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Governor Cuomo Names Tompkins County and Town of Ithaca New York's 12th and 14th Certified Climate Smart Communities

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Governor Cuomo Names Tompkins County and Town of Ithaca New York's 12th and 14th Certified Climate Smart Communities

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Model Municipalities Recognized for Actions to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Build Climate Resiliency - Supports the Governor's Goal to Reduce Statewide Emissions 40 Percent by 2030

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today recognized Tompkins County and the town of Ithaca as New York's 12th and 14th local governments to be designated as Certified Climate Smart Communities. Actions to strengthen resiliency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in these communities support the Governor's aggressive goals to reduce statewide emissions 40 percent by 2030.

"New York continues to make significant strides in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and by joining forces with communities across the state and the nation, we are combatting climate change to provide a more sustainable environment for future generations of New Yorkers," Governor Cuomo said. "I commend Tompkins County and the town of Ithaca for supporting these clean energy initiatives, and I encourage municipalities across New York to follow their lead and become Certified Climate Smart Communities."

At an event held at the Tompkins County Recycling and Solid Waste Center in Ithaca, Michael Lane, Chair of the Tompkins County Legislature, and Bill Goodman, town of Ithaca Supervisor, were presented street signs highlighting their achievement of certification. The center is the future location of a new food scraps recycling project funded by the State’s Climate Smart Communities Grant Program.

Tompkins County
Between 2008 and 2014, Tompkins County reduced its local government greenhouse gas emissions by an impressive 53 percent. During that same period, community emissions were reduced by 21 percent. These reductions are the result of building partnerships, establishing a rigorous system to track greenhouse gas emissions, set targets, and taking systematic steps to reduce emissions.

The county’s climate action program also emphasizes adaptation through initiatives such as preserving natural areas for ecosystem resiliency and incorporating climate change concerns into a multi-hazard mitigation plan. The town of Ithaca and Tompkins County have worked closely together since 2006 to develop a hazard mitigation plan that addresses the risks posed by climate change. All residents of Tompkins County and its infrastructure will be more resilient to a changing climate thanks to the depth and scope of collaborative local adaptation planning.

In addition to becoming a Certified Climate Smart Community, Tompkins County recently received funding for two projects from DEC's Climate Smart Communities Grant Program through the Environmental Protection Fund:

  • $25,000: The County received rebates totaling $25,000 under the Municipal Zero-Emission Vehicle Rebate Program for five plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. The cost of procuring the vehicles was further reduced by participation in the New York State aggregate purchase program, which is sponsored jointly by DEC and the Office of General Services.
  • $355,000: This grant will help Tompkins County reduce greenhouse gas emissions from food waste by establishing a centralized transfer station that accepts food scraps at its Recycling and Solid Waste Center. The grant will support the replacement of an existing storage building with a new specialized tipping pad designed to accept food waste.

More information about DEC's Climate Smart Communities Grant Program and Municipal Zero-Emission Vehicle Rebate Program is available here.

In April, Tompkins County became the first community in the Southern Tier to be designed a Clean Energy Community by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, highlighting its leadership in reducing energy use, cutting costs, and driving clean energy in its communities. The designation gives Tompkins County an opportunity to apply for up to $250,000 toward additional clean energy projects, with no local cost share.

Town of Ithaca
The town of Ithaca earned its certification by implementing each of the Climate Smart Community Pledge Elements through a well-rounded, comprehensive local climate action program that embraces both mitigation and adaptation. Ithaca has completed greenhouse gas emissions inventories for both municipal operations and the broader community, and has integrated sustainability – and a chapter dedicated to climate and energy – into its Comprehensive Plan. The town has also implemented adaptation actions that include protecting riparian buffers through a stream setback ordinance in its zoning code. Under the Climate Smart Community Certification system, the town showed its innovation and leadership in the unique Residential Energy Score Project, which aims to create energy scores for homes that will provide the housing market with a clear signal regarding the value of energy efficiency. RESP was made possible with support from NYSERDA.

The town also recently kicked off the Green Building Policy Project, which is studying energy and sustainability standards for new construction and ways the town and city of Ithaca could incentivize or mandate those standards.

To improve municipal operations, the town of Ithaca performed building energy audits and lighting upgrades, started transitioning fleet vehicles to hybrids, and provides composting in municipal buildings. In 2014 and 2015, the town purchased enough Green-e certified renewable energy credits to offset 100 percent of its electricity use in municipal facilities and infrastructure. As a result, about 68 percent of the total energy used in all town facilities came from renewable sources. With commitments like these, the town of Ithaca is well on its way to achieving its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from government operations 30 percent by 2020.

