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Page last updated on September 7, 2021 at 1:23 pm

Happy Earth Day!  Thanks for coming out today to mark Earth Day in Bloomington.  There may be more picturesque places to observe Earth Day than a water treatment plant, but we are in the right place today. in just a minute or two, you’ll see why I’ve invited you here!

Since it was first observed in 1970, Earth Day has been a day of action as well as an important symbolic celebration of environmentalism.  The first Earth Day in 1970, marked a period of intensified environmentalism capped by the passage, just months before, of the National Environmental Policy Act, and later that year, the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency. In 1990, the twentieth anniversary of Earth Day spurred worldwide recycling efforts.  And on Earth Day 2016, the Paris Agreement, the historic commitment to climate protection was signed by 175 nations.  

In this spirit of action the Earth Day holiday has often inspired, we’re making our own commitment to environmental protection and sustainability today in Bloomington.  This is not a symbolic gesture--in light of our nation’s withdrawal from the Paris Treaty, and weakening of the EPA, the effort cities make to protect the environment is increasingly critical.  During my State of the City address in February, I proposed one way we might do our part to limit global climate change, while at the same time beefing up our own energy sustainability and self-reliance.  

Today, I am pleased to commission the initial task force being convened to consider the feasibility of a renewable energy initiative. We are beginning with a technical review component, to evaluate the technical issues and feasibility of this three-part approach, and to name initial members for this first phase. Expect 3-5 months. And produce a recommendation to proceed, or to re-evaluate as appropriate. 

This system being analyzed is three part -- would avail itself of the large portion of our locally generated waste that is compostable--according to our data, that is about 40 percent of all waste we currently direct to the landfill.  Other municipalities have more imaginative ways to repurpose that waste; we’re nothing if not imaginative, and resourceful in Bloomington, so why not us?  

The task force will consider the addition of an anaerobic digestion process at this facility here at Dillman Road -- our largest wastewater plant -- which could accept some of that compostable waste and convert it into compressed natural gas, which would not only keep waste out of the landfill, but keep all that organic matter from releasing methane--a greenhouse gas--into the atmosphere.  Having performed those great preventive goals, this process could also net us a very useful by-product: compressed natural gas (or CNG).  A fuel source that is not only renewable but substantially cleaner than diesel, CNG could ostensibly power our municipal fleet-- from Bloomington Transit buses to sanitation trucks and snow plows.  

Together with Utilities Director Vic Kelson, Bloomington Transit General Manager Lew May, Public Works Director Adam Wason, and Economic and Sustainable Development Director Alex Crowley, I have invited leading stakeholders and experts from across our community to participate in the work of this task force [do you have a name for this task force???] over the next three to five months.  During the first phase of their inquiry, the group will research the technical considerations involved in the adoption of this renewable energy system, investigate best practices of comparable systems in other cities, and map a cost analysis of this overhaul.  They will then make recommendations and widen the group to include other experts and stakeholders for the second phase.  

I’d like to introduce the Energy and Waste Task Force members now:

  • Gwen White, Chair, Bloomington Council on Sustainability
  • Nancy Obermeyer, Board Chair, Bloomington Transit
  • Brian Noojin, Campus Bus Manager, Indiana University
  • Keith Thompson, Director of Energy and Utilities, Indiana University
  • Dave Rollo, President, City Council
  • Tom McGlasson, Director, Monroe County Solid Waste District
  • Vic Kelson, Utilities Director, City of Bloomington
  • Adam Wason, Public Works Director, City of Bloomington
  • Lew May, Executive Director, Bloomington Transit

May add more….as they see fit….

There are many reasons why this overhaul might make sense now, and I’m eager to learn what this task force discovers. It’s a pivotal time -- not just in terms of global climate change, but in terms of our infrastructure here in Bloomington. Consider this plant -- the city’s largest wastewater facility.  You might say we’re at a watershed moment, if you’ll excuse the pun.  We know we have to expand this plant soon--since we need to make that investment, what is the advisability of converting to an anaerobic digester instead?  What are the costs?  What are the benefits?  Our transit system is also at a crossroads--is the fleet’s future electric or compressed natural gas?  Our renewed commitment to sustainability, as outlined in our city’s first Sustainability Action Plan, compels us to evaluate the way we provide services to make informed decisions and long-term investments that promote the sustainability of our practices -- and in turn, quality of life for many generations to come, in Bloomington, and beyond.  

Thank you.