is provided via drop-off, when materials are processed close to their source, and when finished compost is used locally to enhance soils.

Recommendation 8: Require that all permitted events in CAP government jurisdictions be zero waste.

Brief Description: As a tourist destination, there are many permitted events in Routt County. Events tend to produce significant amounts of waste, most of which is landfilled. Requiring that events be zero waste is a GHG reduction strategy and an excellent way to lead by example, educating the community and visitors alike about the importance of waste reduction.

Recommendation 9: All CAP governments require commercial and multi-family unit recycling in their jurisdictions.

Brief Description: To reach CAP waste targets, all entities will need to recycle and compost, including businesses and multi-family unit (MFU) properties. The 2022 City of Steamboat Springs Recycling Study projects that even with required business and MFU recycling they will only reach 25% waste diverted, well below the target of 48% by 2030 and 85% by 2050. Routt County will need all entities countywide to participate to have any chance of meeting its targets.

Recommendation 10: Require Construction & Demolition (C&D) diversion at all construction sites in Routt County.

Brief Description: It is estimated that construction and demolition (C&D) waste comprises 25 to 50 percent of all materials disposed of in landfills. With some of the highest embodied carbon, reuse of construction materials in lieu of using virgin materials, is a highly effective way to reduce GHG emissions. Material recovery through deconstruction (purposeful disassembly) is a preferred pathway that creates local jobs while decreasing GHG emissions.

Recommendation 11: Establish a regional materials recovery facility (MRF) or transfer station for commingled recyclables that is accessible to all in Routt County.

Brief Description: Recyclables collected residentially in Routt County are commingled, requiring separation at a materials recovery facility (MRF). There is one privately owned mini-MRF in the County that does not accept materials from other haulers. Our region is vulnerable since all curbside collection is commingled and no publicly accessible MRF or transfer facility exists. Sorting materials locally reduces GHG emissions from transportation and creates local jobs. There are currently significant sources of funding available to local governments to build MRF and transfer station infrastructure.

Detailed summaries of all eleven Land Use recommendations.

Recommendation 1: Develop new projects and secure funding for climate-smart agriculture practices.

Brief Description: The Inflation Reduction Act provided an additional $19.5 billion over five years for climate smart agriculture through several of the conservation programs that USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service implements. There are several eligible practices that are applicable to Routt County’s agricultural lands such as prescribed grazing practices, riparian forest buffers, and new tree establishment in pasture including windbreaks. This recommendation would entail building local capacity to assist landowners in developing projects and applying for the funding sources.

Recommendation 2: Restore wetlands and riparian areas in Yampa basin headwaters using low-tech restoration techniques.

Brief Description: Use of low-tech restoration techniques (e.g. beaver-dam analogues, Zeedyk structures, wood structures) is a proven method for re-establishing normal stream processes by reconnecting incised streams to their floodplains. Wetlands in general, and wet meadows in particular, hold the most carbon by area of any other ecosystem in the US. Even small increases in restored wetlands can have measurable impacts on regional carbon sequestration. This recommendation would entail identifying high priority areas in Routt County for this work and seeking new funding opportunities to implement.

Recommendation 3: Increase capacity to accelerate tree planting on wildfire burn areas and other forested areas with need and potential for reforestation.

Brief Description: Replanting forest lands that are not regenerating naturally presents the biggest opportunity for increasing carbon sequestration in Routt County. The US Congress recently passed the REPLANT act which will increase the amount of federal funding available for reforestation and directs the US Forest Service to plant more than a billion trees over the next decade. This recommendation entails working with the Forest Service to overcome barriers to increasing the number of tree planting projects implemented in Routt County.

Recommendation 4: Increase tree planting in urban and other residential housing areas through government urban forestry programs.

Brief Description: Urban trees not only help sequester carbon, but can also provide significant benefits to urban communities, including relief from heat, lower energy bills, improved resilience to flooding and increased opportunities for outdoor recreation. Currently, the City of Steamboat Springs is recognized as a Tree City by the Arbor Day Foundation. The Tree City program, with minimum standards, is open to any incorporated municipality. Increasing urban tree cover is not only a specific way to implement CAP goals, it can also create savings in other areas of city budgets if trees are used to help manage stormwater, reduce costs of turf maintenance, or reduce energy use for air conditioning.

Recommendation 5: Continue planting canopy trees along the Yampa to increase shading to help meet water temperature standards.

Brief Description: Restoration of riparian areas is a “no-regrets” strategy for increasing carbon sequestration while restoring ecological function. A key function of riparian canopy trees (e.g. narrowleaf cottonwoods) is shading rivers, helping to maintain lower temperatures in coldwater streams. This recommendation entails expanding the City of Steamboat Springs’ current program to support riparian tree planting and to develop a sustainable funding source.

