Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative
The TCCPI Newsletter

Issue #50: January-February 2019

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Cornell Students, Faculty Attend COP24


Welcome to the January-February 2019 issue of the TCCPI Newsletter, an e-update from the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative (TCCPI).

Photo by Doug Kerr licensed under  CC BY-SA 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. 
City Planning Board Calls for Stricter Energy Rules to Reduce GHG Emissions
by Matt Butler,

The City of Ithaca's Planning Board is ramping up a push for energy clarity for new developments in Ithaca, penning a letter recently that asks for "more tangible and stringent energy code requirements at the City and County level."

The letter is addressed to "staff and various board and committee members of the City of Ithaca and Tompkins County" and was introduced at last week's Planning Board meeting. It was primarily written by board members McKenzie Lauren Jones, Matthew Johnston, and Emily Petrina, with edits and revisions provided by other board members.

City of Ithaca Planning Board at recent meeting to consider Cornell's North Campus expansion project. Photo by Devon Magliozzi/Ithaca Voice.
"What we believe to be missing is legislative material that is enforceable by the City,"  the letter states.  "We think that the City's goal to phase out fossil fuel use by 2050 needs to be more aggressive and also rooted in strict implementation through the City Building Code, Site Plan Review, and tax incentive programs [...] As such, we feel strongly that an energy reduction working group should be created with members of all of these entities, and that all of these bodies must uphold whatever standard is created by this working group."

The working group would consist of members from the main government entities involved in the planning process: Common Council, Planning and Development Board, Board of Public Works, the City Building Department, the Community Investment Incentive Tax Abatement Program (CIITAP), the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency, the Planning and Economic Development Committee, Tompkins County and the public in general. Whatever set of standards is created by the working group would be applicable and usable by all the bodies involved.

The letter was born out of the board's desire to more effectively deal with climate change and energy-related issues when reviewing projects seeking approval from the board, according to Planning Board Chair Robert Lewis. Lewis would not comment on specific projects, though he did note that recent public outcry at planning meetings drawing attention to the issue was a factor in the letter's creation. Cornell's North Campus Residential Expansion (NCRE) has been a controversial agenda item for the last several months, as members of the public and environmentalists have decried the university's reliance on natural gas to power and heat the buildings of the project, which will house an additional 2,000 undergraduate students on Cornell's campus. The NCRE is mentioned specifically in the letter.

"It is imperative that we take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions now," the letter said.  "The measures we take to achieve this must be thoughtful and incorporate the expertise and needs of multiple parties. Without these energy reduction requirements, the Planning and Development Board is unable to address the needs of the community as a whole. We require new fossil fuel standards that are able to be upheld by various bodies, are easy to understand for the public and members of board and committees from various backgrounds, and will live in perpetuity within City code."

One seemingly obvious solution would be the official implementation of the Green Building Policy, which has been under discussion at the city level for months. While Lewis said the Planning Board is supportive of that policy's enactment, he added that they don't believe it should be considered a cure-all for energy concerns with development going forward.
"The sentiment of the letter is: the issues of climate change go beyond any particular code, it calls for a broader approach," Lewis said. "[The letter] looks at the power that the city has through various boards, including [the Planning Board], and that we need some way for the city to think about that."
Next TCCPI Meeting:
Friday, March 29, 2019
9 to 11 am
Tompkins County Public Library
Borg Warner Conference Room
101 E. Green St.
Ithaca, NY 14850
Gov. Cuomo  Announces Green New Deal for Clean Energy and Jobs

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced his version of the Green New Deal in the State of the State address on January 15. The clean energy and jobs agenda seeks to put New York State on a path to carbon neutrality, providing for a just transition to clean energy that spurs growth of the green economy and prioritizes the needs of low- to moderate-income New Yorkers.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has set most aggressive clean energy target in nation. Photo by Azi Paybari licensed under  CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
"Climate change is a reality, and the consequences of delay are a matter of life and death, said Gov. Cuomo. "While the federal government shamefully ignores the reality of climate change and fails to take meaningful action, we are launching the first-in-the-nation Green New Deal to seize the potential of the clean energy economy, set nation's most ambitious goal for carbon-free power, and ultimately eliminate our entire carbon footprint."

