Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative
The TCCPI Newsletter

January-February 2017

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Welcome to the January-February 2017 issue of the TCCPI Newsletter, an electronic update from the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative (TCCPI).

Photo by Barbara Friedman licensed under  CC by-NC 2.0.

TCCPI is a multisector collaboration seeking to leverage the climate action commitments made by Cornell University, Ithaca College, Tompkins Cortland Community College, Tompkins County, the City of Ithaca, and the Town of Ithaca to mobilize a countywide energy efficiency effort and accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy . Launched in June 2008 and generously supported by the Park Foundation, TCCPI is a project of the Sustainable Markets Foundation.
We are committed to helping Tompkins County achieve a dynamic economy, healthy environment, and resilient community through a focus on energy efficiency and renewable energy. 
NYSEG Considers Alternative Approach to W. Dryden Rd. Pipeline

Tompkins County officials recently announced that NYSEG has agreed to consider, and has presented to the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) for review, an alternative to the West Dryden Road natural gas pipeline
The draft analysis proposes a "compressor-based solution" to meet immediate gas reliability needs in the Lansing area, as well as potential longer term solutions to address new requests for natural gas. The compressor-based alternative would involve construction of a small compressor station in the Lansing area to address occasional instances of very low pressure that occur, in particular, on very cold days. 
Press conference in County Legislative Chambers announcing the new agreement with NYSEG. Photo Credit: Nick Reynolds.
In addition, NYSEG will solicit creative solutions to reduce current demand for gas and to transition to electric heating systems, countywide allowing the available gas to go to end-users that require the energy qualities of gas, such as industrial operations. Similar to the transformation of New York State's use of electricity as envisioned by Governor Cuomo's Reforming the Energy Vision (REV), this process would stimulate innovative problem-solving to optimize use of the county's natural gas infrastructure and accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels.
The proposal emerged from discussions over the past several months with NYSEG and the PSC by members of the Tompkins County Energy and Economic Development Task Force (EEDTF). The EEDTF was convened in 2015 by Tompkins County Area Development (TCAD) to evaluate how the County could continue economic development while also meeting its greenhouse gas reduction goals. In its final report last June, the Task Force identified the West Dryden Road pipeline as a critical issue and recommended working with the PSC to find alternatives that would support economic growth while reducing local greenhouse gas emissions.
"The task force was a community effort, not a consultant study," notes TCAD President Michael Stamm. "Community leaders in economic development, energy-related businesses, environmental groups, and local government came together in a true spirit of problem-solving. The first two recommendations were to work with the PSC to reduce reliance on gas, and also to provide reliable energy to local industry. The work with NYSEG and the PSC provides an exciting opportunity for Tompkins County to once again be a leader in tackling the important challenges of our day."

NYSEG presented its conceptual technical study to PSC staff on February 2nd. The study, a unique, first-of-its kind project for NYSEG, will now be reviewed by PSC engineers. If PSC green lights the project, NYSEG would file a request for expedited approval of the compressor-based solution as a demonstration project under the State's REV program.
"By considering our county's energy needs as an integrated whole, we hope the investment that would have gone into the pipeline can instead be directed toward efficiency measures and retrofits, freeing up gas supply for industry while accelerating our transition away from fossil fuels," says Martha Robertson, Chair of the Legislature's Planning, Development, and Environmental Quality Committee, and a member of the Task Force.

The compressor would only meet current needs. Robertson emphasizes, however, that other technological solutions are already available to build without using gas. "We've seen significant local development using heat pumps, in applications from single family homes to large projects such as Breckenridge, Maplewood, and City Centre. The county has already reached out to developers with information about this rapidly advancing technology, and we're eager to work with others as well. Tompkins County welcomes this opportunity to use all available tools to support economic development at the same time that we 'bend the curve' to cut our use of fossil fuels."
Next TCCPI Meeting:
Friday, March 31, 2017
9 to 11 am
HOLT Architects
619 W State/MLK St.
Ithaca, NY 14850
Want to Make Your Home Snugger? HeatSmart Launches 2017 Program
by Jonathan Comstock, HeatSmart Program Director

HeatSmart is back, making it easy to improve the comfort of your home while dramatically decreasing your carbon footprint. Heating accounts for seventy-five percent of home energy use in our area, so shifting to a less carbon intensive, more efficient approach provides a great opportunity to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

Photo courtesy of HeatSmart.
HeatSmart Tompkins helps simplify the experience of prospective customers  by enlisting a trusted third party to provide education and facilitate a process that includes both building envelope and heat pump services. While encouraging broad action that views improvements to the heating systems of homes as an integrated whole, the program is flexible and includes the promotion of more discrete, entry level improvements that are appropriate for and accessible to a wide range of potential customers across the economic spectrum.

