GreenStep Cities Program Rebuffed Again in Plymouth

In a surprising move back in June, the Plymouth City Council stood up to staff and rejected a recommendation to adopt the controversial GreenStep Cities environmental program run by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

At the time American Experiment wrote about several alert citizens who notified their elected officials of the threat posed by the program just in the nick of time.

A funny thing happened on the way to the Twin Cities suburb becoming the latest domino in the  Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s “voluntary” plan to reduce its greenhouse gas footprint and make environmental sustainability the linchpin of city policy-making.

City Hall began hearing from residents who’d done their homework…

“I believe that our elected officials should make decisions on each program or change in programs. Having an all encompassing agreement like green steps removes local control and flexibility,” wrote Rolf Erickson.

Four months later, the GreenStep agenda has resurfaced at an October 22 study session of council members in the western Twin Cities suburb. This time the sales pitch came in a cameo appearance by Phillip Muessig, co-director of Minnesota GreenStep Cities program at the MPCA.

Advocates like Muessig present GreenStep as a technically voluntary program, though the 180 practices must be completed in order to officially finish it.  A quick dive into some of the details should be enough to concern any citizen or official who believes in local control of their community’s future.

The document shared with Plymouth city leaders included numerous red flags showing how far GreenStep oversteps into all phases of community life for cities that sign up.  The bizarre insider’s jargon alone (road diets, connectedness, depaving, traffic calming) should be enough to give anyone pause.  Not to mention the recommendation for some city services to be delivered on horseback?

Here’s a few examples:

Phase in bike, foot or horseback modes for police, inspectors and other city staff.

Implement traffic calming policy/measures, including road diets, roundabouts, shared space and depaving…

Limit barriers to higher density housing…

Integrate climate resilience into city or tribal planning, policy, operations, and budgeting processes.

Facilitate creation of home gardens, chicken and bee keeping…

Install, assist with and promote publicly available EV charging stations or public fueling stations for alternative fuel vehicles.

Adopt wind energy and/or biomass ordinances that allow, enable or encourage appropriate renewable energy installations.

Become a solar-ready community, including adopting ordinance/zoning language and an expedited permit process for residents and businesses to install solar energy systems.

Increase social connectedness through engagement, capacity building, public investment, and opportunities for economically vulnerable residents to improve their economic prosperity.

In an email city councilor Alise McGregor noted that Plymouth has already implemented many of the more practical provisions of the program on its own.

In reviewing the document provided by our City Engineer at our Study Session on Tuesday (10/22), Plymouth is either working on or has completed 88 of the initiatives at the local level of the total 180.  With that being 48 percent, I felt that the Staff are doing a great job to apply the initiatives to what work for our City and didn’t see a need to join the program.

The hard-sell also failed to move the needle with her collleague Nick Roehl.

As you may know, I am not in favor of joining greensteps for a multitude of reasons.  Directing staff to follow a dynamic program that we do not directly supervise, is not what we should be doing.  Residents elect people to make decisions, and we as elected officials should not in turn hand over those decisions to an unelected body.

An informal tally found the city council still split, unwilling to move ahead. But astute residents know they can not let down their guard because the MPCA and city staff will never stop looking for an opening to get the controversial program back on track.