The Green New Deal will mandate New York's power be 100 percent carbon-free by 2040, the most aggressive goal in the United States and five years ahead of a target recently adopted by California. The cornerstone of this new mandate is a significant increase of New York's successful Clean Energy Standard mandate from 50 percent to 70 percent renewable electricity by 2030. The ramp-up of renewable energy will include:
  • Quadrupling New York's offshore wind target to 9,000 megawatts by 2035, up from 2,400 megawatts by 2030
  • Doubling distributed solar deployment to 6,000 megawatts by 2025, up from 3,000 megawatts by 2023
  • More than doubling new large-scale land-based wind and solar resources through the Clean Energy Standard
  • Maximizing the contributions and potential of New York's existing renewable resources
  • Deploying 3,000 megawatts of energy storage by 2030, up from 1,500 megawatts by 2025
Gov. Cuomo also announced $1.5 billion in competitive awards to support 20 large-scale solar, wind and energy storage projects across upstate New York. These projects are expected to add 1,650 megawatts of capacity and generate enough renewable energy to power nearly 550,000 homes. All projects are expected to be operational by 2022 and create more than 2,600 short- and long-term jobs in the process.

In addition, the Green New Deal will explore ways  to move New York's statewide building stock to carbon neutrality. The strategy includes:
  • Advancing legislative changes to strengthen building energy codes and establish appliance efficiency standards
  • Directing state agencies to ensure that their facilities uphold the strongest energy efficiency and sustainability standards
  • Developing a Net Zero Roadmap to chart a course to statewide carbon neutrality in buildings
The Green New Deal will create the state's first statutory Climate Action Council, comprised of the heads of relevant state agencies and other workforce, environmental justice, and clean energy experts to develop a comprehensive plan to make New York carbon neutral.  The Climate Action Council will consider a range of possible options,  including the feasibility of a new multistate emissions reduction program that covers all sectors of the economy and ways to leverage the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to encourage investment in the clean energy economy and support a just transition.
Energy Navigators Warm Hearts and Homes of Tompkins Residents
by Maggie McAden, Intern,
Get Your GreenBack Tompkins

Sharon Guardiola did not expect that a phone call inquiring about LED light bulbs would lead to three days of free insulation work on her home, increased home comfort, and lower heating bills.

Sharon -- who owned a cleaning business for 45 years -- lives in Enfield in a double-wide mobile home with her husband. She first became connected with Martha Fischer, and the Get Your GreenBack Tompkins Energy Navigator Program, when she called Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County looking for the bulbs. When Martha delivered the bulbs, she also began working with Sharon and helped her apply for a number of free programs, including the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) and EmPower New York. Both of these provide free energy-efficiency solutions to income-eligible renters and homeowners, such as the installation of high-efficiency lighting, attic and wall insulation, and the replacement of energy-inefficient appliances.
Martha Fischer, a GYGB Energy Navigator, helped Sharon Guardiola access energy programs to make her home more comfortable. Photo courtesy of GYGB.
The Energy Navigator Program is designed to help community members learn about ways they can reduce their energy use and energy bills and use renewable forms of energy to heat and power their homes.

The first step of the navigation process involved Martha visiting Sharon at her home where she helped her fill out an application and send it in to Tompkins Community Action, who coordinates the WAP and Empower New York programs. The process began in October of 2018.

Sharon said that within two weeks, she was notified that she was eligible for work to be done on her home under the EmPower NY program. A n employee from Tompkins Community Action came to her home and conducted an energy assessment to discover any air leaks or gaps in insulation. Sharon said Martha also visited during the audit to make sure she was comfortable, helping her out every step of the way. Based on the audit, a scope of work was prepared, which Sharon approved, and then work was scheduled.

She said that as a result of the program, her home was insulated underneath. The energy program also insulated her water pipes, added a CO2 detector and smoke alarm, and installed a new dryer vent. The work occurred over the course of three days in October, and Sharon said she feels very clear differences in how warm her home is.

