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One of The Smoggiest Cities in The US Has Committed to 100 Percent Renewable Energy

It is now the largest major city in the midwest to make such a commitment. 

SCIENCE AF STAFF
27 OCT 2017
 

St. Louis is now the largest major city in the midwest to commit to a renewable energy future. In a unanimous decision the St. Louis Board of Aldermen approved the city's 100 percent commitment to clean, renewable energy by 2035.

 

"St. Louis' commitment to 100 percent clean energy sends a powerful signal: even in communities with long ties to coal, the benefits of clean energy are too great to ignore," said Sara Edgar, Sierra Club Organizing Manager in Missouri. 

"Wind and solar can create jobs, lower electric bills, and give the people of St. Louis a better alternative to the highly polluting coal power..."

Pollution is a serious problem in the city of St. Louis. Thanks to its abundance of coal-burning power plants, the city is considered one of the top 20 smoggiest in the country. For years, environmental organizations like the Sierra Club have been pushing the city to improve their air quality.

St. Louis has some of the highest adolescent asthma rates in the U.S., with childhood asthma representing the number one cause of emergency room visits for school aged children. 

After a 2012 report found unhealthy levels of sulfur dioxide in the city's air, the Sierra Club's Missouri chapter chair John Hickey told members of the Missouri Air Conservation Commission that the city was suffering from a public health crisis. 

 

"The science is clear," Hickey said.

"(Sulfur dioxide) limits are not being met and we can't just put our heads in the sand and say it's not happening."

Now, it looks as though the city has finally pulled their heads out of the sand. 

"This is the way of the future," St. Louis Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed told ThinkProgress.

"If we want to be a modern city, we're going to have to be a more renewable city."

Transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy in two decades will be no small feat for the city. Currently, the city of St. Louis receives less than 5 percent of its electricity from renewable sources like wind and solar. So there's a lot of work to do. 

Still, Edgar says the Sierra Club remains positive that the city is up to the task. 

"We're really going to have to have everyone in the region come together and figure out how we do this together," she said. 

After President Trump announced his withdrawal from the Paris Accord, the mayor of St. Louis promised to recommit to the agreement even without the federal government. The transition to renewables represents a major step towards fulfilling that commitment. 

"We have to lead on this, especially in these times that we are in where you see the Trump administration rolling back major initiatives all across the country," said Reed.

"Trump and these guys don't even believe in climate change. It is absolutely not fake news. But what that means is that cities, on a local level, are going to have to step up and begin to take ownership of reducing our dependence on fossil fuels."

The city plans on bring together a diverse group of people, including workers, environmentalists, business people, utility representatives and others, to create a plan for the commitment by December 2018.