Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative
The TCCPI Newsletter

November-December 2016

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Welcome to the November-December 2016 issue of the TCCPI Newsletter, an electronic update from the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative (TCCPI).

Ithaca Christmas
Photo   by mattjlc licensed under  CC by 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. 
"Seal the Cracks" Campaign Wraps Up Another Successful Effort
By Gay Nicholson, Sustainable Tompkins President

During these shortest days of early winter, warmth can be hard to come by in local homes that are drafty, poorly insulated, or running on inadequate heating systems. Thanks to Sustainable Tompkins' supporters, occupants in 24 dwellings are now enjoying the warmth of cozy, efficient homes after receiving grant awards from the Finger Lakes Climate Fund.

And more warmth is on the way.  We just concluded our second fall 'Seal the Cracks' campaign, surpassing our goal of 500 tons of CO2 removed from our atmosphere via individuals, businesses, and organizations taking responsibility for the carbon emissions from their travel or building use. As of the winter solstice, over $15,200 in carbon offsets equal to 608 tons CO2 have been made available for grant awards to lower-income households in 2017.

During this holiday season of good will and gatherings with loved ones, we can share the gift of climate resilience with others by offsetting CO2 emissions from holiday travel.  It's quick, easy, and affordable at

Recent awards include the Bordoni Home in Ithaca that will receive much-needed attic and crawlspace insulation along with air sealing so the owner will have lower energy bills when he retires. Another award went to the Licitras in Lansing to help pay for highly efficient air-source heat pumps for both space heating and domestic hot water. Thus far, the Climate Fund has given over $35,000 in 20 awards based on the tons of CO2 eliminated through energy efficiency measures.  The largest award of $3,457 paid for the insulation of the first six cottages at Second Wind for homeless men.

It looks like the race to limit greenhouse gas emissions and climate disruption will fall even more on states and local communities in the next few years. Sustainable Tompkins's Climate Fund is working toward a goal of including everyone in the transition to a clean energy future while providing a means for taking responsibility for our unavoidable carbon emissions.
Next TCCPI Meeting:
Friday, January 27, 2017
9 to 11 am
HOLT Architects
619 W State/MLK St.
Ithaca, NY 14850
Get Ready for Winter with Home Energy Efficiency Upgrades
by Karim Beers, GYGB Coordinator

Energy costs during the winter season can be a large burden for many households in Tompkins County. Though the area experienced an unusually warm winter last year, an annual report by the federal government indicates that individuals heating with natural gas or oil could experience heating cost increases of up to 20 percent this winter. 

Residential energy use accounts for over one third of our County's total energy use, indicating that any reduction in this area can have meaningful impacts on our area's carbon emissions. Visit the all-new GYGB Blog to read a step-by step guide on ways to free your home and wallet from fossil fuel price volatility, dramatically reduce your energy use, and cut your carbon emissions, all while benefiting our local economy. 

A few years ago, when Gretchen Rymarchyk made the switch from renting to owning her own home in Danby, she was shocked by the high costs of heating: $600 to $900 a month for her propane deliveries. This was nearly equal to what she used to pay for rent, and wasn't sustainable since she now had her new mortgage every month.

Two years ago, when Tompkins County experienced its coldest winter on record, the high cost of propane spurred Gretchen to look into heating alternatives. You can read how she went about upgrading to wood pellet heating and the dramatic cost savings it provides at the GYGB Blog.

Though she initially wasn't familiar with wood pellet heating, through her own research and conversations with other stove owners she realized the cost reductions that a wood pellet stove could bring.

Gretchen used a local energy contractor to do an energy audit of her home to find areas in which she could increase her home's energy efficiency. Then she purchased her wood pellet stove from a local vendor for around $5,000, a price that included the stove and professional installation.

Gretchen now pays around $1,000 a winter for wood pellets to heat her entire one and a half story home to a comfortable temperature, compared to the $3,000-$4,500 she previously paid for propane during a cold winter. She said that she is "absolutely" happy with the choice she made to switch to heating with wood pellets.




Take a step to save money and energy!








  The Fight for Our Climate IS the Fight Against Hate
By Jane Whiting and Reed Steberger

It has never been clearer that the forces denying the existence of climate change in the pursuit of profit are identical to those who say Black Lives do not matter, Islam is a violent religion, immigrants are a plague on the U.S. economy, and homosexuality can be cured with electroshock "therapy."

Our options as a movement have been simultaneously narrowed and almost immeasurably expanded. The front of the fight climate stretches widely across the fight for black life, for the rights of migrants, Muslims, and LGBTQ and trans folks. It's time for us to embrace this reality.

"The Climate Crisis is a Racist Crisis": The UK chapter of Black Lives Matter issued this video in September as part of its opposition to the expansion of the London City airport. 
Our call to action is not to crouch defensively over the climate protections we've secured over the last eight years, but to stand and fight boldly in solidarity with the movements fighting the same evils. We need to boldly stand up for things we weren't willing to fight for previously.

