to the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative

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Alternatives to the Dryden Pipeline – Brice Smith, Gay Nicholson, Melissa Kemp

Brice Smith is associate professor physics at SUNY Cortland, Gay Nicholson is president of Sustainable Tompkins, and Melissa Kemp is director of Solar Tompkins. As part of a group of local energy experts and community members, they have been exploring viable options to expanding the fossil fuel infrastructure in Tompkins County and will be sharing their findings with us.

  • Shared values in Tompkins County:
    • Accessible, affordable housing
    • New businesses and more jobs
    • Balanced budgets for local governments
    • Resilient, thriving communities
  • The proposed pipeline is 7 miles long, through Freeville, Dryden, and Lansing – 10-inch steel pipe & 124 psi; $14 million paid by ratepayers
  • Common assumptions that need to be challenged:
    • Affordable alternatives not available
    • Methane has fewer environmental costs
    • Methane low cost and low risk
    • Residents will benefit
  • Alternative technologies are viable – economically competitive for new multifamily, single family housing, and commercial buildings
  • Ground and air-source heat pump technology has improved significantly in recent years
  • Case study: Village Circle in Lansing – plan would add 213 new units to 146 already in existence on site
  • Energy modeling based on methodology developed by DOE and national labs
  • All costs for heating systems drawn from local contractors
  • All other costs drawn from DOE Building Component Cost community data base
  • Three scenarios:
    • Existing building code – business as usual
    • Building code to be adopted next year (improved windows and 50% reduction in air infiltration
    • More efficient building option modeled as 205 savings beyond new building code (Smarter Building – similar to goals of Executive Order 88 and LEED building standards)
  • Also increased wall insulation and insulation on pipes
  • 27% reduction in energy consumption from current building code to new building code and 22% reduction from new building code to Smarter Building
  • Nearly 50% reduction without being very aggressive
  • Ground source heat pump uses familiar refrigeration technology
  • Super efficient way to use electricity for 100% of building heating and cooling
  • Efficiencies up to 300% by extracting heat from ground
  • Air source heat pump use same refrigeration technology with efficiencies of up to 200% by extracting hear from air
  • Remain efficient to air temperatures as low as -13 degrees F
  • Energy use of 12 apartment block: natural gas to ground source heat pump has 83% reduction and 74% reduction for natural gas to air source heat pump
  • Smarter Building with ground source heat pump would add 3.1% in costs to project and air source heat pump would add 2.6%
  • Actually generates opportunity for developer to make more money – developer could achieve at least 12% rate of return
  • Smarter Building with ground source heat pump would provide savings of $91,000 to developer over 30 years because developer would save on costs of natural gas
  • Smarter Building with air source heat pump would save $47,000
  • Actually could charge more (based on national average)
  • Higher upfront investment yields significant higher rate of return
  • Very conservative analysis:
    • No credit taken for any tax credits or grants from NYSERDA ‘s low rise residential new construction program
    • No credit taken for savings on A/C equipment and operating costs or rent premium for centralized cooling
    • Only lowest estimate for increase in methane prices taken into account
    • No monetization of externalized environmental costs of methane
  • New single family home example: Smarter Building with ground source heat pump adds $24,300 with monthly savings average (with solar) of $36 -- $1 per month additional cost for solar based on 30 year mortgage
  • Smarter Building with air source heat pump would lead to $42 monthly savings with solar and would add $14 per month without solar
  • Similar options and general economics apply to commercial development
  • While all heat pump technology has improved, use of this technology in commercial space has especially improved in last decade
  • Bin Optics case study – has labs that have heavy heat demand
  • Heat pumps in commercial buildings can be readily combined with biomass boilers to provide supplemental heating for buildings with high heat loads or higher temperature needs
  • Biomass combined heat and power plants can also be attractive alternative for larger installations like Cornell Business and Technology Park that have high heating and cooling demands
  • Job creation potential: Smarter Building will employ larger number of individuals at larger number of companies: insulation, windows, specialized HVAC
  • One fulltime job for every 12,000 sq. ft. of commercial space converted to ground source heat pump (installation only) -- one fulltime job for every 12 single-family homes converted to ground source heat pump
  • Also need to consider environmental costs of methane that are externalized
  • Shale gas provides 90% of all new gas production
  • Methane emissions in major shale gas fields are 9-10% at production site
  • Another 2.5% or more leaks during transmission and storage
  • Methane better than coal only if total emissions are no more than 3.5%
  • Natural gas actually moves greenhouse gas emissions in wrong direction
  • Greenhouse gas emissions reduced by 45-65% using heat pump powered by grid electricity
  • Greenhouse gas emissions reduced by more than 97% if using heat pumps powered by solar PV
  • Economic risks of methane include price volatility of natural gas – also increased exportation of natural gas means price will become more reflective of global market – also increases demand for natural gas
  • Average annual heating costs with natural gas could be as much as 60% higher than expected over next 30 years if LNG exported in large quantities
  • Using less energy overall as well as using energy that has less price volatility increases energy security
  • Use of methane will continue to drive climate change and local air pollution
  • Costs for infrastructure damage due to severe weather, agricultural losses, coastline erosion, ocean acidification, and health impacts of burning methane are an additional $0.03 to $0.05 per kWh
  • Costs of this per average Tompkins County household would be $1000 per year
  • Benefits of alternatives:
    • Enables progress on climate goals while fostering economic development
    • Builds truly affordable housing buffered from energy price spikes
    • Avoids stranded investments
    • More resilient local economy and lower tax burden
    • New jobs in clean energy and green building


Land Use Regulations and Sustainability – Mina Amundsen and David Kay

Mina Amundsen is the current Director of Capital Budget and Integrated Planning. Previously, she served as the University Planner for Cornell University from 2002 to 2013. David Kay is a Senior Extension Associate with the Community & Regional Development Institute (CaRDI) in the Department of Development Sociology and serves on the boards of several city, town, county and New York State State not-for-profit and government organizations concerned with sustainability and municipal land use planning.

  • Land use a complex and important issue – want to introduce larger themes and then explore these in more depth in subsequent meetings
  • Land use involves:
    • Categories: rural/urban, industrial, commercial, residential, etc.
    • Zoning and other regulations
    • Planning
    • Property rights
    • Stormwater management and flooding
    • Agriculture
    • Interplay between land and water
    • Parks and protected areas]
    • Quality of life
    • Resource extraction/land exploitation
  • Land use regulations reflect tension between individual rights and communal stewardship
  • Land use raises fundamental questions about values and what we value
  • Common way of valuing land is by assigning dollar value to land
  • But land also has intrinsic value even beyond its role as ecoservices provider
  • Our society tends to assign short-term values to land rather than thinking about values in terms of long run
  • Issue of intergenerational rights around land use needs more attention tin conversations going forward
  • Government has key role in preserving intergenerational rights through laws, policies, and regulations

The People’s Climate March: Next Steps – Discussion facilitated by Reed Steberger

  • Three questions to think about:
    • What changed for you after the march?
    • What does this change mean for our work?
    • What does it mean if everyone must be involved to make the changes we need?
  • Key idea of the march: “To change everything, we need everyone.”
  • Whose perspective does this sentence represent? Who is the “we”?
  • Poses fundamental distinction between “everything” and “everyone”
  • Greater sense of urgency coming out of march – need to take bolder action and to take this action now
  • 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 crucial – based on science – target is minimum necessary
  • Intention of Ithaca 2030 District is to focus on raising awareness in business community about need to reduce our carbon footprint
  •  Effort to collect data on energy and water performance of buildings, measuring progress, and sharing data as well as best practices
  • Part of a larger effort to shift understanding about need for county’s GHG target
  • Need to find ways to broaden conversation in community
  • Sustainable Tompkins working on creating “community circles” to reach out to broader audience 


Analysis of Cayuga Power Plant's Repowering Proposal – Irene Weiser

Irene Weiser is a member of the Caroline Town Council and director of the Ratepayers and Community Intervenors group. Her analysis is based on an unredacted version of the Cayuga Powering Plant proposal, obtained through the efforts of Earthjustice.

