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Joe Parisi-climate change announcement

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announces funding in 2017 budget for climate change efforts at a press conference at the Alliant Energy Center Thursday.

Contrasting the state of Wisconsin and Dane County’s approach to addressing climate change, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced Thursday he is proposing more than $2 million in solar development in his 2017 budget.

“In Dane County, we will act and we will act now for the present danger we face from flooding and for the legacy we leave to our children,” Parisi said.

Under Parisi’s plan, the $2 million included in the soon-to-be-announced proposed budget would triple the county’s total solar energy production next year. Parisi is expected to unveil his budget next week.

The plan includes installing solar panels on the Dane County Job Center and on top of the Alliant Energy Center, including the marquee. Combined, the panels are estimated to cut direct energy costs by over $2.1 million over the next 20 years.

Next year, the panels are expected to save the county $82,000 in electric costs, Parisi said. The project is slated to be completed next year.

Parisi is also proposing creating an office of energy and climate change, which would be housed within the county executive’s office. This office will lead public and private efforts across the community and will work with the new Dane County Council on Climate Change. 

In addition to climate change prevention efforts, his budget will also include $1 million to replace culverts, which are expected to ease challenges with flooding, Parisi said. 

“There’s no reason not to protect the environment, improve your economy, give good jobs to people,” Parisi said. “I think that’s how our taxpayers want our dollars invested.”

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In February, Gov. Scott Walker ordered state agencies not to prepare for federal climate change regulations — known as the Clean Power Plan — that would require Wisconsin utilities to cut carbon emissions from power plants.

His order followed a Supreme Court decision to put those regulations on hold while an appeals court considers challenges from 27 states, including Wisconsin, that the rules are illegal.

“To me, the governor’s head-in-the-sand approach to climate change is irresponsible, and if the state is not going to act, local government is going to have to continue to lead as they have in the past,” Parisi said.

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Abigail Becker joined The Capital Times in 2016, where she primarily covers city and county government. She previously worked for the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and the Wisconsin State Journal.