Prepared for and adopted by:
Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners
January 23, 2004
Protecting the environment for the benefit of future generations is always in the public's interest. For that reason Mecklenburg County officials have for many years tracked the state of the environment, acknowledged that intervention is necessary in the face of rapid growth, and taken actions to protect natural resources.
The first bi-annual State of the Environment Report was produced in 1987. These reports not only describe environmental conditions in the County, but also provide measures to evaluate progress, and make recommendations for action by elected officials. Many recommendations have been translated into actions such as adoption of the SWIM regulations, investments in parks and greenway systems, and expansion of mass transit.
1.0 Current Conditions
Air quality is currently perceived as our most urgent environmental concern. We anticipate Mecklenburg and surrounding counties will be designated an ozone non-attainment area in 2004. The designation will indicate that our region has unhealthy air. We will be subject to potential loss of federal highway funds. Industry in non-attainment areas may be subject to more stringent and costly environmental controls, creating a less competitive business environment.
Mecklenburg County residents intuitively know that air quality degradation is part of a larger growth management issue. In fact, adverse environmental impacts are occurring to our air, water and land resources due to population increase, and the corresponding increases in energy consumption, transportation needs, and land development.
Although the County has made, and will continue to make, significant investments in preservation and protection of natural resources, and we continue to expend resources to provide environmental services to the community and comply with environmental regulations, these actions alone will not overcome the impacts of growth. As individuals and organizations living and operating in this community, we must begin to think of compliance with regulations and providing basic services as the "floor" in terms of environmental stewardship. We must begin considering the often inadvertent and unregulated adverse environmental consequences of our actions.
2.0 Lead by Example
We have an opportunity in Mecklenburg County Government to be a leader in the region. It should be recognized that Mecklenburg County's Land Use and Environmental Services Agency (LUESA) is a unique organization. Smaller counties in the region rely on State government for environmental expertise. Mecklenburg County has realized for many years that the State has limited resources to serve a rapidly growing urban area. To supplement State efforts and meet our environmental needs, the County has developed cooperative working arrangements with State agencies to manage many environmental programs such as air quality, solid waste management, surface water quality, and stormwater management. As a result of Mecklenburg County's commitment to environmental programs, the LUESA staff includes personnel with expertise in all the major environmental media – air, water and land resources.
The expertise is in place within LUESA to optimize the environmental practices of County government operations, and make our environmental standards a model for others in the region. To achieve the leadership goal, we initially need a policy that describes the County's commitment to and expectations for environmentally sound practices in local government.
3.0 Guiding Principles
The Environmental Leadership Policy will be a statement of principles that will guide the recurring activities of County government. The following policy statement and principles are proposed by LUESA staff to serve as a basis for becoming the environmental leader in the region.
"The Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners desires that County government operate in a manner that conserves and protects our air, water and land resources, become a model of environmental stewardship for local governments, business and industry in our region, and use and apply the County's existing and future resources wisely for the benefit of its citizens.
The Environmental Leadership Policy will further the County's 2015 Vision to be "a community of pride and choice for people to LIVE, WORK and RECREATE" by establishing guiding principles for environmental performance in County government operations.
Guiding Principles for Environmental Practices in County Government
- Comply will all applicable local, state and federal environmental regulations in all County facilities.
- Practice energy conservation in all County facilities.
- Practice waste minimization and recycling in all County facilities.
- Purchase the lowest-emission vehicles practical to meet County needs.
- Include environmental considerations in purchasing decisions for goods and services.
- Acquire, maintain and preserve land to protect the natural environment
- Reuse existing buildings and infrastructure and avoid greenfield
- Require environmentally sensitive design options in all new facilities and retrofits.
- Provide employees with opportunities and incentives to practice environmentally sound behaviors.
- Actively explore the feasibility of implementing new and innovative products and/or practices that provide environmental benefits, and inform elected officials of new opportunities.
- Direct all County business units to integrate environmental considerations into their activities, and direct LUESA staff to assist business units with identifying and implementing environmentally sound practices.
- Develop a program for continuous review of County activities to insure we seek practical ways to reduce the adverse environmental impacts of our activities, and carefully evaluate new opportunities to achieve sound environmental practices in government operations.
The key components to successful policy implementation are appointment of a strong leadership team, upper management support, and allocation of sufficient time and resources to complete selected projects.
4.1 Environmental Leadership Team
An Environmental Leadership Team to be appointed by the County Manager's office will be composed of experienced managers from various departments within County government to include representatives from the manager's office and LUESA with expertise in air quality, water quality, solid waste and land use.
Middle managers will need the direction/support of the County Manager's office to justify dedicating sufficient time to insure that policy implementation results in valuable outputs. Successful implementation will also depend on appointing a strong leadership team with technical, regulatory and operational knowledge.
The Environmental Leadership Team will be responsible for the following project development steps:
- identifying County activities warranting environmental assessment;
- prioritizing projects;
- conducting evaluations/analysis (including cost/benefit analysis);
- reporting results to the Manager's office and the BOCC;
- making recommendations for action
- tracking the progress/results of projects
- publicizing project information and results to encourage others to undertake similar initiatives.
- evaluating the value/feasibility of implementing Environmental Management Systems (ISO 14001) in selected County facilities