PARK CITY The smog from this city's annual municipal carbon emissions would cover the width and length of a football field and would reach 6,300 feet into the air, according to a carbon footprint report presented to the City Council Thursday.
The 17,000 tons of emissions would require 16 square miles of forest to absorb. But the city is about on par with cities of similar size and elevation around the country, said Park City Sustainability Project coordinator Crystal Ward. And the municipality is changing its ways in order to sustain its tourism economy, provide leadership and slow climate change.
Park City needs to focus on conservation because many people can't make a difference on their own, said Councilman Joe Kernan, who is known for bicycling all over town.
The city looked only at its offices and programs for the carbon output study. The city's next step will be a community-wide study, to be ready by next spring.
Park City is the second Utah city to complete an emissions study. Salt Lake City estimated its 2005 output of carbon dioxide at 106,600 tons. The capital city hopes to cut its emissions 20 percent by 2020, 50 percent by 2040 and 80 percent by 2050.
Surprisingly, pumping water uphill is Park City's biggest pollution source. The water department emits 3,649 tons of carbon dioxide annually, compared to just 3,345 tons by the public transit department and 782 tons by employees' commuting.
The city compared its 2007 levels to its projected 1990 output. Over 17 years, the city grew by 79 percent but added 112 percent to its smog footprint, according to the report.
Next year, following building renovations and upgrades, the municipality's total emissions could decrease by 15 percent. The city is also embarking on a water conservation campaign and requiring better fuel-usage reporting of all its departments.
Completing the carbon footprint report was part of the requirements for the Mayor's Climate Protection Agreement, which the city agreed to in 2005 in an effort to meet Kyoto Protocol requirements.
The city is unlikely to meet the target of getting its emissions below 1990 levels by 2012, as required by Kyoto, but plans to set its own long- and short-term goals, Mayor Dana Williams and City Council members said during Thursday's meeting.
Park City will start with its own departments but will look at regulation and financial incentives for businesses and residents, if necessary. Councilwoman Candace Erickson said the city should start with simple peer pressure from the residents of Park City.
"Part of a government's job is to lead," said Councilwoman Liza Simpson, explaining that conservation is well within the purview of government.
In the short term, the ski town is hoping to create a wind farm on top of Quinn's Junction, near a planned hospital and housing project. The Board of Adjustment approved two towers to be used for testing this week.
"It's groovy," said Williams, who has made sustainability a hallmark of his administration.
Park City created a special office for sustainability about 18 months ago. Under the umbrella of the planning department, the sustainability staffers look at everything from open space to environmental consciousness to housing and culture."It's incumbent upon us (to be sustainable)," Williams said. "Our job is to be the voice for what the majority of the community wants. ... What is fundamentally different in Park City is that the economy is a function of the environment."