Imagine a San Antonio with an abundance of walkable streets, beautiful green space all around, and cleaner air to breathe. It’s a vision that drives the mission behind SA Climate Ready—a collaborative effort launched to build a plan to reduce our emissions and prepare our city for the impact of climate change. The City of San Antonio, the University of Texas at San Antonio, research & consulting firm Navigant, and CPS Energy, are key partners in leading the SA Climate Ready initiative. The group is currently hosting open houses to gather community input on what is called a Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP).
Maintaining our environment is simply in CPS Energy’s DNA. The environmental sustainability department took root in the overall operations of the company back in the early 1970’s. Joe Fulton was the first director of this brand new part of the company. Hired as a nuclear engineer, he was transitioned to environmental as new regulations were passed, changing how utility companies produce energy. Fulton was ready and willing to take on the challenge. Back then, he had no idea the strong foundation he was setting for future CPS Energy employees.
Senior Director of Environment Planning & Compliance Kim Stoker, Angela Rodriguez, Interim Director of Climate & Sustainability, and Carla De La Chapa of Climate & Sustainability represent CPS Energy among the key partners of the SA Climate Ready initiative. It was a no-brainer to them that developing a Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP) would be no easy feat. The process involves tedious scientific research and most importantly, rigorous stakeholder and community engagement. In addition, the methodology of determining how best to initiate a greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory and climate projections is constantly improving. This means that SA Climate Ready is a living, breathing and ever-changing process that will continue to grow over time. Do you see what they mean by, “no easy feat?”
“For me most importantly, it’s a subject matter that I’m really passionate about,” said Carla De La Chapa, who has worked in other departments, but truly found her home in climate and sustainability. “So to be working on it, not only do I care about it personally, but professionally it makes me feel real great to be doing something helpful for the community and the environment.”
The trio dedicated to this citywide initiative work like a well-oiled machine at this point. Assuring that CPS Energy is represented in every single aspect of the process. Having a combined 53 years of CPS Energy knowledge and experience certainly helps as well.
“It’s important to engage with the public firsthand and to hear their ideas and potential solutions, plus innovative new ideas that we can incorporate into our strategy,” said Angela Rodriguez, Interim Director of Climate & Sustainability. “For the past 11 years or so my job has been making the air cleaner for our community by tackling the criteria pollutants that you can actually put controls on power plants to reduce. I think of greenhouse gases (GHG) and carbon dioxide (CO2) as the final frontier of emissions that have to be reduced. SA Climate Ready gives me a way to have an impact on that.”
Dedicating nearly 30 years to CPS Energy, Angela and Carla look to Kim as an oracle with her endless well of knowledge. She may also be one of the fastest walkers at CPS Energy, as she heads to environmental meetings downtown on a regular basis, where she works with key city partners.
“We have a long-time working relationships on air quality and other environmental issues,” said Kim Stoker, Senior Director of Environment Planning & Compliance, as she spoke to the SA Climate Ready partnership. “We all want to educate and share information with our customers about our environmental and sustainability programs, energy generation, energy conservation, and how CPS Energy continues to lower our carbon intensity to reduce our impact on the environment.”
CPS Energy has a history of collaborating for the good of the environment. The company is seen as a model in the industry regarding how utilities should operate in major cities. For instance, CPS Energy avoided depleting the Edwards Aquifer to operate its power plants by using recycled water that comes from SAWS’ sewage treatment plants. It’s a partnership that continues to grow to this day.
It was announced last August that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designated Bexar County’s air too polluted to meet a federal standard for ozone, giving the city a marginal non-attainment designation. The clock is ticking as the plan to get San Antonio’s ozone levels down within three years is well underway. This makes the SA Climate Ready initiative an incredibly significant component to the overall city effort to address ozone. Kim Stoker and the entire environmental and climate sustainability team will be a part of this effort every step of the way. The team is also grateful to have Lisa Clyde, Interim Senior Manager in Environmental & Sustainability, who compiled a wealth of data for the GHG inventory for UTSA and Navigant.
Do you want to get involved? A great first step would be to attend one of the SA Climate Ready Open Houses hosted by the City of San Antonio’s Office of Sustainability. Share your thoughts on San Antonio’s first CAAP and be a part of the solution. You can also host a meeting in your neighborhood, on your campus, or with your congregation. Learn more here.