The 2017 HeatSmart program opened on February 21 with the first public meeting at the Brooktondale Community Center. The well-attended kickoff event started with an overview of residential energy efficiency and the comfort and environmental benefits of switching to heat pumps.  

During the second half there was lots of time to meet and talk to the three participating installer partners, Snug Planet, Halco, and NP Environmental/Upstate Sprayfoam. Feedback from attendees indicated that the evening was both very useful and fun, so please come to the next one yourself!

The next HeatSmart meetings are at Tikkun v'Or in Lansing on Thursday, March 2nd and Danby Town Hall on Thursday, March 9th.  You are welcome at any meetings that are convenient for you. Please visit our website at for more program information and a full HeatSmart Meeting Schedule.

If you attended a HeatSmart meeting last year and want to jump straight to program enrollment, there is a new HeatSmart Enrollment Form on the website. It only takes a few minutes, so please make sure to complete and submit the enrollment application!




Take a step to save money and energy!








  What It Takes to Provide Sustainable, Affordable Housing
By Jane Whiting and Reed Steberger

Tompkins County has a dangerous shortage of sustainable, affordable housing. But that's not news. What might be news to some, however, is that tenants -- who are being hit the hardest by the shortage -- have few opportunities to voice their views on the issue.

We don't have to look far to find a great example of how to ensure that tenants are engaged in the discussion about affordable housing. PUSH Buffalo (People United for Sustainable Housing) is a darling of the climate justice and sustainable business world, doing what many climate groups dream of: blending climate action with social justice campaigns firmly grounded in grassroots community organizing. PUSH has been highlighted in the work of groups like BALLE and CommonBound and recently received an unprecedented, sustained level of funding with the Crossroads Collective through the Chorus Foundation.

A dangerous shortage of sustainable, affordable housing exists in 
Tompkins County. Photo Credit: Ithaca Voice.
We'll be the first to admit that we #swoon frequently about PUSH. Green jobs are a big deal for them . In fact, PUSH is unequivocal about tackling the "energy-use" aspect of "sustainable" housing. But, if you go to their homepage, the first content you'll run into is about affordable housing, community organizing, and their new youth center. That's because PUSH makes the assumption that the climate crisis is a system that interlocks closely with displacement/gentrification and racial/economic inequality. And . They . Should . Make . That . Assumption .

So, here's the thing: PUSH Buffalo is an organization that's making major strides in both scaling up home energy efficiency and providing stable, community controlled affordable housing. They're doing it  by working directly with those on the system's chopping block .

When we look at Ithaca's approach to the housing crisis, we have to ask: Where the heck are the tenants? Where are the people who are directly affected by this crisis?

There's been a lot of high profile public discussion about housing lately, from last year's Tompkins County Housing Summit , to the Sustainable Tompkins Op-Ed Series , to the ongoing (excellent) coverage in t he Ithaca Voice and other local outlets. But tenants' voices are still missing.

It's worth noting that the November 30th, 2016 Tompkins County Housing Summit only decided to include a panel focused on the tenant experience in the final week before the summit, presumably after they experienced public pressure to do so. (It's also worth noting that one of the speakers on the panel was a middle-income homeowner, rather than a tenant). You can actually still check the posted schedule on the Housing Summit website and see that it doesn't include this last minute change or the names of the speakers on that panel.

Moreover the planning group for the summit -- which included many brilliant, powerful movers and shakers -- represented multiple municipal agencies, municipal governments, nonprofits, and business/rental associations. The summit's hope was to " engage a broad audience in an ongoing process, explore the local housing market from all points of view, and offer successful approaches from other communities." That's a great, progressive goal.

It is almost always the case, however, that if an event aims to serve a "broad audience", it will de facto serve the constituencies represented in the planning group. Last minute panels with an inclusive bent won't change that.

While the Sustainable Tompkins op-ed series offered incredibly valuable information (from community members we collaborate with regularly) about housing, it didn't offer a tenant perspective in one of it's six articles in the series.

