Lincoln Park could lead way, as Duluth works to reduce carbon emissions

Duluth is one of just 22 cities in the nation picked to participate in a federal energy pilot program.

Lincoln Park Solar Garden
The Lincoln Park Solar Garden on West Michigan Street near the Point of Rocks celebrated its grand opening in October 2020.
Contributed / Minnesota Department of Commerce
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DULUTH — Lessons learned in Lincoln Park could inform how the city of Duluth as a whole attempts to tackle climate change.

Thanks to an $18 million Department of Energy pilot program, Duluth will gain access to technical assistance as it develops an action plan for one of its most disadvantaged neighborhoods.

"We're trying to look at a smaller portion of the community, so the complexity can be managed," said Jodi Slick, CEO of Ecolibrium3, a Lincoln Park-based organization focused on improved neighborhood equity and sustainability. "But even from the beginning, the real intention is that the work that happens here can inform programs and projects and approaches that the city could take and honestly, even beyond that," she said.

Slick expects that, as one of just 22 communities chosen to participate in the Department of Energy's LEAP program, Duluth will receive what she predicts will be "at least $500,000 worth of technical consulting out of this to create well-supported shovel-ready plans, which of course is really important, as we know infrastructure dollars will be available."

"For getting us to the point where we could easily apply for funding. That's one of the key outcomes," said Duluth's Sustainability Officer Mindy Granley, chiming in.


Slick said the city hopes to create "a five-year blueprint" to help the neighborhood transition away from fossil fuels. But she acknowledged there is much to do in a community filled with century-old homes often heated with inefficient furnace systems, including some that still burn fuel oil.

Workers at Lake Superior Warehousing unload wind turbine blades from the Kurt Paul in May 2016.
Steve Kuchera / File / Duluth News Tribune

Lincoln Park's port operations are another area where Slick hopes to see strides made in reducing neighborhood carbon emissions through electrification.

"I think the reason why the DOE was interested in this project is because Lincoln Park really is a microcosm. We've got a huge highway and that type of transportation. We need to figure out things like how to get more electric vehicles on the road. We have the port. We have light industry. We have heavy industry. We have traditional 'Main Street' -type small businesses on West Superior Street, and then we have a real mixture of housing," Slick said.

"And all of that is happening in an area where we have high energy burdens, some high levels of air pollution and an area of pervasive poverty. So, if we're going to apply resources and figure it out, let's start here," she said.

Citing a climate action work plan that the city developed and published in February, Granley said some of the most vulnerable populations include "people who don't own a car, the elderly, as well as people who are below the poverty line and don't have many resources."

"So, when you think about climate change and climate transition, trying to serve those who are most vulnerable first is a priority for the city," Granley said, thanking Ecolibrium3 for bringing a slate of 15 partners to the table as the work begins.

A resolution passed Monday calls for the development of an action plan.

Peter Passi covers city government for the Duluth News Tribune. He joined the paper in April 2000, initially as a business reporter but has worked a number of beats through the years.
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