Editor’s Note: Over the next few weeks, D will publish a series of stories looking forward to policy, programs, and projects we’ll be watching in 2022. Next up is climate. Find the other stories here over the holiday.
In 2020, Dallas adopted the Comprehensive Environmental and Climate Action Plan, a mouthful of a strategy meant to address everything from the city’s tree canopy to its air quality, setting a carbon-neutral 2050 deadline. CECAP, criticized by some activists for not going far enough, does at least seem to have spurred action at City Hall in 2021.
It has, at the very least, brought renewed attention to other plans. (Readers of our year-end coverage will be familiar with City Hall’s many constellations of planning documents; the Dallas Plan Extended Universe.) An Urban Forest Master Plan, adopted over the summer, calls for more trees—a lot more trees—in Dallas to reduce heat, manage flooding, and improve our poor air quality. In a pat-itself-on-the-back review of CECAP’s first year, the city says it installed solar panels at some lower-income housing projects, adopted a mobility plan (there are always more plans), and chipped away at backlogs in trash and recycling collection.
The city also opened up bidding on the construction of a solar farm on a former dump in southern Dallas—only to back away (for now) after environmental watchdogs sounded the alarm over a lack of public input (also a criticism of the development of CECAP) and the possibility that the farm could disrupt wildlife near the Trinity River Audubon Center.
In February, the city celebrated the long overdue removal of Shingle Mountain, the illegal dumping ground polluting the Floral Farms neighborhood in southern Dallas—only to see heavy industry return to the site a few months later. The City Council has of late been taking a stronger stance against concrete batch plants in West Dallas, but only after years of outcry from neighbors and activists, who will continuing to push back against the heavy industry next door in the new year. A list of city climate goals for 2022 mentions “ensuring new industries are an appropriate distance away from neighborhoods.”
You can expect these old fights to continue into 2022, as well as some new ones. The city’s consideration of new regulations for gas-powered leaf blowers and other lawn equipment should prove especially contentious. The gas leaf blowers are heavy polluters and racket-makers, but they save a lot of time and hassle for landscapers. There will be a task force and public hearings and the usual rigamarole before anything is decided, but City Council members are taking this one seriously, and some major changes seem likely in the year ahead.
Dallas’ climate action plan remains more plan than action. But there are some other reasons to be hopeful for 2022, including visions of a park where Shingle Mountain was. The city has further laid out some of the CECAP milestones it hopes to clear in the coming year. Some of this goes hand-in-hand with other city plans, like mobility initiatives intended to reduce our reliance on cars.
Others stand on their own, or call for more planning and study. Get a load of “Evaluate feasibility of requiring electric vehicle-ready wiring in new construction projects,” or “Develop the Dallas Comprehensive Food and Urban Agriculture Plan.”
Dallas is a long way from net-zero carbon emissions. The last year has shown that steps forward often come with steps back. That will probably remain the case in 2022.