  • Cayuga Power Plant building 1950s – consists of two unites with capacity of 150 MW each
  • Plant stopped operating in 2012 due to fact that natural gas prices dropped lower than coal
  • Cayuga emerged out of bankruptcy in summer of 2012 and applied to mothball the facility’
  • In September 2012 NYSEG identified reliability need during times of peak demand
  • Repowering with gas would cost $96.2 million includes a pipeline through Groton for $32 million
  • Transmission upgrade would cost $55.6 million – cost would be split between NYSEG and National Grid
  • Will take 2-3 years to implement transmission upgrades or repowering – until then ratepayers will pay monthly Reliability Support Services surcharge on electric bill
  • In 2013 the RSS charges totaled $32 million – from 2014-17 the RSS and capital improvements are projected to cost $154 million
  • Under the proposed agreement Cayuga Power would keep $5 million in profits per years and 50% of profits beyond $5 million
  • Public Service Commission rejected repowering proposal in September 2013 because it shifted risk to ratepayers
  • Series of extensions granted to develop alternative proposal – latest granted to December 1
  • Transmission upgrades planned to take place in two phases
  • Phase 1 will take place regardless – involves 14 miles on new towers in Auburn area
  • Will reduce reliability need from 300 MW to 50 MW
  • Phase 2 would involve upgrades to existing wires with cross links to Phase 1 wires – this would resolve reliability need
  • Benefits of transmission upgrade option:
    • Improved infrastructure increases energy efficiency and improves power quality
    • Needed for renewable
    • Long-term solution
    • Better for environment
  • Downsides:
    • Fewer construction jobs
    • No permanent jobs
    • About 60 jobs lost at Cayuga Power
    • Loss of tax revenue
  • Repowering at cost of $96.2 million would create 67 construction jobs and 30 permanent jobs – overall loss of 30 permanent jobs as result of repowering
  • Environmental costs of repowering with natural gas:
    • Methane 80x worse than C02 for global warming
    • Water contamination, withdrawals
    • Radioactive waste
    • Air pollution
    • Habitat destruction
    • Light and noise pollution
  • Economic costs:
    • Local pipeline reduces property values, property owner relocation
    • Costs of drilling externalized
    • Health impacts
    • Municipal costs
    • Property value loss
    • Loss of farmland
    • Loss of local industries – agriculture, tourism
  • Cayuga PILOT payments have declined from $7 million in 2008 to $3 million in 2013
  • Would generate revenue of about $20 million per year and would get paid another $20 million per year to provide capacity when needed – primarily in July and August for a few days each month
  • Demand trends:
    • Phase 1 of transmission upgrades will reduce peak demand to 50 MW
    • Local generation and energy efficiency resulting in lower average demand; peak demand increasing at a higher rate.
    • Cost of renewables becoming competitive w/ conventional fuel sources
    • Number of peak days per year uncertain
  • Solar PV systems, combined with growing energy efficiency will significantly reduce peak demand
  • Grid interconnection of distributed resources offers opportunity to shape load profile beyond today’s practice of responding to high periods of demand
  • Revenue projections simply not realistic – NYSEG has said they are unable to replicate Cayuga Power’s revenue projections
  • Capacity not actually needed in Load Zone C but is needed downstate
  • PSC recognizes that peak plant approach is outdated – has noted that technological developments have made alternative methods of managing and satisfying demand more feasible
  • Smart Grid, distributed and residential generation, energy storage, improved transmission all decrease need for traditional capacity
  • Operational risks:
    • Fuel costs – gas prices irregular, going up
    • Emission costs – carbon tax?
    • Maintenance costs – 55+ year old furnaces
    • Health Insurance  (est. @ 6%/yr increase)
    • Construction delays, cost overruns
  • Cayuga Power anticipates that power purchase agreement with NYSEG would guarantee prices at higher cost, providing them with profit
  • Recent court rulings, however, have declared such contracts illegal – cannot guarantee price for providing capacity
  • Looks very problematic that Cayuga Power can come up with repowering plan that will make economic sense without the PPA
  • Nucor Steel supports upgrades of transmission lines over repowering
  • Short-term, local economic impacts should not be the driver of the State’s energy policy. 
  • If the PSC requires power plants to remain open because of the harm closing would cause to the community where they reside, our energy policy will never advance

The People’s Climate March – Discussion

  • Eight buses from Ithaca alone with total of 400,000 people at march in New York City from all over the world
  • At one point march was four miles long
  • Quite a few members of TCCPI attended march – shared their various impressions of the march for several minutes
  • Nick Goldsmith asked  we could build on the interest and momentum of all the people from the county who attended
  • Given that we were out of time, people asked if we could take up this discussion at our October meeting


Raising Student Awareness About Energy Efficiency – Mark Darling and Lew Durland

Mark Darling, sustainability programs coordinator at Ithaca College, and Lew Durland, Director of Energy Management and Sustainability at IC, discussed a new initiative on energy efficiency the College has launched with the assistance of Anne Rhodes in collaboration with the South Hill Civic Association and PPM Homes.

  • South Hill Outreach Rental Experience (SHORE) started in January 2012 with a discussion with PPM Homes about how to get messaging out to students about energy conservation and energy efficiency
  • 75% of residential property in Ithaca is rental
  • Besides Ithaca College and PPM Homes, collaboration on this project includes NYSEG, South Hill Civic Association, and Cornell Cooperative Extension – Tompkins County
  • Sought to move beyond lectures – looked for way to engage students – initiated series of focus groups
  • Students are looking for apartments that are closest to campus and/or house that is “coolest”
  • About 450 students from IC live in PPM Homes – total of 1500 live off campus, primarily on South Hill
  • IC has been providing more apartment-like housing on campus – utilities built into cost of apartment rental
  • No feedback loop to let students know how much electricity they are using
  • SHORE is developing a four-year curriculum, working with Student Life at IC
  • Conflict resolution a key element of curriculum
  • Students don’t come to college prepared to manage their daily life effectively and live with other people successfully
  • Students living in on-campus apartments will be presented with normalized energy consumption data
  • If students provide documentation they have attended all of workshops and stayed within band of normalized energy consumption, then PPM Homes will give them preferential treatment
  • Attempt to develop concept of “certified tenant” – easier to accomplish then put in place a process for “energy certified apartments”
  • Two other property management companies have contacted SHORE and indicated that they would like to participate in program
  • Will take several years to fully develop but putting elements of program in place this fall
  • End goal is to create better consumers with smaller carbon footprint
  • PPM Homes looking to start pilot project that would have students pay them rather than NYSEG for utility bill – that way they can reward students with rebates if they use less energy
  • Cornell Cooperative Extension will be putting together a white paper that will report on results of pilot project
  • Idea is to create demand among students for sustainable apartments
  • In end, students will better maintain apartments, making it easier for landlords