Two days after the election, we presented on Climate Justice to at Cornell's Sustainable Campus Summit. At the invitation of the Office of Sustainability, we presented on the "People" portion of the proposed quadruple bottom line framework - Purpose, Prosperity, Planet, People - in campus's new options for carbon neutrality analysis.

We made the case we've made at TCCPI over the course of 2016, that the causes, impacts, and responses to climate change follow the patterns of existing discrimination.

In light of that reality, we advocated that equity, racial justice, and social justice should be at the center of our climate work. Beyond this, we as climate activists have to work on other issues, like racial justice, simply for their own right, whether or not they related to climate change.

The presentation was emotionally difficult two days after the election. In front of an overwhelmingly white, middle-aged audience we shared that a quick word search of the options for carbon neutrality analysis didn't include the words equity, race, marginalization, social justice, culture, or inequality, issues that fundamentally shaped the outcome of the election and the possibilities for climate action for the next four years.

Ultimately, the impact of this kind of exclusion leads to the appointment of figures like Rex Tillerson, the CEO of Exxon Mobil, to US Secretary of State, and the appointment of Jeff Sessions, who was deemed too racist to hold a federal judgeship will be appointed as the US Attorney General.

We are bracing for a direct assault on every issues from immigration, to climate, to how much black lives matter. It's not enough to say we need to work together if we're going to win on climate -- we have to work together even if it sets our own agenda back (not that it does).

To all members of the TCCPI network, we implore you to encourage your staff to educate themselves about racial justice. While staff are regularly encouraged to be informed about developing news on climate, climate action, and renewable energy technology, staff must also be encouraged to stay fully informed about today's most pressing racial justice issues.

We must go beyond understanding that our issues are connected and act on the reality that we cannot win unless we truly fight for each other.
One Last Thing: The Pearl in a Swinish Year

There are lots of reasons to bid 2016 good riddance. But there was one moment that stood out in striking contrast to the tawdry events of the last twelve months: the day earlier this month when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced it was denying an easement to Dakota Access to drill under Lake Oahe and the Missouri River for the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) until an Environmental Impact Statement is completed and alternative routes are explored.

By the time this announcement hit the news wires, more than 550 activists known as "Water Protectors" had been arrested as a result of their peaceful and prayerful protest against DAPL over the past nine months.

Water Protectors make their voices heard at Standing Rock. Photo credit:
As Rebecca Solnit noted, the victory was "not necessarily the end of the road, but a really great milestone." It underscored "the importance of knowing that we don't know what will happen next," the need "to live on principles, hunches and lessons from history," and the essential value of "standing up for what you believe in, even when victory seems remote to impossible."
The proposed pipeline route generated intense opposition because, aside from the threat posed to the Missouri River ecosystem, it cuts through the ancestral lands of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other members of the Oceti Sakowin or Great Sioux Nation. These lands and waterways are sacred to the Oceti Sakowin.

The 1,172-mile DAPL would connect the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota to refineries in Illinois, shipping roughly 570,000 barrels of crude oil per day. The Bakken Shale holds an estimated 5 billion barrels of oil, and is producing approximately 900,000 barrels per day. 

What does this incredible level of production mean for climate change? This past spring University of Michigan researchers concluded that the Bakken field alone accounts for about 2 percent of the world's ethane, about 250,000 tons per year into the air, directly affecting air quality across North America. These emissions, combined with combustion of Bakken oil, are major contributors to the global climate crisis that threatens our well-being and that of future generations.

The fear that a break in the pipeline could have a devastating impact on the Missouri River and the millions of people who depend on it for their drinking water is not merely theoretical. Energy Transfer Partners, the Texas company behind Dakota Access, has a long history of violations of environmental laws. These infractions include citations for releases of hazardous materials from its pipelines and facilities in Ohio, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Missouri, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Hawaii.

In one year alone, there were over 300 pipeline breaks in North Dakota. Numerous pipeline spills of millions of gallons of oil and contaminants into the Missouri River and its tributaries have already occurred. Most dramatic was the release In January of over 50,000 gallons of Bakken crude oil into the Yellowstone River in Montana. The lesson is painfully clear: pipelines fail, despite the many claims about their safety, spilling oil across the land and into nearby creeks and rivers.

DAPL may yet get completed. But the struggle against its construction has brought together the greatest single gathering of native North Americans ever, inspiring a new generation of tribal activism. Just as important, the resistance has demonstrated the many ways in which the environmental and social justice movements are intertwined as well as the crucial role that indigenous people play in the climate movement.

In a year in which reactionary and racist forces have combined with greed and corruption to produce an unending wave of unsavory developments, the courage of the Water Protectors at Standing Rock reminds us that when we come together as subjects in history, not just objects of history, great things can be accomplished in the face of overwhelming odds. It comes as no small comfort that 2016 closed on such an inspiring note.

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.