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Darden Rice to represent St. Pete at Salt Lake City energy and environment summit

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

St. Pete City Council member Darden Rice will be packing her bags this Friday and heading to Salt Lake City, Utah, for a National League of Cities Summit to address environmental issues.

Rice serves as the City Council representative for the National League of Cities’ Environment and Natural Resources Policy Committee, the group meeting this weekend.

The committee will talk about federal policy initiatives and look at tested models addressing things like water infrastructure, climate change and sea-level rise mitigation and how to prepare for major storms.

According to Rice, the biggest of those issues is set to be water infrastructure. She said the EPA estimates capital costs for those projects nationwide soaring to $720 billion over the next 20 years. That translates to $20 billion annually for drinking water and $16  billion a year for wastewater.

But Rice has her own personal goal for the meeting. Salt Lake City is comparable in size and population to St. Pete. The difference in population is only a little more than 50,000 residents, according to data from 2013.

Rice hopes to talk to leaders there about their Climate Action Plan. It’s something City Council is in the process of crafting and hopefully adopting in the near future.

“That’s a biggie for me,” Rice said. “And that’s where being in Salt Lake City is going to be really cool.”

For Rice’s sake, it’d better be pretty nifty. She flies into Salt Lake City on her birthday.

Rice said the issues addressed over the weekend aren’t the sexiest of topics, but they are important.

“It’s a way for cities to have a voice at the national level,” Rice said.

She explained that federal policy could often be handed down with little impact from the local governments they most impact. The National League of Cities gives those little guys a chance to let the Feds know what works for them, what they’re capable of doing at a local level and what they need.

“We’ve got to inform them of what’s realistic and what we can do at the municipal level,” Rice said. “Some of their proposals could impact low-income residents.”

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email

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