Climate Change in the News – Peter Bardaglio

  • It’s August so it’s time for the traditional roundup of the news about climate change so far this year. Lots to report on, unfortunately.
  • Most dramatic indication of climate change in 2014 is continued drought in California
  • Most recent report (8/26/14): 82% of state is suffering either “extreme” or “exceptional” drought – only 28% at beginning of year
  • California drought so severe that ground rising – mountains have shifted by as much as half-an-inch
  •  Scientists estimate 63 trillion gallons of water lost in past 18 months.
  •  Three largest reservoirs are at 30 percent capacity
  • Northeast, in contrast to West, has experienced multiple extreme rain events this spring and summer
  • Yates County received five to nine inches in just a few hours in May.
  • Caused millions of dollars in damages, affecting over 50 businesses and 250 homes
  • 2014 U.S. National Climate Assessment released in May: “Heavy precipitation events that historically occurred once in 20 years are projected to occur as frequently as every 5 to 15 years by late this century”
  • Most dramatic increase in Northeast: 71%
  •  White House science advisor: this report is "the loudest and clearest alarm bell to date signaling the need to take urgent action to combat the threats to Americans from climate change."
  • 5th Assessment Report of IPCC issued in several installments over the year
  • Climate change already posing serious threat to world's food supply – will only get worse, especially given projected population growth
  •  Potential shortages of food and water will become major drivers of future conflicts
  •  Climate change will intensify existing inequalities and have disproportionate impact on poor people in both developed and developing nations
  • Current trajectory would raise average global temperature 4 degrees Celsius – no one will escape effects of climate change
  •  We face a difficult but not hopeless task – can still prevent worst effects off climate change from occurring
  • Rising sea level a critical threat: even under moderate climate scenario, the northeastern U.S. coast risks near one-meter rise
  •  Drastically increases storm surge hazard to cities like New York
  • Final draft of IPCC “Synthesis Report” just released: "Continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems."
  • Percentage of Americans who believe that climate change is happening relatively unchanged from last year
  • Slight decline in percentage of Americans who do not believe that global warming is happening, from 23% to 19%
  • Only 54% of US respondents agreed that climate change is mainly result of human activity, placing them last among 20 nations in Global Trends 2014 survey
  • Why do so many people not want to think about climate change?
  • George Marshall argues that our brains are wired to ignore climate change
  • “We are very well adapted to respond to immediate threats but slow to accommodate moving change. Climate change is a process, not an event, so it requires that we recognize moments of proximity that can demand attention.”
  • Some good news, however: majority of voters in both Democratic and Republican parties support regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant
  • Also good news on renewable energy front: installed cost of US solar power has fallen nearly 60% since 2008
  •  Fell 27% in first 3 months of this year alone, compared to same quarter last year
  • IPCC estimates that the cost of implementing transformation necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change would shave only 0.06% off expected annual global economic growth rates of 1.3%-3%.
  •  IPCC analysis doesn’t take into account environmental and health benefits of cutting GHG emissions – could very well offset costs of shift to clean energy

Roundtable Updates

  • Karim Beers: Streets Alive on Sunday, September 7 – also look for reuse directory on Get Your Greenback website
  • Anna Keller: Upcoming Food Justice Summit in September – also community conversation taking place about repurposing Old Library
  • Megan McDonald: Putting together internal sustainability teams to implement sustainability measures for county operations
  • Gideon Stone: Community Building Works looking for partners to collaborate with – volunteers build homes without drawing on any public resources
  •  Ed Marx: Month of October will be public comment period for draft county comprehensive plan
  • Nick Goldsmith: Town of Ithaca board approved policy of purchasing 100% renewable energy
  • Katie Borgella: Close to 1300 registrants for Solar Tompkins – need to push final deadline for decisions by homeowners from October 1 to November 1
  • Andrew Gil: Beginning to set GPRO training dates for all state agencies, including SUNY campuses
  • A training and certificate program developed by Urban Green Council, USGBC NY that teaches people who build, renovate, and maintain buildings principles of sustainability combined with green construction knowledge

JULY 2014

Sustainability Planning for the City of Ithaca – Nick Goldsmith

Nick Goldsmith, the new sustainability coordinator for the City of Ithaca, discussed his priorities and plans for the coming year.

  • City joined ICLEI and the Cities for Climate Protection (CCP) campaign in 2001
  • In 2006, Mayor Carolyn Peterson signed U.S. Mayors Climate Action Agreement
  • Adopted the first Local Action Plan that same year – goal: reduce GHG emissions in government operations 20% by 2016 (2001 baseline)
  • In 2009, the City signed Climate Smart Communities Pledge and in 2013 adopted Energy Action Plan
  • Nick’s appointment as sustainability coordinator is for 24 months – started 4 months ago
  • 50% funded by Park Foundation and 50% funded internally – end goal is for position to be fully funded internally by the end of the grant period in March 2016
  • Position is situated in the mayor’s office – reports to Joanne Cornish, head of planning for the City
  • Key components of Energy Action Plan relating to renewable energy
    • “Increase use of renewable energy systems”
    • “Remove barriers to alternative energy development”
    • “Participate in or initiate a Solarize program”
  • Solar Tompkins working to double solar PV installations in the County – enrollment ends July 31!
  • Organized solar tours, community solar meetings, brown bag lunch, and other outreach efforts
  • City working on 2MW solar project – would meet 30% of City’s electricity needs
  • Lower electricity costs and huge GHG reductions
  • Solar City has submitted application submitted to NYSERDA
  • Energy Action Plan also calls for focus on energy efficiency
    • “Investigate point-of-sale energy audits”
    • “Require point-of-sale energy audits”
    • “Build partnerships with municipal, educational, and other entities”
  • Home Energy Rating and Disclosure project involves City of Ithaca, Towns of Caroline, Danby, Ithaca, and Ulysses as well as Tompkins County and Cornell Cooperative Extension
  • Funded through NYSERDA Cleaner Greener Communities program – 18 month project
  • Seeks to develop recommendations on ways municipalities can help homebuyers evaluate the energy efficiency of existing housing
  • Building energy rating and/or disclosure projects gaining traction nationwide
  • Four main parts:
    • Evaluate home energy rating systems
    • Determine if legal to mandate home energy rating disclosure in NYS
    • Create program and implementation plan
    • Create evaluation plan
  • In addition, Energy Action Plan calls for following steps regarding transportation:
    • “Remove barriers to alternative fuel stations”
    • “Encourage alternative fuel vehicles and related infrastructure”
    • “Build partnerships with municipal, educational, and other entities”
  • Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Feasibility Study
  • Applied for funding to Cleaner, Greener again
  • Participants include Ithaca Tompkins Transportation Council, Tompkins County Planning, Cornell, City and Town of Ithaca, and Cornell Cooperative Extension
  • What are criteria for charging stations?
  • City and Town both committed 1.5 staff for in-kind contributions
    • Other Current & near-term projects:
    • Stormwater legislation
    • Wastewater Treatment plant efficiency
    • Outreach: newsletter, FB, etc
    • Sustainability Center
    • Build capacity for sustainability work
    • 2030 District
  • Potential Future Projects
    • Fleet efficiency (Green fleet policy)
    • GHG inventory
    • Track energy use
    • Adaptation

Codes for a Sustainable Future – Rob Steuteville, Noah Demarest, and David West

Rob Steuteville is an expert on new urbanism and editor and publisher of Better Cities & Towns; Noah Demarest is an architect and landscape architect with STREAM Collaborative and David West is with Randall + West, an urban and regional planning firm.

