Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative
The TCCPI Newsletter

November-December 2017

In This Issue
Quick Links

Our Supporters
Featured Article:  

Welcome to the November-December 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. 
PSC Approves Non-Pipe Alternative to West Dryden Road Pipeline
by Irene Weiser, Fossil Free Tompkins

In a precedent setting decision, the Public Service Commission last week unanimously approved NYSEG's compressor proposal and ordered the prompt issuance of a request for proposals to address area energy and economic development needs as an alternative to the Lansing/Freeville Reinforcement Gas Pipeline Project, also known as the West Dryden Road natural gas pipeline.

John Rhodes, PSC Chair, announced the historic decision. Photo courtesy of NYSDPS.
" Tompkins County applauds last week's decision by the Public Service Commission, and the willingness of the Commission and NYSEG to work with our community to find new ways to address old problems.  NYSEG's solution allows us to address critical safety and reliability concerns without expanding our carbon footprint," said Tompkins County Legislator Martha Robertson. "We look forward to seeing the innovative solutions that are proposed in the request for proposals to support economic development while cutting our use of fossil fuels."
NYSEG's compressor solution involves placement of four pressure boosters at strategic locations along NYSEG's existing gas distribution system in and around the Village of Lansing to ensure operating pressure in the Lansing service area stays at safe operating levels during very cold, high-heating-demand days. The pressure boosters are expected to be installed in time for the 2018-19 heating season.
In September, the Tompkins County Legislature voted unanimously to support NYSEG's compressor proposal so that safety and reliability concerns could be addressed as quickly as possible. Similarly, Tompkins County Area Development (TCAD), the area's business development agency, sent a letter to the PSC indicating their support, and encouraging a swift process in order to support business development and job creation in the region.
"Tompkins County has already seen significant local development without gas, using energy-efficient air and ground-source heat-pumps in applications from single-family homes to large scale housing and commercial projects," Robertson continued. "NYSEG's request for proposals will enable our community to innovate even further." 
Several municipalities, including the City of Ithaca and towns of Ithaca, Caroline, and Dryden are currently researching policies to encourage new development using heat-pumps instead of fossil-fuels such as natural gas or propane to meet their project's heating and hot-water needs.
NYSEG had tried since 2014 to install a pipeline along West Dryden Road, but met with significant community resistance, from homeowners who didn't want a pipeline in their front yard and from people across the county who are committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Thousands of people contacted the PSC opposing the pipeline and several hundred community members wrote in support of NYSEG's compressor proposal.

 "Our decision is based, in part, upon New York's climate goals along with the significant public input we received from the local community keen to protect the environment and reduce the community's greenhouse gas emissions," said Public Service Commission Chair John B. Rhodes, in a prepared statement. "With the environment in mind, this pilot project is intended to boost the gas distribution system's ability to maintain reliable supply without the need to build a new gas pipeline."  
" This decision will be remembered as marking the end of fossil fuel expansion in Tompkins County, and the beginning of statewide enlightenment: government, utilities, and citizens can collaborate on meeting our necessary energy transformation goals." said Anthony Ingraffea, Dwight C. Baum Professor of Engineering Emeritus, whose recent work has focused on meeting the goals of the State's Energy Plan. "We thank the PSC, the Department of Public Service staff, and NYSEG for their vision to use small pressure boosters, rather than increasing gas supply, as an integral part of Tompkins County's energy transition goals."
Next TCCPI Meeting:
Friday, January 26, 2018
9 to 11 am
Tompkins County Public Library
Borg Warner Conference Room
101 E. Green St.
Ithaca, NY 14850
Borgella Appointed County Commissioner of Planning and Sustainability
by Marcia Lynch, Tompkins County Information Office

The Tompkins County Legislature, by unanimous vote, has approved the appointment of Katherine "Katie" Borgella as the County's Commissioner of Planning and Sustainability. Borgella, who has 24 years of leadership experience in the County Department of Planning and Sustainability, has served as Deputy Commissioner since 2014 and as Interim Commissioner since the retirement of Ed Marx in August.
Photo credit: Jaime Cone.

In requesting the Legislature's approval of the appointment following a three-month search process, Interim County Administrator Paula Younger said, "From over 30 applicants, to four solid candidates, to two finalists, Katie Borgella held an impressive lead throughout this process and has been recommended unanimously by the Search Committee...Katie brings to the Commissioner position great vision, genuine enthusiasm, and plenty of hands-on experience." Administrator Younger praised Borgella's "keen ability for building relationships, mentoring staff, and delivering high-quality projects to our community."

A trained civil engineer, with 24 years of professional planner experience, Commissioner Borgella holds a Bachelor's Degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Vermont and a Master's Degree in Natural Resources, with concentrations in City and Regional Planning, and Resource Policy and Management from Cornell University.

Among the many projects Borgella has spearheaded during her time with the County Department of Planning and Sustainability are development of the complex Energy Roadmap, revamping the Environmental Management Council's Unique Natural Areas Inventory, and working with three farm families in Lansing and Dryden to permanently protect over 1,800 acres of farmland. In 2015, Commissioner Borgella spearheaded efforts to bring the Energize NY Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program to the community to help commercial properties in Tompkins County make energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrade to building by offering access to low-cost, long-term financing.