Recommendation 6: Increase the area of wildfire risk mitigation projects (including prescribed burns) that help reduce the risk of large, intense fires that limit potential for forest regeneration.

Brief Description: Current and projected changes in climate increase the risk and intensity of wildfire in our forests. Recent decades of drought, increased insect activity, and large-scale blowdowns, have opened our forests to more regular and larger fires. Additionally, drier conditions combined with hotter fires, have made natural regeneration following fire less robust. Mitigating the risk of intense fires will require landscape scale forest treatments, across property boundaries. It will also require increased use of managed and prescribed fire to maintain forests in a condition that resists intense fires. This recommendation entails prioritizing forest areas for treatment and working across ownership boundaries to implement collaborative forest management projects.

Recommendation 7: Adopt land use regulations that establish or update appropriate wetland, stream and shoreline buffer widths and adjacent land uses and that avoid conversion of wetlands in new construction.

Brief Description: Both the City of Steamboat Springs Community Development Code and Routt County’s Zoning and Subdivision Regulations are in the process of being updated. The County’s Master Plan calls for strengthening stream and wetlands protections through updates to regulations and zoning and to apply best practices and data to inform decisions impacting sensitive ecological areas throughout the County. Protecting some of the most carbon rich habitats in the County in wetlands and riparian areas, would be an important step in implementing Strategy 2 of the Land Use section of the CAP.

Recommendation 8: Evaluate and develop smart siting/mitigation rules/guidelines for utility-scale solar development to minimize clearing of native habitat or productive agricultural lands.

Brief Description: It is expected that Routt County will see a significant uptick in applications for utility scale solar installations (greater than 1MW) as the closing date for Hayden Station approaches. This recommendation entails updating the County’s zoning and permitting regulations to insure that utility scale solar projects minimize their impact on native habitat and productive agriculture (such as irrigated lands).

Recommendation 9: Develop land clearing regulations and incentives for protecting natural habitat within new residential developments in the County and include protections for urban trees in CAP government landscaping codes.

Brief Description: As part of the County’s revised land use and subdivision regulations and upcoming municipal development codes, planners should consider new regulations related to land clearing for developments. Protecting existing forests to the greatest degree possible in areas slated for development would be an important step to avoiding increased carbon emissions. In addition, other natural habitat types, such as grassland and shrublands can hold significant carbon and clearing should be minimized of all natural habitat types in new development. Development codes in more urbanized parts of the County can include protections for trees of significance for meeting urban forest goals as discussed in Recommendation 4.

Recommendation 10: Include strong water conservation requirements, including limits on new turf installation, in updated landscaping standards and consider including in County land use regulations. Expand existing urban water conservation programs with a focus on turf replacement.

Brief Description: Water conservation is included in the CAP as a strategy to reduce energy use in treating and distributing water to households. Water conservation is an extremely important climate adaptation strategy as well, though actions to reduce use of all water (including untreated sources) are not covered in the CAP. The City of Steamboat Springs and the Mt. Werner Water and Sanitation District have a comprehensive water conservation program for existing households including outreach and education about reducing the amount of water applied to outdoor landscaping, and they are developing incentives for existing turf replacement. One new strategy would be to include limits on the amount of irrigated turfgrass associated with new developments and/or more stringent requirements for smart and efficient outdoor watering systems.

Recommendation 11: Encourage the use of Land Preservation Subdivision (LPS) Exemptions and clustered development to protect natural habitat when 35-acre subdivisions are proposed in unincorporated areas.

Brief Description: The Routt County Master Plan has a clear focus on increasing development in defined growth areas and promoting compact development wherever possible. The existing Land Preservation Subdivision Exemption process can help preserve large remainder parcels of natural habitat and help avoid carbon emissions from additional cleared land. This recommendation entails updating the standards for Land Preservation Subdivisions to increase their attractiveness with new incentives for developers.

Detailed summaries of all six Economy recommendations.

Recommendation 1: Create and incentivize green purchasing programs/policies at government and commercial levels.

Brief Description: Local governmental and institutional procurement and contracting policies can be important mechanisms for advancing other public aims, like climate action. Many cities, counties, and states across the U.S. give a preference to local businesses in their procurement decisions as a means of supporting and growing their local economies. When local governments spend their money with locally owned firms, those dollars circulate locally and boost local economic activity, employment, and tax revenue.

In addition to considering ways to reinvest back into the local economy, this recommendation is anchored on the goal to support and bolster practices and products that use low-emission processes and transportation. The Economy Working Group identified potential cost savings for bulk purchasing of goods and resources. Additional costs associated with selecting local and low-emission goods and services could be a barrier for some, the Working Group discussed the need to identify a fund or funding mechanism to support this.

Recommendation 2: Develop and expand a buy-local campaign that educates the public about and promotes businesses that use low-emission production and transportation practices.