  • Quality of place making has major impact on community
  • The Farmers Market in Ithaca is a good example of place making: local growers, artisans, and food draw people in from the surrounding area
  • Other kinds of place making include art and culture and historic preservation
  • How we think about our thoroughfares is another form of place making
  • Primary goal of thoroughfares up until now has been to move cars
  • “Complete street” concept offers another way of thinking about thoroughfares – seeks to make streets more amenable to walking and face-to-face interaction
  • Neighborhood is basic building block of place making – mixed use and ability to walk around are key characteristics
  • Resurgence in recent years in demand for stronger sense of place
  • Has impact on environment: walkable neighborhoods have significantly smaller carbon footprints
  • Policies and codes continually shape character of places
  • Ithaca has good mix, centralized density, and high quality of life
  • Last fifty years of development, however, have generated greater sprawl – most of development has occurred outside area of highest density
  • How can we move away from sprawl to more concentrated development in City?
  • Zoning in last few decades has sought to lower density rather than increase it
  • Most of properties in City outside downtown business district do not actually conform to existing zoning codes
  • Our project seeks to make existing high value neighborhoods legal and allow future development to occur in patterns that maximize sustainability and return on investment
  • Zoning is DNA of community – determines what kind of neighborhoods exist
  • Urban renewal in 1960s destroyed many neighborhoods and replaced them with large, generic buildings
  • Looking to create new code that has greater sensitivity to quality of neighborhoods
  • Smart codes focus on developing fewer zones – seek to simplify system to promote clarity
  • Have adopted concept of “transect” – transect is a cut or path through the environment showing a range of different habitats – biologists and ecologists use transects to study elements that contribute to healthy natural habitats
  • Transect zoning system replaces conventional separated-use zoning systems that have encouraged sprawl and dependency on cars
  • Six transect zones: natural, rural, suburban, general urban, urban center, and urban core
  • Because they are based on physical form of built and natural environment, all transect-based codes are form-based codes
  • Based on forms of buildings rather than their uses – new development should seek to foster complete neighborhoods
  • This effort directly related to City’s comprehensive planning process now underway

JUNE 2014

Solar Tompkins – Melissa Kemp

Melissa Kemp is the Program Director of Solar Tompkins, a community solar initiative focused on accelerating the rate of solar power adoption by homeowners and small businesses in Tompkins County. Melissa updated the group on what is already a hugely successful initiative

  • Solar Tompkins is a nonprofit, community solar initiative focused on facilitating a large, sustained increase in the rate of solar PV adoption in Tompkins County
  • Its specific goal is to double the amount of solar PV in the county – can be ground or roof mounted
  • Renovus, Taitem, ETM all local companies – promoting economic development in the region – selected through a competitive process
  • Building on the work of Solarize Tompkins SE, which promoted the installation of solar in Dryden, Danby, and Caroline
  • Solar Tompkins offers attractive, lower than market pricing – discounts increase as more people participate in the program
  • Countywide educational outreach on the practicality of solar PV – aims to build community enthusiasm around renewable energy
  • NY has good solar resources but NY residential solar market still growing more slowly than other states
  • Tompkins County ranks 7th in NY in terms of per capita solar
  • Germany has roughly three times the amount of solar than the U.S. but 33% less solar resources
  • Dramatic drop in price of solar systems in recent years – also solar panels  are being produced quicker and cheaper than ever
  • System costs have come down from $10 a watt to $3-4 a watt
  • Current incentives and tax breaks will be phased out over the next several years
  • Basic options for going solar:
    • Purchase: either through upfront cash investment or low interest loan
    • Lease: solar developer takes tax incentives and renewable energy credits – no upfront cash required – leases can be transferred from one home owner to another
  • All of installer partners’ pricing and offerings list on website – customer choose which one they want to use
  • Five hundred households currently enrolled in program – goal is 1,000 to 1,200 enrollees
  • Students from SUNY Cortland’s sustainable energy program are helping out
  • Educational outreach will continue through August 2014 – then installations will begin and go on through the spring
  • Besides Renovus & Taitem/ETM. Astrom Solar is a partner in program – has carried out a similar program in CT
  • Large regional company focused solely on residential sector – has lowest price in program and longer warranty
  • Solar Tompkins has established standards for panels, inverters, installation, warranties, etc.
  • Average sticker price for a 7kw solar system is $24,500 – after incentives and tax credits, actual cost is $7875
  • Once system is completed there is an extra Solar Tompkins program tier rebate that will probably be around $2,100 – taxes on rebate check will be about $441
  • Final cost comes out to $6216 – with a 5%, 10 year loan, monthly payment would be around $68
  • Astrum and Taitem/ETM are offering leases as well – range from $0.09 kwh to $0.12 kwh, depending on whether an escalator is included
  • For purchases you are typically looking at 6-7 year payback and IRR of 17% for roof systems – for ground systems, it’s a 9-10 year payback and IRR of 10%
  • More information available on website: www.solartompkins.org
  • Can also contact Solar Tompkins directly with questions or expressions of interest: Melissa Kemp, Solar Tompkins Program Director – melissa@solartompkins.org

Ithaca 2030 District – Peter Bardaglio

Peter presented a progress report on the efforts of the exploratory steering committee and the Ithaca 2030 District’s new status as an “emerging district.”