"Thank you so much for this opportunity," Commissioner Borgella told the Legislature. "I really appreciate the opportunity to lead and support the outstanding staff of the Department of Planning and Sustainability, and I look forward to continuing partnerships with others in the community, to benefit this community we all love so much."

Editor's note: Borgella serves on the TCCPI Steering Committee and the advisory board of the Ithaca 2030 District.
Carpooling: Saving Money and Making Friends
by Khansa Mahum, Get Your GreenBack Tompkins

Meet Tenzin and Wendy -- their personal stories and experiences with carpooling (aka "ridesharing") not only show how to save money and time but also how to build relationships.

Tenzin Dolma, a junior at Cornell University, is an avid user of the ridesharing program Zimride for her travels between Ithaca and her home, New York City. Zimride is an online platform that connects local passengers and drivers together for their transportation needs. Passengers and drivers create profiles and specify their travel locations, destinations, times, and rates, and Zimride subsequently provides them with matches.

Carpooling is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint.
"It's just so much faster and cheaper - depending on when you book your ride - compared to taking a bus to the city. The round-trip is almost half the price sometimes," Tenzin observes. "And the ride itself is very interpersonal because you get to know other students on campus. You're not just sitting by yourself alone waiting for the ride to end. You make conversation with the driver and other passengers. You make friends." 

Students are also more likely to use ridesharing programs when their existing friends are also using it, so they often book rides together for long trips. That is why Zimride has become particularly popular through word-of-mouth for students and others because of its communal nature. Communication is an important aspect of how Zimride functions because not only do people have to coordinate their rides via messaging but they can also maintain an ongoing relationship for future rides. Also, passengers can leave reviews for drivers and share their travel experience in order to reinforce quality and trust.
For Wendy Gilmore-Fitzgerald, an advisor in the Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives at Cornell University, carpooling is an integral part of her professional and personal life. With the expensive parking permit rates for employees, it is an incentive for Wendy and her wife -- both employees of Cornell University -- to share one car to work everyday, despite having their own cars and conflicting schedules. While the price of the parking permit is reduced since they are carpooling (it would be free if there was a third person registered on the permit), that cherished time she and her wife share together while driving to and from work is what truly matters. As Wendy puts it, "When you're always on the go, carpooling just gives you a chance to have a conversation when both of us become too wrapped up in our work."
Wendy is also aware of the greater impact her carpooling has on the environment since they are driving 8 to 10 miles a day on one car and barely ever fill up their gas tanks, using perhaps 2 gallons a week. If they are not carpooling, then they are using the bus as an alternative. As a result, they have significantly reduced their potential carbon footprint through their routine, in addition to saving money on parking and fuel.




Take a step to save money and energy!








One Last Thing: Weather v. Climate Redux

Here we go again. One of the favorite gambits of climate skeptics and deniers is to roll out the old chestnut that if the weather is cold outside your door, then global warming (emphasis here on "global") must be fake news. You would think that anyone playing golf in sunny Florida and commenting on the cold snap in the Northeast would grasp the basic idea. But apparently not. Hence the latest dispatch from the tweeter-in-chief calling for some "good old global warming."

Putting the concept in terms that even President Trump might understand, Jon Foley, executive director of the California Academy of Sciences, observed, "There is still hunger in the world, even if you just had a Big Mac."

Graphic courtesy of University of Maine - Climate Change Institute.

The map above makes the same point, using science rather than a metaphorical cheeseburger. It shows all of the places in the world that were experiencing above-average winter temperatures during the current cold spell in the eastern U.S. "Nobody ever said winter would go away under global warming, but winter has become much milder and the record cold days are being far outnumbered by record warm days and heat extremes," Matthew England, a climate scientist from the University of New South Wales, pointed out. "Climate change is not overturned by a few unusually cold days in the U.S."

In the face of such willful ignorance on the part of the American president, it would be easy to pull up close to the fireplace, take a slug or two of Wild Turkey, and write off the future. But, in fact, Trump's extreme views on climate change are a reason for hope, not despair. His obstinate refusal to acknowledge the reality of climate change has mobilized citizens and their leaders across the globe.

The U.S. withdrawal from Paris, in particular, has energized American corporations, higher education institutions, faith-based organizations, mayors, and governors to take action. Projects for carbon-cutting and green energy at the local and state levels are making every effort to close the gap created by the White House's insistence on treating the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as a hoax. The most prominent coalition emerging since the withdrawal expresses this determination with eloquent conciseness: "We Are Still In."

Developing countries, too, are recognizing the foolhardiness of President Trump's stance and are ramping up the production of renewable energy at unprecedented rates. As a recent New York Times article noted recently, "China has indeed moved dramatically on climate change," seeking to meet its own pledge under the Paris accord to cap carbon emissions by 2030, to launch the world's largest carbon market, and rapidly expand the use of electric cars.

So, as the clock winds down on 2017, we should turn to 2018 with a renewed commitment to engage in unrelenting local action and national resistance, understanding that Trump is the weather and we are the climate. Best wishes for the new year. 

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.