LeAnn Magee: Making the Case for Renewables in Dollars & Sense

Abita Springs is nestled in the piney woods of St. Tammany Parish, just east of Covington and north of Mandeville. The town has a well-earned reputation for clean are and sparkling clean artesian well water. St. Tammany has a reputation for being one of the most conservative parishes in Louisiana, yet in Abita Springs the Republican mayor and town aldermen have committed to move their town to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030.

The town is one of just over 100 U.S. municipalities who have signed onto the Sierra Club’s “Ready for 100” pledge to pursue full renewable energy for their communities. The group made a splash at the recent U.S. Conference of Mayors’ meeting in Miami, where tidal flooding has become a reality even while some political leaders profess to be climate change skeptics.

LeAnn Magee, founder of Abita Committee for Energy Sustainability, attended the Mayors’ Miami meeting with a small delegation of her co-horts. Abita Springs Mayor Greg Lemons is, it turns out, a long-time Sierra Club member and, MaGee says in the interview, enthusiastically embraced the idea of the town making the commitment to sustainable energy.

Some of the town aldermen were skeptical but were won over when they learned that one of elements of the program was conducting an audit of public building energy usage. Helping the town reduce its cost of operating by reducing what it spends on energy had great appeal and the town was off and running.

Magee comes by her environmentalism honestly (she’s originally from Oregon but has been a St. Tammany resident for all of this century). Others came to the cause as a result of the anti-fracking fight in St. Tammany that flared over a three-year period when Helis Oil sought to frack in the parish.

As a result of that long fight (no fracking occurred after a test well was drilled), some in the St. Tammany anti-fracking movement were looking for something positive to get behind. They found it in the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 movement. Abita Springs is the first Louisiana municipality to sign up for the program.

For the naysayers out there, it’s worth noting that having a goal does not mean you’ve accomplished it, but having a goal is essential to accomplishing it. Abita has aimed high, setting a standard that other Louisiana municipalities in this climate change threatened state would do well to emulate.

We talk about Abita’s commitment and the thrill of environmentalists advocating for positive change.