  • The Ithaca 2030 District will be a high-performance building district in downtown Ithaca – an outgrowth of the Architecture 2030 effort that aims to dramatically reduce the carbon footprint of existing and new buildings
  • Now have letters of commitment from three properties: Cornell Cooperative Extension Tompkins County, Taitem Engineering, and Travis Hyde Properties involving four buildings
  • HOLT Architects is a resource partner
  • Andrew Gil has begun developing a map of the district with data on each of the buildings – will provide us with a template as the number of properties grows
  • Architecture 2030 has granted us “emerging district” status – other new “emerging districts” include Albuquerque, Ann Arbor, Dallas, Detroit, San Antonio, San Francisco, Stamford, and Toronto
  • The second 2030 District Summit is in Seattle this September and Peter will be attending
  • The Ithaca 2030 District exploratory committee submitted a grant proposal to Cleaner, Greener Communities CFA and is waiting to hear
  • Includes in-kind commitments from CCETC, HOLT, and Taitem

Roundtable Update – All

  • Katie Borgella: Ithaca Tompkins Transportation Council submitted planning grant for installing electric vehicle chargers to Cleaner, Greener Communities CFA – looking at developing model at county level that could be replicated elsewhere
  • Irene Weiser: There will be a public forum on alternatives to Cayuga Power Plan on Monday evening at the Unitarian Church at 7 pm
  • Lansing School District has signed agreement with solar developer to apply for 2 MW solar system at Cayuga Power Plant
  • Jon Jensen: Will serve as interim program officer for local sustainability program
  • Park Foundation looking for intern to help complete Green Plus program – someone with interest in sustainability – paid, part-time internship
  • Nick Goldsmith: City will be applying for 2 MW system on airport land – will meet 30% of City of Ithaca’s electricity needs
  • Karim Beers: Exploring feasibility of solar for low-income households – first meeting at GIAC on July 16 at 5:30-7:30 pm
  • Website directory for reuse stores will be launched shortly as part of GYGB

MAY 2014

Stormwater Management – Mayor Myrick

Mayor Myrick briefed the group on the City’s proposed stormwater management legislation, which would improve incentives for reducing runoff from each property, put in place a new users fee to replace the current system of financing through tax dollars, and include tax-exempt property owners.

  • Alex Mitchell introduced Mayor, noting the findings of recent National Climate Assessment regarding increased precipitation in Northeast -- not future development, happening now
  • Mayor observed that we have been experiencing unprecedented flooding in recent years
  • Also noted that property taxes are not progressive – they are based on value of the house, not on how much money people actually have, a crucial issue in community where housing costs have skyrocketed
  • At the same time, stormwater management is costing the city more and more
  • The Mayor noted that tax exempt institutions such as Cornell have lots of parking lots and other impervious surfaces that are responsible for runoff, but not having to share burden of these costs
  • Under the proposed legislation, Cornell would have to pay an annual fee of $130K
  • David Kay expressed concerned that implementing these kinds of users fees is turning citizens into consumers
  • Mayor said he couldn’t agree more but in light of cuts in federal budget state’s property tax cap, city doesn’t have much choice if it is to provide the same level of service
  • Jan Norman Rhodes asked if city will be spending money on putting in place mitigation efforts
  • City will be providing incentives for larger property owners who implement steps to reduce runoff
  • Ed Marx pointed out that the other municipalities have provided payment to home owners who take these steps
  • City wants to start out with flat payments for residential property owners – once in place, the city might be able to develop more complex approach
  • The Mayor noted that with any proposed policy shift there are winners and losers – in this case, large property owners don’t like the proposal
  • Asked TCCPI members to help support legislation when introduced later this summer, observing that opponents will be lobbying hard against this measure

Climate Change Education – Ingrid Zabel

Ingrid Zabel, climate change education manager for the Museum of the Earth and Cayuga Nature Center, shared her reflections on a recent conference she attended that explored the theme “Climate Change Demands We Change. Why Aren't We?” and then presented an overview of the climate change education programs at PRI

  • Attended conference in April on climate change at New School for Social Research
  • First part focused on psychological factors and social change
  • Some of deterrents to change:
    • Costs up front, benefits uncertain and in future
    • Status quo bias in decision making
    • Overwhelming – paralyzes people
    • Conflicting goals (material, social, environmental)
    • Group support, social validation
    • Forewarning of persuasive intent
    • Embedded beliefs and values
    • Lack of common-sense morality around climate change
    • Cooperation in groups at beginning might be strong but then erodes over time
    • Cooperation is difficult with uncertainty and harder when the benefit is in the future
  • Some of solutions proposed:
    • Change default option away from status quo
    • Focus on positive consequences of change
    • Use long and successful past on Earth to motivate investment in future
    • Point to other times when seemingly insurmountable problems have been addressed – slavery, woman’s suffrage, civil rights movement, etc
    • Show people that solutions exist and work
    • Connect climate change to people’s everyday concerns
    • Frame change as congruent with the ideals of the system
    • Provide intermediate targets; these help motivate people to cooperate
    • Educate: knowledge matters
    • Educate for empathy
    • Find communicators who people trust (“people like them”)
  • Ingrid then proceeded to provide overview of three talks at conference: coastal resilience, climate politics, and climate justice
  • Coastal resilience: Army Corps of Engineers, after Superstorm Sandy, charged with developing plan for making Northeast coastline more resilient
  • First time that Army Corps has been asked to find risk reduction strategies, take into account climate change
  • Use sustainable and robust coastal landscape systems (human-made and nature-based)
  • Climate politics: Is it possible to build a conservative movement supporting climate protection? For those who believe in market forces, put in all the real costs
  • Climate justice: Resiliency for poor communities: bounce back to what? Need to bounce forward
  • Ingrid then turned to new initiatives at PRI on climate change education
  • Weird weather kiosks travel around state
  • New permanent exhibits: coral reefs and glacier at the Museum of the Earth and local climate impacts at Cayuga Nature Center
  • Temporary exhibits: “Moving Carbon, Changing Earth”; “Our Expanding Oceans”; and “”The Changing Arctic Landscape”
  • Publications: teacher-friendly guides on geological history, rocks, fossils, climate, soil, glaciers, among others; and “Very Short Guides” on climate change and science of Marcellus Shale
  • For 4H: Tracking “Climate in your Backyard” curriculum
  • Citizen science: tree and plant seasonal cycles and impact of climate change – also precipitation
  • New grant from Park Foundation will fund new climate change education programs, professional development workshops for teachers, farm tours with a climate change focus, working with New Roots students on ecological census of Smith Woods and the CNC grounds
  • Climate education also includes lecture series and public talks
  • Also involvement in national initiatives: Next Generation Science Standards and Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network

Youth Climate Justice in Tompkins County – Reed Steberger

Reed Steberger, TCCPI’s assistant coordinator for youth outreach, discussed his work on helping to build a climate justice youth network and plans for the coming months. Reed has been participating this year in the Natural Leaders Initiative.

  • Major component of Reed’s work is Youth Power Summit, which seeks to promote youth leadership development
  • In 2011 Youth Power Summit focused exclusively on sustainability
  • Shifted to climate justice and the new economy in 2013 – reflected in keynote speakers and workshops and skills-based training
  • Two key challenges:
    • Youth have been predominantly white and middle class
    • Tendency to approach diversity with tokenism as default position
  • As part of trying to find solutions Reed has been attending the National Leadership Institute (NLI)
  • Big question: how are resources allocated?
  • Focused on shifting the narrative: who’s being invited to participate? Need to build bridges and align our goals
  • Major question posed at NLI: how do we shift from transactional organizing to transformative (relational) work?
  • Reed then reviewed his work plan for near future
  • Working with organizers of International Festival at Cornell and Juneteenth at the Southside Community Center, among others
  • All geared towards continuing to transform Youth Power Summit for 2015
  • Long-term work in face of urgent, short-term challenges – need to focus on underlying structural change

APRIL 2014

Welcome Home: Communities That Work – Ed Marx

Ed Marx, Tompkins County planning commissioner, updated the group on the progress of this pathbreaking project, which received a three-year grant from the EPA Climate Showcase Communities program in 2011. It was carried out in collaboration with EcoVillage at Ithaca and Aurora Pocket Neighborhood.