We need tenants' voices and leadership in the initiatives to tackle the housing crisis in our city and county. As a first step, we put together this survey for renters . Take a second to fill it out if you rent your place or to pass it on to someone who does.

It has always been the case that change does not happen when the dominantllmembers of a system -- no matter their good intentions -- come together to brainstorm changes to existing structures of inequity. The Climate Movement knows this from our failed efforts on the 2010 Waxman-Markey Climate Bill. We know that systems change when those impacted organize to demand change. Our movement knows this from the groundswell of climate action initiated by the 2011 NOKXL White House sit-ins.

Ultimately, we are grateful for the perspectives shared in multiple forums about how to address the housing crisis. The value of the work that went into forming them should not be diminished. But, if we want "Eco" to really mean "home" and for our community to have access to housing that's energy efficient, stable, and affordable, we have to take a much more inclusive approach, one that puts tenants at the center rather than at the margins of the conversation.
One Last Thing: Embracing the Commons in the Age of Trumpism

"As we enter the twenty-first century," Thomas Berry observed in The Great Work: Our Way into the Future (2000), "we are experiencing a moment of grace." "You've got to be kidding!" is the understandable response. Certainly, anyone paying attention to the news these days has good reason to challenge this seemingly naive claim.

What Berry means, however, has less to do with a positive assessment of our current circumstances than with the narrow window of opportunity we have to turn back from the disastrous road we are on. We have an all too brief moment to transform our exploitation of the Earth and each other into a web of relationships that is, in Berry's words, "mutually beneficial." Unless we act now to preserve and enhance the life, beauty, and diversity of the planet for future generations, Berry contends, we will become "impoverished in all that makes us human."
These are important words to remember as we come to grips with a level of political polarization in our nation's history unprecedented since at least the days of racial, ethnic, and class conflict in the 1890s, when lynchings, virulent opposition to immigration, and widespread  attacks on labor dominated the U.S. landscape. In particular, the threat that Trumpism poses to democracy is all too real, and the implications of "America First" for global efforts to stabilize the climate and confront inequality in the developing nations are alarming.

How should we respond? For those of us privileged enough to have the resources, it is all too easy to fall into despair and retreat into our respective cocoons. But that is moral cowardice and, at any rate, will end up being self-defeating. As Van Jones has pointed out, " eco-apartheid is just a speed-bump on the way to eco-apocalypse. Any successful, long-term strategy will require a full and passionate embrace of the principle of eco-equity."

What does it mean to embrace eco-equity? Conventional politics offers two opposing points of view: conservatism, in which the unfettered market is seen as the way forward, and progressivism, in which the expanded state is considered to be the solution. But the hard truth, as George Monbiot contends, is that "the market alone cannot meet our needs; nor can the state." In Monbiot's words, "One element has been conspicuously absent from the dominant ideologies, something that is neither market nor state: the commons."

What are the commons? Monbiot provides an admirably concise explanation: the commons are "an asset over which a community has shared and equal rights." It can, at least in theory, include land, water, air, knowledge, scientific research, and culture. Historically, the commons in pre-industrial England were an integral part of the manor. They existed as part of the estate owned by the lord of the manor, but to which the tenants and others held certain rights. 

By definition, then, the commons as an idea holds itself over and against the concept of private and exclusive ownership. Perhaps the most compelling current example of the commons is the Missouri River, which the Standing Rock Sioux and other Native Americans, have fought to protect against the incursion of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Knowing the clear risk that a potential oil spill could pose to the drinking water not only of their own people but also all those living downstream, the "water protectors" have taken a stand against the argument that the rights of corporations have precedent over the rights of all those whose lives depend on the commons, including those yet to be born.

To understand the crucial place of the commons in determining the future of what it means to be human, in short, is to see that the "moment of grace" to which Berry refers insists that we resist Trumpism and the corrosive atomization of community and radical individualism that it engenders. It is the most effective and humane way that we can bring about the kind of eco-equity Van Jones rightly views as the only viable option left for avoiding an otherwise inescapable eco-apocalypse.

Peter Bardaglio
TCCPI Coordinator


Be sure to visit the website for TCCPI's latest project, the Ithaca 2030 District, an interdisciplinary public-private collaboration working to create a groundbreaking high-performance building district in Downtown Ithaca.