First of its kind in Fairfax County to undergo final consideration in September 


Fairfax County is developing its new Community-wide Energy and Climate Action Plan (CECAP), the first of its kind in the county. The plan is set to reduce collective carbon emissions amongst residents, businesses, organizations and others, according to the county website. 

“The overarching goal is to achieve carbon neutrality in the Fairfax County community by 2050,” said Ali Althen, spokesperson for the Fairfax County Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination. 

Althen also noted that CECAP has been a long time coming, saying, “It’s actually been in development since January of 2020 …  it’s coming in front of the Board of Supervisors in mid September for final consideration and acceptance.”

Between 2005 and 2018, greenhouse gas emissions community-wide in Fairfax County decreased by 13 percnet, according to a fact sheet by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. In 2018, energy consumption made up 49 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, while transportation and mobile sources accounted for 44 percent. 

The CECAP working group — which formed in October 2020 — is nearing the end of its role in the project, Althen explained. 

The working group collaborated with the Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination, as well as the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and the management consulting firm ICF, to set the content of the plan.

Althen explained that CECAP is essentially the roadmap for Fairfax County to reach that goal of carbon neutrality.

“It describes 12 different strategies that will help us get there, and they include things like increasing our energy efficiency in buildings or increasing the use of public transit or electric vehicles,” she said. “And some of these actions are really specific to individual residents, and some of them are more suitable for businesses. And the report does outline which actions are best for which audience.” 

The development process for CECAP is divided into five sections, some of which will occur simultaneously. 

“There are a lot of considerations around — you know, putting a plan like this into place — ‘how are we going to make it work for everybody?’ And I think the working group did a really good job of identifying actions, strategies that are applicable across the board,” Althen said. “They’re not specific to Tysons or specific to Reston or Springfield. They are applicable to everyone here and everyone can take part.” 

Althen also said that once the plan is accepted, it will enter a new phase “that will include more outreach, more public education, more programs to support the goals of the plan.”

However, the plan has been met with some criticism. 

Springfield District Supervisor Patrick Herrity, while he believes the plan has the best intentions, wishes that the financial impact on county residents would be properly addressed. “My disappointment has been that it — we haven’t gotten a lot of fiscal impact statements from staff on what it’s going to cost,” he explained. 

Focus group input for the Springfield District from February 2020 also conveyed that different residents have different attitudes regarding climate change and greenhouse gas emissions — particularly when it comes to potentially having to pay for change. 

Herrity, in an email, also noted that there “is the need not to move to things like electric busses too rapidly as technology is rapidly developing and not market competitive yet, but it will be and we don’t want to make investments for technology that will be obsolete in five or fewer years.” 

“I think the board majority will likely march on and approve a lot of this and figure out how to pay for it later,” he said. 

Althen acknowledged that “there are a number of residents who have voiced questions or concerns about equity, which is very valid.” She explained that these residents want to ensure that anything that could potentially require taxpayer dollars to fund is benefiting all taxpayers. 

In addition to CECAP, the county is developing Resilient Fairfax, an initiative that aims to address the impacts of climate change.

 “This is a little bit more driven by county government, and staff and political leadership coming together and moving it forward,” Althen said. “It does take into account the expertise and opinions of industry professionals.”

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