  • To start, Ed played three short videos:
  • 1)An overview of EcoVillage at Ithaca (EVI): http://vimeo.com/84001289
    2)The new third neighborhood at EVI, TREE: http://vimeo.com/84001291
    3)Aurora Neighborhood Pocket in downtown Ithaca: http://vimeo.com/84001287
  • TREE, together with Aurora Pocket Neighborhood, are two of the model projects in Welcome Home: Community That Works funded by EPA Climate Showcase Communities Program.
  • Three years of funding wrapping up this summer
  • Cutting edge and, as with anything new, project has had its challenges
  • Third project slated to be built on West Hill, just north of Cayuga Medical Center
  • Would involve 58 units on 25 acres: high-density, pedestrian-oriented development similar to EVI
  • Will demonstrate viability of ecovillage model to mainstream real estate development
  • Next stage in overall project involves technical assistance grant to real estate developments outside of Tompkins County—applications for $5K grants have deadline of May 8

Pocket Neighborhoods – Sue Cosentini

Sue Cosentini, president of New Earth Living, presented an overview of her plans for the Amabel Pocket Neighborhood in Ithaca. Her first such project was the highly successful Aurora Pocket Neighborhood, which is also part of Welcome Home: Communities That Work.

  • Pocket neighborhoods involve concept of urban infill
  • More effective use of already existing infrastructure and increase density of downtown
  • Houses share common social space where houses “talk to each other”
  • Wrap houses in insulation with second wall—insulation goes below grade 7 feet and insulation in ceilings
  • Close to zero energy housing—even tighter than passive house standard
  • Next pocket neighborhood will be built on Rte 13A: Anabel Pocket Neighborhood
  • Will have common space and mechanism for car-sharing
  • Park-like setting one mile from downtown—both open meadow and forest with community gardens, located on future Black Diamond Trail
  • Small carbon footprint with “nesting” that balances privacy with open outdoor spaces
  • About 30 houses on site—will be borrowing and adapting design from similar project on Cape Cod
  • Not “car independent” but “car less independent”—shooting for net zero overall
  • Social process will be co-created with residences—goal is to maximize spontaneous social dynamic
  • Will not be a legal cooperative like EVI—difficult for developer-driven projects to become cooperatives
  • Will be “fee simple”—no common house because of legal obstacles to having property held in common when private developers involved
  • Will have to bring water and sewer to site so not same thing as urban infill
  • Will include orchards and root cellars
  • Jon Jensen pointed out how random neighbors usually are—how many people interview neighbors before deciding to buy a house?
  • Intentional neighborhoods like EVI, Aurora, and Anabel involve neighbors who share core values
  • Gay Nicholson pointed out that it might be possible to retrofit older neighborhoods and communities w/ new social technologies
  • Will be able to use website and portals to explore who neighbors might be and begin co-creating social dynamic—create core values together
  • Andrew Gil asked how Anabel will deal with issue of people building add-ons
  • Will have home owners’ association with design covenants that will limit add-ons; different than a co-op
  • Irene Weiser asked how do you avoid dangers of homogeneity and instead promote diversity
  • Sue acknowledged that cracking the code of social diversity very difficult
  • Jon Jensen mentioned that Park Foundation has done program-related investments with INHS to make housing more affordable
  • Anabel will be about $165-185/sq ft —pre-built walls brought in by cranes rather than framed in
  • Karim Beers asked how we can encourage more urban pocket neighborhoods and discourage single home projects outside the city
  • Sue: One solution is to make urban housing less costly—difficult, however, because of tight margins
  • Ed Marx: Simple way is to make it as difficult as possible for people to do what we don’t want them to do and make it easier for them to do things we want them to do
  • Karim Beers asked what can TCCPI do to encourage more urban infill like pocket neighborhoods
  • David Kay asked Sue what major barriers are to develop more urban pocket neighborhoods in places such as Fall Creek
  • Sue: Access to capital is major barrier, not availability of sites

Fossil Fuel Divestment and Climate Change – Jon Jensen and Peter Bardaglio

Jon Jensen, executive director of the Park Foundation, and Peter Bardaglio, TCCPI coordinator and senior advisor at Second Nature, attended a conference earlier this month on “intentionally designed endowments.” They shared their reflections from the conference, which was co-sponsored by Hampshire College and Second Nature, and the issues it raised about endowment investing for colleges and foundations in the age of climate change.

  • Jon: Very difficult to create new investment policies and challenge the status quo
  • Park Foundation’s endowment currently has about 90% in socially-responsible investments and about $2M in program-related investments
  • How can investment officers in higher ed institutions invest in their communities and still make money?
  • David Kay pointed out that it would raise profile of higher ed institutions and potentially increase wariness of community about where that money is invested
  • Peter suggested that joint task force of community leaders and campus leaders would work together to decide where those investments should go
  • Three key themes of Second Nature-Hampshire conference: 1) Risk management/stranded assets; 2) potential for similar returns in endowments screened for fossil fuels; and 3) mission alignment


  • Jan Rhodes Norman: new publication similar to Local First Ithaca book—collaboration between Local First Ithaca and Get Your GreenBack, piloting an employee benefit booklet with coupons
  • Gay Nicholson : Next Forum in “The Climate, The Market, and The Commons” on May 8
  • Karim Beers: Streets Alive! And GYGB celebration on May 4

MARCH 2014

County Comprehensive Plan re: Climate and Energy – Scott Doyle

Scott Doyle, senior planner for Tompkins County, presented an overview of the process for updating the County Comprehensive Plan and asked TCCPI members for input on these key parts of the County’s Comprehensive Plan.

  • Key guiding principle for climate adaptation planning: Tompkins County should actively identify and plan for economic, environmental, and social impacts of climate change
  • Important to build countywide climate resilience by working across disciplines and integrating mitigation into other planning and economic strategies
  • By its nature climate adaptation work requires regular assessment and possible adjustment—efforts need to be closely monitored
  • David Kay: Rapidly changing knowledge about climate change means we need to implement iterative process—how can we institutionalize this?
  • Karim Beers: How can we support inter-municipal collaboration?
  • Marian Brown: Need to work closely with relevant stakeholders on forest management
  • David Kay: Every project should have to assess its energy and climate impacts
  • Also: state and federal policies changing around these issues—how do we stay abreast of these issues?
  • Marian Brown: Important to monitor not just quantity but quality of water
  • Katie Borgella: Will begin to solicit public comments in June
  • Key guiding principle for energy and GHG emissions: reduce energy demand, improve energy efficiency, transition to renewable sources of energy, and reduce GHG emissions
  • Should county establish goal of 80% reduction from 2008 levels by 2050 or carbon neutrality by 2050?
  • Ed Marx: Much more difficult to gain support of county legislature for carbon neutrality
  • Gay Nicholson: Is there any research on how public perceives goal of carbon neutrality?
  • Mary Kate Wheeler: Could carbon be included in discussion of principle guiding county actions?
  • Andrew Gil: Problem with carbon neutrality is, can we get to carbon neutrality without carbon sequestration?
  • Katie Borgella: Will be integrating work from Cleaner Greener Southern Tier plan and information from Energy Roadmap work to date

Cornell Climate Action Plan Update – Sarah Zemanick

Cornell University issued its first Climate Action Plan in 2009 and then updated it in 2011. The university has recently completed another update and Sarah Carson Zemanick from Cornell’s Office of Energy and Sustainability shared this new update with us.

