A plan to sell more carbon credits from Astoria’s Bear Creek watershed could bring in around $1 million in revenue for the city.
On Monday, the City Council unanimously approved an agreement with The Climate Trust, a Portland-based nonprofit, to purchase carbon credits in 2020.
In 2015, Astoria entered into a voluntary carbon program. The city agreed not to aggressively harvest timber in the 3,700-acre watershed that supplies Astoria’s drinking water. In exchange, the city received carbon credits that can be used by industrial polluters to offset carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to climate change.
A deal with The Climate Trust in 2015 generated a net revenue of $1.8 million for the city. The money fed a fund for future renovation work at the Astoria Library.
The 2020 deal is expected to bring in about $1 million in net revenue and would likely go to the city’s capital improvement fund, City Manager Brett Estes said. The money could be kept in reserve and doled out for city projects and needs in the coming years, he said.
Some routine timber harvest does occur in the watershed, but future cuts are not expected to be as large as in the past, resulting in less revenue for the city.
“These (funds) could be banked to be able to offset that,” Estes said.
In an unusual move, The Climate Trust approached the city earlier this year with an offer to buy 2020 carbon credits.
“Is this contract a good value?” David Ford, a carbon credit consultant who worked with city staff on the agreement with The Climate Trust, asked the City Council on Monday. “My simple answer is, ‘Yes, it’s actually a very good deal.’”
The average price for forestry credits in the voluntary market is just over $5. “This offer is substantially higher,” he said.
The Climate Trust is interested in paying more because they have worked with the city before and are familiar with the project, Ford said. The story behind the project also provides additional value.
“You’re protecting wildlife habitat, you’re protecting a high-quality water resource,” Ford said. “So there’s more benefits there than just the carbon value itself. … It’s a higher value than what you might find elsewhere in the marketplace.”
For the 2020 deal, the city will need to complete a new forest inventory, purchase a buffer pool of credits and undergo a third-party verification and field audit of the carbon credits available.
Adding in the cost of project development and American Carbon Registry fees, City Forester Ben Hayes estimates the total cost to the city will be $400,000.
The new inventory will be completed this fall and could reveal that even more carbon credits are available, Hayes said.