After a passionate discussion before a big crowd, the Plymouth City Council on Tuesday voted 4-to-3 against participation in the controversial GreenStep Cities climate change program overseen by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). The outcome in Minnesota’s seventh largest city was being closely monitored by cities throughout the state as a bellwether of the program’s appeal.
The MPCA program urges local governments to factor environmental sustainability into everything from budgets to ordinances, land use and long-range planning. A growing network of grassroots opponents, however, views GreenStep as a drain on city resources, risk to taxpayers and threat to local control.
American Experiment policy fellow Isaac Orr was among those who spoke in opposition to GreenStep before the Plymouth City Council at the request of several residents. Orr ticked off a list of potential negative consequences, such as energy efficiency codes that result in additional cost that may never pay for themselves.
“Many of the steps in the GreenStep program will create onerous regulations on businesses and homeowners, infringe on their private property rights and potentially transform the soul of the city,” Orr told city councilors. “You will want to consider these factors before making your final decision on this program.”
The GreenStep program includes more than two dozen so-called Best Management Practices with 175 potential actions and lots of paperwork. It starts out as a voluntary program but monitoring and reporting becomes mandatory later in the initiative. A sample of the recommended options for cities to adopt includes limiting parking places, reducing salt use in winter, mandates and bans on consumer products and packaging, monitoring wood burning in fireplaces, keeping chickens and bees, even phasing in “bike, foot or horseback modes for police, inspectors and other city staff.”
The program’s rejection in Plymouth comes as part of a growing backlash against GreenStep in both the metro area and greater Minnesota. Numerous residents on both sides of the issue addressed the council.
“Everyone agrees making Plymouth an environmentally better place to live is what we want and what we need,” said resident Gary Porter. “What we’re concerned about is that our elected officials are making the policies so that we can hold them accountable if they get out of line.”
In the end, Plymouth City Councilors decided they didn’t need another layer of government, having already implemented several actions recommended under GreenStep.
“I’m having a hard time getting where there’s a tangible benefit to this,” said Mayor Jeffry Wosje just before voting against GreenStep. “Because to me, it’s not going to change what we decide in the future one way or another. We’re going to decide what’s in the best interest of Plymouth.”