  • President Skorton has stated that two most important challenges facing humanity are inequality and climate change
  • Current levels of carbon in atmosphere were last reached 3 million years ago in Pliocene Era
  • One meter rise in sea level by end of century pretty much baked in
  • Half-meter rise mid-century will inflict at least $1 trillion in damage
  • Three pillars of Cornell’s climate action plan: neutrality, innovation, and leadership
  • President Skorton signed ACUPCC in 2007—first plan issued in 2009
  • Main elements of the ACUPCC:
    • Achieve climate neutrality
    • Integrate into curriculum and educational experience
    • Expand research necessary to achieve climate neutrality
  • Seeking to reduce Cornell’s GHG emissions to neutral by 2050 or sooner
  • Climate neutrality: no new net GHG emissions, direct or indirect (Scope 1 & 2)
  • Some Scope 3 emissions included but not goods purchased on campus, deliveries to campus, etc.
  • Cornell received 2010 Climate Leadership Award from Second Nature
  • Notable accomplishments:
    • 32% reduction in GHG emissions since 2008
    • 431 sustainability-related courses and integrated into student orientation
    • Think Big, Live Green campaign Building Dashboard established
  • Broad campus engagement and integration key feature of Cornell plan
  • Capital funding constraints, very cheap natural gas, lack of fee for dumping carbon in atmosphere, and community and regulatory acceptance are most serious obstacles to achieving climate neutrality
  • Requires campus-wide partnership to move forward
  • Key steps:
  • 1) energy conservation
    2) building energy standards
    3) optimize heat distribution
    4) CU renewable energy initiative
    5) enhance geothermal system
    6) wind power
    7) mission-linked carbon offsets
  • Seeking to make climate literacy and sustainability part of curriculum and academic experience at Cornell
  • Also working to integrate sustainability as an overarching principle into the performance management process
  • Policy recommendations:
    • All new construction projects and renovations valued over $5M must achieve a minimum 50% energy savings
    • Carbon-Neutral Travel Policy that invests in community-based carbon reduction projects
    • LEED Neighborhood Development certification for the Ithaca Campus & Existing Buildings
    • Energy efficiency standards for equipment purchases
    • Reduce fossil-fuel consumption among Cornell-owned vehicles
    • Comprehensive, campus-wide materials management strategy
  • Cornell faculty Senate passed resolution in December 2013 calling for carbon neutrality by 2035 instead of 2050
  • President Skorton has appointed joint faculty and administrative/staff committee to explore ways to meet this challenge
  • Grand vision includes lake source cooling, deep hot rock, wind, solar, and biomass
  • Achieving carbon neutrality by 2035 will be very difficult—not sure how university will pay for it
  • Francis Vanek: Deep hot rock is not an “off the shelf” technology—not guaranteed it will work—is there a Plan B?
  • David Kay: land use has significant impact on transportation—to what extent is university taking this into account in terms of housing for employees?

Campus and Community Climate and Energy Goals: How Do We Go Forward?

  • How can we enhance and call attention to need for collaboration between campus and community on climate action and resilience?
  • Francis Vanek: Engaging students to work on joint projects would be one way—teams can carry out preliminary research
  • Gay Nicholson: Any effort to promote campus-community collaboration needs to take into account inequality
  • Negotiations on PILOT underscore importance of Cornell investing in community
  • Ed Marx: Transportation is clearly one area where campus-community collaboration is taking place, particularly with TCAT—how can we strengthen collaboration in this area?
  • David Kay: Need to remember that Cornell is very decentralized institution —very hard to get the entire campus to do anything
  • Marguerite Wells: How could the next wind farm development be approached differently that would leverage this kind of collaboration?
  • Ingrid Zabel: Different models of collaboration—which models might be most effective in this situation?
  • Ann Rhodes: Unless we come to grips with rental properties, many of which are occupied by students, it will be impossible to achieve carbon neutrality
  • Dee Gamble: We sometimes take TCCPI for granted—having a vehicle like TCCPI in the community is not normal. 


Transportation in Tompkins County—Fernando de Aragón

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks is a major challenge in the effort to protect the climate. Fernando de Aragón, executive director of the Ithaca-Tompkins County Transportation Council, provided an update on recent efforts by his organization and the challenges moving forward.

  • The Ithaca-Tompkins County Transportation Council (ITCTC) is a metropolitan planning organization (MPO)
  • Under federal regulations, MPOs responsible for developing long-range transportation plan (LRTA) and managing federal funding.
  • Funding comes from gasoline tax fund—supplemented by general funding due to reluctance of Congress to raise gas tax
  • Twenty-year LRTP updated every five years—focuses on long-term macro concepts and trends
  • Current plan for 2015-35 due December 31 this year
  • Ongoing transportation efforts:
  • Operations: TCAT, Carshare, taxi, intercity bus
  • Programs and Education:
    • Way2Go – faster and farther
    • Rideshare Coalition - Zimride
    • Coordinated Plan
    • Get Your Greenback (GYGB)
    • HSC Creating Healthy Places
    • Bike Walk Tompkins – new!
    • Mobility Managers/RTS - regional
  • Way2Go and GYGB campaign reside within CCE
  • Provide education and encouragement programs
  • Will coordinate next Streets Alive! On Sunday, May 4—several thousand people participated last year.
  • Steets Alive! Film Festival on Thursday, March 13 at 7:30 pm at Cinemapolis.
  • Human Services Coalition Creating Healthy Places
    • Highlights the link between active transportation & healthy living
    • Sponsored and coordinated implementation of past Streets Alive!
  • Under ITCTC and Tompkins County Department of Social Services coordinated plan to use federal funds targeted to hard-to-serve populations: youth, elderly, disabled, and those with medical needs.
  • Other ongoing transportation efforts
    • Rideshare Coalition and Regional Transportation Study for hard-to-reach populations
    • Bike Walk Tompkins—new
      • Promote active transportation
      • Bike / Walk / Transit / Shared Transport
      • Education, advocacy, programs
      • Possible future home of Streets Alive!
  • Medicaid funding has been major source of support for rural transit. NYS has shifted to providing taxi service; has had significant impact on funding for bus services that bring people from outside Tompkins County who work here.
  • Cayuga Waterfront Trail (CWT) and Black Diamond Trail (BDT) scheduled for construction
  • BDT more vulnerable to postponement but CWT should be completed this year
  • Gateway Trail is moving forward
  • Countywide Trail Strategy should be completed this year
  • The Commons is on schedule for completion this year as well as enhanced pedestrian crossings at Route 13 at 3rd and Dey Streets
  • City received grant for pedestrian safety work on MLK ST and Seneca/Brindley to be completed in 2015
  • ICSD and City received funding for working with Safe Route to School Program
  • New federal transportation legislation in 2014: funding that supports agencies such as ITCTC up for reauthorization this year
  • Probably won’t undergo wholesale overhaul; most likely to undergo only minor tweaks
  • Other near-term projects:
    • Town of Ithaca Pedestrian Study on Rt.96B near IC
    • Complete Hanshaw Rd. project - 2014
    • Complete Forest Home Bridge - 2014
    • Pine Tree Rd. Pedestrian Bridge and Trail – 2014-15
    • Cayuga Heights over Rt.13 – rebuild 2014-15
    • Repairs on Rt. 13 over:
      • Carter Creek – Newfield
      • Pony Hollow
      • Cascadilla
      • Fall Creek
      • Chaffee Creek
  • Increased ridership on transit is a national trend but no corresponding increase in funding
  • Most of federal funding goes to traditional highway projects. All of the other funding has been consolidated under Transportation Alternative Program (TAP)
  • ITCTC in past has transferred highway funding to transit but harder to do this as funding levels get tighter
  • Hybrid and electric vehicles key to reducing GHG emissions but not most efficient way to meet transportation needs
  • Will continue to incur costs related to roads, parking, etc., as well as encourage suburban sprawl
  • Jan Rhodes Norman: Important social justice issue—very hard for low-income populations to afford electric vehicles
  • Ed Marx: Gasoline sales and vehicle miles traveled are two indicators used bt Cleaner Greener to establish baseline for GHG emissions
  • Ed: Shift in paradigm for funding sidewalk maintenance and repair could help encourage pedestrian transit
  • Moving from system of property owners being responsible for sidewalks to one where everyone is subject to modest annual fee that goes into general pool that funds all of sidewalk maintenance and repair

