Since its inception in 2004, Missoula’s all-volunteer Greenhouse Gas Conservation Team has sought ways to lower the city’s greenhouse gas emissions. It’s also sought a method to fund itself.
The answer to both dilemmas may be renewable energy certificates, or “green tags.” The program invites businesses or individuals who wish to reduce their carbon footprint to do so by purchasing green tags. The proceeds from the tags then go to research and development of alternative energy products elsewhere. NorthWestern Energy already runs a green tag program and after a 9–2 vote on Monday evening, the city of Missoula is following suit.
Missoula’s program will only cost taxpayers a minimal startup cost, which basically amounts to labor spent posting a link on the city website and building a separate green tags web page. The small price tag led Ward 2 Councilmember John Hendrickson to cast his vote in favor of the program despite having voted against it in committee.
“If you can make money,” he told the Greenhouse Gas Conservation Team, “go for it.”
Most of the green tag proceeds will go toward alternative energy development, but 10 percent of the cost will drop into an enterprise fund, which is spent at the discretion of the council. Marilyn Marler, the Conservation Committee chair, says the money will most likely be used to undertake more substantial alternative energy projects, but City Council will seek the team’s advice before it spends that money.
Although there is little cost to the city, Jon Wilkins and Renee Mitchell voted against the measure. Wilkins said he opposed the program because it’s redundant alongside NorthWestern’s plan, he didn’t want to waste city staff time setting up the web page and he opposes it philosophically.
“It’s upsetting to me that I can be the biggest polluter in the city but buy green tags and still feel good about myself,” he said.