City paying a premium for carbon offsets

The same city that was the first in the county to ban Styrofoam became the second in the state Wednesday to begin voluntarily paying extra on its PG&E bills to help offset greenhouses gases.

Millbrae will pay about $8,000 extra per year on its PG&E bills as an environmental impact fee on all city facilities. The money equates to about a 3 percent increase on its regular bills and is meant to help offset the environmental impacts created by greenhouse gas emissions that result from gas and electricity use.

PG&E will use the extra cash to invest in environmentally friendly projects such as forestry preservation. Millbrae’s contributions, which started immediately, are supposed to offset about 2.8 million pounds of carbon dioxide annually.

The affected facilities include the police and fire departments, City Hall, the corporation yard, the wastewater-treatment plant and the community center.

The money for the extra bills will come from various city departments associated with the buildings, Recycling Coordinator Shelly Reider said. Residents and businesses in the city can also sign up for the program, which is estimated to cost about $5 per month extra per home, or more for companies.

“As the word gets out here, more [businesses] and residents may be interested,” Reider said. “We’re leading by example.”

Millbrae, which is one of the smallest cities in San Mateo County, already banned Styrofoam from all city restaurants effective Jan. 1. It also uses grease from restaurants to produce biofuel for its treatment plant and pledged to become the first city in the county to add plastic bags to its list of curbside recycling pickups.

“The community takes this effort very seriously. Global warming is at a crisis level and we’re not going to sit by and do nothing,” Mayor Gina Papan said.

PG&E ClimateSmart manager Robert Parkhurst called Millbrae a leader with a “green vision.” He says the program, which launched in June, is the first of its kind in the country.

mrosenberg@examiner.com

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