Roundtable on 2013 Member Accomplishments

  • Nick Goldsmith: Transitioning to new shared position for two years that will focus on implementation of sustainability plans in Town and City of Ithaca on April 1
  • New 70 KW solar system installed on Town of Ithaca garage
  • Sustainability newsletter and Facebook page for Town of Ithaca gaining increased readers/followers
  • Also moved forward in 2013 with development of Town of Ithaca energy action plan—hoping for adoption by April
  • Marian Brown: Some setbacks at Ithaca College this year because of resignation of energy manager and other vacancies; should have energy manager position filled soon
  • Athletics and Event Center received approval for LEED Gold
  • IC also completed its second STARS assessment and achieved Gold
  • Andrew Gil: HOLT has adopted new software that allows them to model energy use for new and existing buildings
  • Dee Gamble: Cornell Cooperative Extension Tompkins Council has been looking at its energy consumption over past ten years by 35%—65% less electricity compared to 2002
  • Installed 25 KW solar system, switched to more efficient lighting, programmable thermostats, upgraded boiler, some new windows, etc.
  • Based on this experience, partnering with Taitem to provide local small businesses and non-profits with advice and support on how to reduce energy use without having to take on high cost expenditures
  • Looking to work with 5-10 building owners on this project—will be supplemented by website that will provide info on steps business owners can take and case studies
  • Megan McDonald: LEED tax exemption public hearing has been rescheduled for March 18 at 5:30 pm
  • Tompkins County Council of Governments has established sustainability subcommittee so local government leaders can coordinate their efforts (missed two other items)
  • Katie Stoner: Besides providing support for TCCPI, Park Foundation has funded energy efficiency efforts at CCE, sustainability planning in Towns of Dryden and Ithaca
  • Also engaged in office greening effort to establish policies to reduce GHG emissions; also moving into new offices at Seneca Way and aiming for LEED Platinum for the office
  • Ed Marx: County looking at microhydro possibilities, also looking at possibility of siting 2MW system
  • Completed Cleaner Greener sustainability plan for Southern Tier as well as energy road map for county
  • Also updating County comprehensive plan
  • Sarah Zemanick: Cornell, like Ithaca College, retained its Gold rating under STARS
  • Gained approval for 2 MW solar system across road from airport and looking to install another 2 MW project
  • Energy construction programs have also made significant headway over past year; green lab effort
  • Campus space has increased 20% but only experienced 4% rise in energy consumption
  • Faculty Senate just passed resolution accelerating goal for achieving climate neutrality from 2050 to 2035
  • President Skorton is establishing committee to explore how to achieve this new goal
  • New humanities building is looking to achieve LEED Platinum
  • Reed Steberger: participating in Natural Leadership program; good alignment with work on Summer of Solutions effort this past summer
  • Working on developing best practices for organizing and working with young people on climate justice issues.


LEEDS Real Property Tax Exemption – Andrew Gil

A public hearing for a County Legislature resolution to grant real property tax exemptions for buildings meeting LEED certification is scheduled for next month. Andrew Gil, a LEED-certified architect at HOLT and member of the TCCPI steering committee, provided background info and answered questions.

  • Tiered system – only for county property taxes – doesn’t apply to school taxes
  • Local municipalities could adopt it on a voluntary basis
  • Applies to any building – provides abatement on $100K of building – meant to mitigate cost of applying for LEED
  • Public hearing on Feb 18 at 5:30 PM in legislative chambers
  • Jason Henderson: What is the legislative intent of the cap?
  • Ed Marx: State doesn’t allow percentage cap – has to be fixed amount
  • Ed: Legislature’s primary motive is to encourage more energy efficient buildings
  • One of primary criticisms of resolution is that LEED doesn’t put enough emphasis on energy efficiency
  • Andrew: Important to remember that NYS is third or fourth most aggressive state in country when it comes to energy efficiency
  • NYS code sets bar above LEED
  • Karim Beers: Is this the best use of public money? Could it be used more effectively in other ways to encourage energy efficiency?
  • Ed: Legislature could review results after period of time to assess how effective it would be
  • Project cost must exceed $10,000 – existing building or new building – certification is trigger
  • Can also use alternative rating systems like Green Globes, ANSI, or system determined by local authority
  • Nonprofits such as Cayuga Medical Center or higher ed institutions such as Cornell or Ithaca College would not benefit
  • On existing buildings the abatement would apply to any increase in assessed value
  • Group expressed strong consensus in favor of TCCPI coalition supporting this resolution and PB speaking in favor of it at public hearing
  • NOTE: Public hearing was postponed because the proposal was tabled by the legislature

County Comprehensive Plan Update on Climate Change and Energy and GHG Emissions – Katie Borgella

Katie Borgella, principal planner for Tompkins County and member of the TCCPI steering committee, reviewed the upcoming process for updating these sections of the County Comprehensive Plan.

  • TCCPI group served as sounding board for development of original plan – County Planning Department would like to use group for this purpose again for update
  • Will come to group again in March for feedback and questions – then go to public in early June – hope to complete process in the fall
  • Original plan projected steep rise in energy prices – not clear what will happen going forward – rise over past few years not especially dramatic
  • Many people believed peak oil would send prices skyrocketing – did not anticipate extent to which new technologies would spark growth in production of oil and natural gas
  • What role should county play going forward in developing incentives and financial tools to promote energy efficiency, energy conservation, and renewable energy?
  • Gay Nicholson: Would be good to encourage statewide movement toward expanded net metering
  • