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Rising Sea Level Creates Tough Development Choices

by Don Knapp Nov 15, 2009

Maryland Sea-Level Rise Scenario

Sea-level rise planning map for State of Maryland. Click for the larger version.

You know those alarming GIS maps that show parts of South Florida or the eastern seaboard swallowed by sea-level rise? You could make a case that they're a bit misleading, because states and local governments are likely to take action to keep waters from encroaching on coastal developments. The questions are, Where should shore protections (bulkheads, dikes, etc.) be utilized? To what extent will they be utilized? And what will be their impacts? A new study and series of maps take this discussion to the next level.

The study, based on a $2 million EPA research project and conducted in collaboration with regional planning councils and 130 local governments in 13 states along the East Coast, mapped out where shoreline protections will likely be added to shield current and future development (under a business-as-usual scenario with current land-use policies), and where land may remain undeveloped and wetlands allowed to migrate inland naturally.

Study authors found that on average, along the East Coast, approximately 60 percent of land within one meter of current sea level is expected to be developed, and will surely require coastal protection over the next century. About 10 percent will be preserved, and the other 30 percent will likely be left undeveloped. In New Jersey, about 81 percent of the land will be developed. A big takeaway: More people are moving to lowland areas that will be inundated with water if left unprotected.

New Jersey Sea-Level Rise ScenarioThe problems with expanding shoreline protections are numerous. They may put coastal ecosystems in jeopardy, altering wildlife habitat and eliminating wetlands and tidal marshes--which also offer protection from flooding and beach erosion. In fact, the study authors argue, the cumulative effects of shoreline protections could violate the Clean Water Act. And let's not forget about the lessons from Katrina: Coastal barriers can fail catastrophically.

So there are hard choices ahead: deciding which land to give up to the sea and which to fight for; balancing the protection of homeowners with the preservation of habitat. The study's collection of maps for each state will be an asset for planners wrestling with these issues.

Charleston Sea-Level Rise Scenario

Lead study author James G. Titus, the EPA's sea-level-rise project manager, added the following:

The idea [with this study] is to motivate dialogue on where we should protect and where we should allow wetlands to migrate inland. So now, any stories about responding to sea level rise can have two types of maps: the standard elevation or shoreline change map, plus the map delineating the choices.

Titus' findings were published earlier this month in Environmental Research Letters as an article, "State and local governments plan for development of most land vulnerable to rising sea level along the U.S. Atlantic Coast." You can view and download the study results, related resources for scientists and planners, and the entire collection of maps, at


Charleston, SC, sea-level rise planning map. Click for

larger version.





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ICLEI's Jen Ewing Talks to CNN Radio

by Don Knapp Nov 12, 2009

New York Skyline

What can cities across the country learn from New York's climate protection measures? If a city reaches a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent, what will it look like? How will it be different than today?

ICLEI's New York-based Project Manager, Jen Ewing, shares a few thoughts with CNN's Steve Kaustenbaum. Click below to have a listen, at around the 2:20-minute mark.

View Full Clip

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Communicating Your Energy Efficiency Successes

by Don Knapp Nov 03, 2009

Street sign of opportunity

Cities and counties need to show that the stimulus funds they received were money well spent. A new communications guide from Resource Media, "Framing Energy Efficiency as a Smart Stimulus Investment," shows them how to do it, and is a must-read for local government staff. The guide's introduction explains why:

Action Resources IconThe flood of stimulus projects breaking ground over the next 12 to 18 months offers an unprecedented opportunity to promote energy efficiency as a forwardlooking investment that saves energy and money for consumers and taxpayers while creating jobs. Every project announcement, launch and completion offers an opportunity to reinforce the values of energy efficiency in concrete ways that people can relate to their own lives. Promoting positive stories can also help keep energy efficiency above the fray of skepticism and attacks on the ARRA as a whole.

Download the guide to read recommendations to promote positive media coverage, case studies, and sample materials.

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Local Action Roundup

by Don Knapp Nov 02, 2009

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Building Codes Set for Energy Efficiency Boost in 2010

by Cyrus Bhedwar, ICLEI Southeast Manager Nov 02, 2009

Green House Amoungst the Gray

Code officials, builders and a variety of other stakeholders gathered in Baltimore in late October to take the next steps to advance energy efficiency through building codes. The short story?  The International Energy Conservation Code Development Committee voted through proposals that set the stage for the 2012 energy code to exceed the 2006 code by nearly 30 percent.

For more detail, check out the Energy Efficient Codes Coalition website ( including their press release on the achievements. What’s next? One more vote in 2010 will determine whether these measures are adopted as a final ruling.  Stay tuned to the Local Action Blog in 2010 as we monitor developments and feed you the information you need to support energy efficient building codes.

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ICLEI's Latest Analysis of the Senate Climate Bill

by Don Knapp Nov 02, 2009

ICLEI Analysis of Senate Climate Bill 11.3.09ICLEI USA is working hard to keep local governments in the loop on Congress' rapid progress on federal climate policy. Our D.C.-based policy analyst, Art von Lehe, has burned the midnight oil to draft his latest detailed analysis of the Senate climate bill.

This key document highlights local government provisions in the Chairman’s Mark of S.1733, the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, or Kerry-Boxer, which was released on Oct. 27. The analysis also provides point-by-point comparisons between the Chairman's Mark bill and the first draft of the Senate bill, as well as the House bill (ACES).


small green arrow icon Download the Analysis Now


You can also skim the bullets below for a quick overview of where the bill is relevant to local governments.



Funding for Local Governments

1) Direct funding for the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants Program
2) Local governments could apply for funds to recognize previous climate actions
3) States to administer 12.5% of State Climate Change Response (SCCR) funds for adaptation
4) States to administer 25% of state recycling programs funds

Grant Programs with Local Government Eligibility

5) Water Efficiency and Conservation Grants
6) Water system adaptation grants
7) Renewable Energy Grants in states with goals for renewable energy
8) Advanced natural gas technologies grants
9) Transportation efficiency grants
10) Air pollution control agency grants

Other Funding Opportunities for Local Governments

11) Green economic development funding for economically distressed areas
12) Efficient stoves replacement program funds
13) Climate health impacts planning funds
14) Retrofit program for buildings could be administered through local governments
15) Funding for MPO transportation related GHG planning and implementation
16) Offset projects credit, a possible source to fund local government innovation
17) Funds to support GIS database development for fish and wildlife corridors

Programs and Assistance to Empower Local Governments

18) Water utility adaptation research assistance program
19) WaterSense Program partnerships
20) Flood programs to provide direct assistance to local governments
21) Building efficiency benchmarking assistance program
22) National programs and services to provide climate change adaptation information
23) National climate change adaptation strategy for natural resources
24) States with natural resources adaptation plans would receive funding
25) Natural resources adaptation technical assistance program
26) Local communities assistance to prepare for increased wildfires


Reducing GHG pollution

27) Empowers state and local governments to set GHG emissions standards for taxis
28) Creates a national program to increase energy efficiency in buildings codes
29) GHG reporting requirement for regulated and some non-regulated entities
30) Establishes a cap and trade program to reduce GHG pollution from the biggest sources
31) State cap and trade programs preempted between 2012-2017
32) No GHG standards for unregulated sources such as landfills at least through 2020

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