Chester County is going green.
The county last week announced the formation of a 64-member Green House Gas Reduction Task Force that will recommend to the county commissioners ways to deal with climate change and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The panel is patterned after a similar effort in Montgomery County, said Steve Fromnick, director of facilities management for Chester County, who heads the project here.
Like their Montgomery County counterparts, Fromnick said his group can't force anyone to do anything and will leave any issues that involve money or taxes to elected officials, the commissioners.
The task force only can make recommendations that the county itself can adopt for its operations - for example, making greater use of wind or solar power - and try to inspire citizens and the county's municipalities to follow suit.
Greenhouse gases are believed by many scientists to contribute to global warming, though the county press release about the task force did not use those words. One of the major causes of greenhouse gases is the burning of fossil fuels.
As an example of an issue that the task force would look into, Fromnick said that not all municipalities in the county have recycling programs and that those that do often have different standards in terms of what material they accept.
He said the task force would hold its first organizational meeting in early January and hoped it would soon set up a schedule of public sessions and set a deadline to finish its work and turn over its report to the commissioners.
One challenge facing the panel is that there seems to be no formal record of the amount of greenhouse gases that Chester County produces.
A 2004 survey of Montgomery County, much larger than Chester County, said it produced 13.1 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents that year.
Fromnick said he was counting heavily on the expertise of panel member Bob McKinstry, a Chester County resident who practices environmental law at the Ballard Spahr firm. McKinstry was co-chairman of the Montgomery County panel that produced the "Greenprint" climate change action plan adopted earlier this month.
McKinstry is one of nine members of the Chester County panel that will serve as a steering committee, Fromnick said. The panel will be broken up into subcommittees that will deal with specific topics such as recycling, transportation, agriculture and waste management.
The county invited residents to apply to serve on the task force and everyone who applied was accepted, Fromnick said. In his job as facilities manager, he is responsible for all the county's physical assets, from the courthouse to district justices' offices.
Fromnick, who will preside over the operation, is a 59-year-old resident of Birmingham Township. Before joining the county, he worked in the petrochemical industry.
Although environmental issues have often been a bone of contention between Republicans and Democrats, Patrick O'Donnell, the Democrat who serves with two Republicans on the Board of Commissioners, said he was happy with the task-force plan.
"I have a great deal of confidence in Steve Fromnick," he said.
O'Donnell added that everyone had agreed not to have the phrase "global warming" in the task force's name to avoid politicizing its work.
The task force
The other eight members of the task force steering committee besides McKinstry:
Bob Watts, executive director of the Chester County Solid Waste Authority.
Tom O'Donnell, civil engineering consultant and member of the Governor's Agricultural Renewable Energy Council.
Paul Spiegel, professional engineer and vice chair, West Goshen planning commission.
Duncan Allison, president-elect of the Brandywine Valley Association and chairman of the Chester County Agricultural Development Council.
Charles Shorten, professional engineer.
Russell Rickards, retired physics professor at West Chester University.
Victoria Will, vice president, regulatory and environmental and safety, for Exelon Power.