"My water never froze this year because they wrapped the pipes," Sharon said. "My heat, I keep it at 70 degrees, and it's very nice in here. I've had to use less fuel, and it's very warm."

Helping Out Other Homes

Sharon also went to the landlady of her mobile home park and recommended that she pay into the energy program so that other mobile homes in her community would have access to similar benefits. She said Martha helped get Sharon's landlady connected to the right forms and people so that other people could be helped in similar ways. Martha said she has been to eight or nine residences in the same mobile home park.

"I want to tell everybody it's an available program, it's free, and it's a beneficial thing that people aren't even aware of," Sharon said.

Sharon said there can be barriers to accessing the benefits of programs like EmPower New York because there is often a lot of paperwork, something Martha helped her navigate.

Energy Navigators Benefit

Martha -- who has worked at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for the past 25 years -- has been volunteering on and off with CCE since 2008. She first got involved with the Energy Navigator Program when she heard a CCE staff member talk about helping Dryden residents access weatherization programs. She said she completed the training to become an Energy Navigator after it became available to people outside of the work week.

She said she finds the volunteer work she does rewarding because of its immediate impact.
"I knock on a stranger's door, and, when the residents hear of the weatherization services available to them, they are usually quite welcoming," Martha said. "I'm happy to help people fill out the application - it can be rather daunting, but together we get it done. And it's really gratifying when the home gets the energy upgrades it needs."

She also finds that being an Energy Navigator is her way of doing her part for the environment while simultaneously working directly with people.

"Climate change is such a huge issue, and it's hard to feel like you're making a difference," Martha said. "I feel like I'm making these little small differences and making a difference in people's lives."

Find out more about the Energy Navigator Program here. Contact Karim Beers, Get Your GreenBack Tompkins coordinator, at or (607) 272-2292 x 186 with any questions.




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One Last Thing: Albany Sets the Pace; Can Ithaca Catch Up?

Often Ithaca is ahead of the curve, providing leadership on progressive issues such as the ban on fracking and new approaches to drug policy. But, as the articles in this issue on the City Planning Board and Gov. Cuomo's Green New Deal reveal, the city finds itself lagging significantly behind when it comes to climate action and clean energy. 

Students strike for climate action. Photo by Stop Adani licensed under  CC BY-2.0 .
The call from Albany for New York's power to be 100 percent carbon-free by 2040 -- at the heart of the state's Green New Deal -- poses a direct challenge to a city hall that has shown little inclination to discourage developers from relying on natural gas for new projects downtown or elsewhere. The governor's mandate underscores the need for immediate action by the city to demonstrate its commitment to this new statewide target.

Kudos, then, to the City Planning Board for recognizing that there need to be "more tangible and stringent energy code requirements." And further kudos for acknowledging that climate change requires a broader approach than simply adopting a new green building code, although this would certainly be a step in the right direction.

Where is the leadership for moving the community as a whole, not just city operations, off of fossil fuels and establishing a policy for achieving 100% renewable electricity by 2040? Across the U.S., according to the Sierra Club, over 90 cities have already adopted ambitious 100% clean energy goals, sometimes even including heat and transportation, not just electricity. Why isn't Ithaca on the Sierra Club list?

It's not surprising that the usual suspects such as Boulder, Burlington, Cambridge, Madison, and Palo Alto are on this list, but the appearance of other cities such as Augusta, GA, Norman, OK, and West Chester, PA make it clear that Ithaca's absence is an embarrassment. What will it take for the city's leaders to rectify this situation?

One thing is certain: young people across the globe are getting fed up with the complacency of the older generation in charge. Inspired by the example of Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, thousands of students in the United KingdomAustralia, France, Germany, Ireland, Uganda, Thailand, Colombia, Poland, and more are taking to the streets to demand change. On March 15, just a couple of weeks from now, American students will have their chance to join others from around the world.

Will Ithaca be ready to demonstrate its commitment to climate action and clean energy when students spill into its streets? We're about to find out.

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.