Brief Description: Buying local goods and services supports locally owned businesses, employs local workers and builds relationships between consumer and producer. On average, 48-75% of funds spent at local businesses are reinvested back into the local economy in the form of wages, charitable donations, taxes which fund city services, and purchases of goods and services from other local businesses.

Buying local has many benefits, but buying local does not always mean lower emissions. Transporting produce 30 miles versus 3000 miles does lower emissions generated by transportation, or food miles, but food miles comprise less than 20% of the emissions generated in food systems: the majority of emissions are generated through production and transportation. This recommendation seeks to develop and expand a
“buy local” campaign that educates the public about and promotes businesses that use low-emission production and transportation practices.

Recommendation 3: Perform a feasibility study that examines a regional circular economy.

Brief Description: A circular economy is an economic system based on business models which replaces the end-of-life concept, or “waste products,” with reducing, reusing, recycling, and recovering materials. When adopting a circular economy, economic activity rebuilds itself over time. The Colorado Department of Local Affairs Roadmap (2022) identifies Light Manufacturing as a key strategy for economic diversification, and identifying manufacturing niches that are best suited and/or exist in the region and promote the growth of these types of businesses. The Working Group identifies opportunity in assessing light manufacturing opportunities that look at ways to utilize and add value to already-produced waste products, which would cut down on the cost of raw materials and reinvest economically in the region.

Recommendation 4: Support and incentivize sustainability and carbon neutral/low emission zones in Industrial Parks and Industrial Zones.

Brief Description: The Colorado Department of Local Affairs Roadmap (2022) identifies supporting the growth of Light Manufacturing industry important for economic diversification needed after the energy transition away from coal. Specifically to: (i) work
to expand the availability of industrial space in the region to support the growth of new and expanding manufacturing businesses; (ii) identify lands best suited for industrial uses in land use plans; and (iii) identify and fund infrastructure improvements that can
make industrial sites more development ready.

The production phases of manufacturing account for the majority of GHG, many emissions of which can be reduced by increasing energy efficiency in buildings, using low/no-carbon energy sources for heating, cooling and processing, etc. There is a need for economic development pursuits to bolster light manufacturing through the creation and development of industrial parks and zones, but industrial zones themselves need to support and advance the lowering of embedded carbon in goods/services that are produced there. The Economy Working Group sees a need and opportunity to engage the Energy, Transportation, Waste and Land Use Working Groups to develop
implementation steps that make industrial parks and zones low-carbon energy, transportation and waste systems.

Recommendation 5: Identify and pursue initiatives that support clean economy workforce development.

Brief Description: High costs of living and housing market prices pose barriers to recruiting and retaining workforce capacity in Northwest Colorado. As the region transitions away from coal, workers employed by the power plants will need assistance to locate new positions or reskill to fill other positions. The burgeoning new energy economy brings demand for skilled and unskilled labor that is currently unfulfilled. Both the Economy and Energy Working Groups identify value in having all CAP governments establish a county-wide funding mechanism to support countywide annual trainings and recruiting efforts for skilled contractors and design professionals focused on energy efficiency, renewable energy and electrification practices and technologies that support CAP carbon reduction goals. The Colorado Department of Local Affairs Roadmap (2022) identifies Workforce Development as a priority for facilitating economic recovery and resilience, specifically Entrepreneurship Support; Education/Skill Training and Workforce Support. Connecting the CAP, new industry opportunities and workforce gaps with resident students and professionals will be key for overcoming barriers to CAP implementation and workforce capacity. Supporting technical training and education programs, along with internships and apprenticeship programs, will be an important focus for the coming years.

Recommendation 6: Expand Colorado Green Business Network of the Yampa Valley program in order to educate, provide technical assistance and recognize more businesses to grow a clean economy.

Brief Description: There is a rising opportunity and need for businesses to lead system-wide reductions of carbon emissions by using more sustainable materials, increasing the efficiency of energy use, developing new climate-friendly products or services, and more. The Colorado Green Business Network of the Yampa Valley (CGBN-YV) was launched the summer of 2022 as a free, technical assistance and environmental recognition program. The program is run by the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council (YVSC), a regional partner of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) Green Business Network (CGBN). The goal of the program is to connect businesses who want to distinguish their processes and products by environmental and sustainability performance with technical resources and tracking platforms to do so.

This recommendation seeks to expand the CDPHE-based platform and current CGBN-YV offerings to develop a robust partnership-based program that increases reach, recruitment, education opportunities, technical support and networking benefits in order to enhance the overall economic and climate benefits of the program. The Economy Working Group has identified partners in the Yampa Valley to lead the scaling up: YVSC and RCEDP, with Steamboat Chamber supporting. YVSC currently funds part-time administration of the CGBN-YV program, but additional funds are needed to expand staff and entrepreneurial training and operational opportunities.