Tompkins County Legislature Chair Michael Lane said, "Tompkins County appreciates the recognition this Climate Smart Community certification provides for our ongoing efforts to lead by example in reducing greenhouse gas emissions while enhancing our community's resilience to the effects of climate change. It is vital for local communities to reduce emissions and energy use while preparing for climate change impacts. With the assistance of Climate Smart Communities resources, including the recently awarded grant to support a centralized food scraps transfer station at the Recycling and Solid Waste Center, Tompkins County looks forward to taking even greater strides in living up to this recognition and sharing lessons learned with other communities."

Tompkins County Administrator Joe Mareane said, "In Tompkins County, we understand the gravity of doing everything in our power today to protect the earth and the environment of tomorrow. It is our responsibility to reduce our carbon footprint so our children and our grandchildren can thrive, and we are proud to be a Certified Climate Smart Community. I thank Governor Cuomo and the State Department of Environmental Conservation for their leadership as stewards of the environment, and we in Tompkins County will continue to promote clean energy options and climate responsibility for years to come."

Town of Ithaca Supervisor Bill Goodman said, "We thank the DEC for this meaningful recognition, and thank the State for its leadership on climate issues. In the absence of federal leadership, the role of local municipalities in combatting climate change is now more important than ever. One of the town’s strategies, and a key element in sustainability efforts anywhere, is collaboration. We pride ourselves on the partnerships we maintain. For years we have shared a Sustainability Planner with the city of Ithaca. For the Residential Energy Score Project, the town of Ithaca led a collaboration of five municipalities, as well as Tompkins County and Cornell Cooperative Extension. Thank you to the DEC for recognizing our work and the power of collaboration."

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "I applaud the longstanding leadership of Tompkins County and the town of Ithaca for taking responsibility for their greenhouse gas emissions and serving as models for communities across the state. I congratulate Chairman Lane and Supervisor Goodman on their achievement of Climate Smart Communities Certification."

NYSERDA President and CEO John B. Rhodes said, "Congratulations to Tompkins County and the town of Ithaca for taking control of their clean energy future and contributing to the state's efforts to combat climate change. Local governments are at the forefront of Governor Cuomo's nation-leading strategy to ensure New York’s communities are cleaner and greener."

Chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee Tom O’Mara said, "Congratulations to Tompkins County and the town of Ithaca for their leadership in ongoing, outstanding efforts on clean energy, food waste, energy efficiency and other initiatives that enhance local climate resiliency and improve overall environmental quality. The state's investment in these locally based projects and programs remains critically important."

Senator Pamela A. Helming said, "Since the beginning, New York has made preserving and protecting our environment a top priority, and under the leadership of Governor Cuomo, we have set climate goals that will help provide future generations of New Yorkers a strong, quality home to live, work and raise a family. The initiatives these municipalities have implemented to achieve this certification are exactly the kind of sustainability and resiliency efforts needed to lay the foundation for a cleaner environment. I thank Tompkins County for their efforts and look forward to supporting communities across the state as they follow their example."

Assembly Member Barbara Lifton said, "Without leadership at the federal level, the state and communities are acting on climate. I congratulate Tompkins County and the Town of Ithaca for acting to reduce the emissions that are changing our climate and setting an example for communities across the state. These municipalities can be proud of what they've accomplished for New York and for the nation."

This announcement complements Governor Cuomo's leadership in establishing the U.S. Climate Alliance with California Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr., and Washington State Governor Jay Inslee. The three states formed the alliance in response to the federal government’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Accord. The alliance is convening U.S. states committed to achieving the U.S. goal of reducing emissions 26-28 percent from 2005 levels and meeting or exceeding the targets of the federal Clean Power Plan. Announced by New York, California and Washington State on June 1, the alliance now includes 13 members. With input from all participants, the U.S. Climate Alliance will also act as a forum to sustain and strengthen existing climate programs, promote the sharing of information and best practices, and implement new programs to reduce carbon emissions from all sectors of the economy.

In addition to Tompkins County and the town of Ithaca, 12 other local governments have completed a rigorous review process to be designated Certified Climate Smart Communities. These include Ulster County (bronze), city of Kingston (bronze), village of Dobbs Ferry (bronze), Schenectady County, city of Rochester, Madison County, town of Mamaroneck, town of East Hampton, town of Cortlandt, Orange County, city of Albany, and city of Watervliet. These communities represent New York’s foremost leaders in local climate action.