Tompkins County and Ulysses Certified as Climate Smart Communities

DEC Announces Two New Certified Climate Smart Communities

Tompkins County Earns Silver Certification and Town of Ulysses Achieves Bronze Certification for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Energy Use

DEC Regional Director Matt Marko presented Tompkins County officials with the Climate Smart Communities award.

This article was reposted from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation website. View the original article here.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced today that Tompkins County has achieved silver certification as a Climate Smart Community, and the town of Ulysses has become New York’s 21st Certified Climate Smart Community by achieving the bronze level. Tompkins County is the fourth community in New York State to achieve silver certification. Tompkins County was designated as the 12th Certified Climate Smart Community in 2017, when it achieved bronze certification.

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “Across the state, New York communities are already experiencing the effects of climate change, ranging from extreme storms like Sandy and Irene to rising sea levels. Thanks to efforts like Climate Smart Communities, New York is out in front, building resiliency to our changing climate county by county, town by town, and village by village, helping local governments, business owners, and residents reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change. I applaud these communities for their commitment to reducing energy use in government operations. These communities are models for others to follow, with committed teams who bridge the gap between traditional government silos and achieve an exceptional level of integration of climate concerns into daily decision making. Tompkins County and the town of Ulysses are demonstrating what is possible with committed leadership and setting the standard for municipalities across the state.”

At an event at Taughannock Falls State Park, DEC Regional Director Matt Marko congratulated Martha Robertson, Chair of the Tompkins County Legislature, and Elizabeth Thomas, Supervisor of the town of Ulysses, for their municipalities’ Climate Smart achievements. He presented each with street signs declaring Tompkins County and the town of Ulysses Certified Climate Smart Communities.

Having achieved a 53 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from its government operations from 2008 to 2014 largely due to facility improvements, Tompkins County, among its many energy-related initiatives, is working to reduce overall community emissions through a new Business Energy Advisors Program to help the commercial sector incorporate energy efficiency and renewables into expansions, renovations, and new construction. Tompkins County’s power purchase partnership with a hydroelectric facility met 79 percent of county government electricity needs in 2017, and the county is beginning to transition its fleet to electric vehicles. Tompkins County is building upon the its Energy Roadmap and its Energy Focus Area Study to update the Tompkins County Energy Strategy and achieve its greenhouse gas emission reduction goals. The County has also developed “Tools to Promote and Regulate the Deployment of Renewable Energy Systems,” a resource which provides its local municipalities with recommendations for effectively regulating renewable energy systems while also encouraging their widespread deployment. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) recently announced (link leaves DEC’s website) the completion of the largest community solar project in Tompkins County.

Tompkins County Legislature Chair Martha Robertson said, “Tompkins County thanks the DEC for recognizing our continuing efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while improving our community’s resilience to the impacts of climate change. We are proud of our leadership in reducing emissions and energy use, but we want to keep pushing the envelope. We take seriously the charge to live up to this recognition by sharing our lessons learned and working with all willing partners to combat climate change while preparing for its impacts.”

Recognized as a Clean Energy Community by NYSERDA in 2017, the town of Ulysses is currently benchmarking its energy use and has a long record of past and present energy saving initiatives at the Town level and has led the Tompkins County Council of Governments Energy Task Force that worked to implement the County’s Energy Roadmap. The town was the first in Tompkins County to adopt regulations that allowed large-scale solar projects and installed solar panels on the Town Hall and Town Highway Barn in 2013, adopted the Unified Solar Permit in 2017, and is installing heat pumps in the Town Hall that are expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 65 to 80 percent, based on energy audit projections. In addition, the town purchased a hybrid vehicle to increase gas mileage for its code enforcement department and is training its Code Enforcement Officer on green construction methods. The Town has installed an EV charging station at the Town Hall with free electric as an incentive to increase the use of electric vehicles among residents. To encourage a more walkable community, the Town has installed sidewalks and created a website (link leaves DEC’s website) for Town and County residents and visitors. The town is currently taking the lead on a county-wide effort to change streetlights to low energy LEDs, requiring setbacks from waterways in zoning to improve water quality, and adopted a natural resources inventory to guide further resource protection measures, including purchasing the Salo Habitat and a Unique Natural Area on the steep slopes of the Town to protect green space and reduce development near creeks and streams. The Town also appointed a Conservation and Sustainability Advisory Committee to help institute climate smart measures and is supporting an effort to re-plant trees near the Trumansburg Fairgrounds to replaces trees removed last year.

Town of Ulysses Supervisor Elizabeth Thomas said, “As a municipality, our job is to protect the health, safety and well-being of our residents. Signs of climate change have hit right here with washed out roads and flooded crops. The town is dedicated to not only taking steps to reduce carbon emissions but to be a model for other small municipalities to show we can make a difference. Having the guidance of the Clean Energy Coordinator for the region has helped us put thought to action.”

The Climate Smart Communities program, launched in 2009, provides guidance and technical support to communities to take locally driven climate action. The program is jointly sponsored by DEC, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, and the departments of State, Transportation, Public Service, and Health. There are 241 Registered Climate Smart Communities, representing 7.5 million New Yorkers, who have pledged to be Climate Smart Communities and are taking advantage of State agency support to mitigate emissions and adapt to climate change.

The Climate Smart Communities Certification program, announced in 2014, recognizes demonstrated accomplishments in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and adaptation to a changing climate. In addition to the Tompkins County and the town of Ulysses, DEC has designated 20 Certified Climate Smart Communities; visit the Climate Smart website to learn more and view their certification reports (link leaves DEC’s website). In 2016, Governor Cuomo announced the Clean Energy Communities initiative, which complements the Climate Smart Communities program to recognize and reward local governments for their clean energy and climate leadership.

Under Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, New York State is leading the nation in the transition away from fossil fuels to clean energy through innovative strategies including the Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) strategy and the Clean Energy Standard, a mandate to generate 50 percent of the state’s energy from renewable sources. These efforts are developing new economic opportunities and will reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2030 and by 80 percent by 2050.

New York has long been a national leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions as a partner in the nation’s first carbon dioxide trading program for power plants, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a model for the federal Clean Power Plan, as well as ongoing energy initiatives such as NY Green Bank, NY-Sun, Charge NY, NY Prize, and BuildSmart NY.

To learn more, visit the DEC website and refer to the Climate Smart Communities Guide to Local Action web page.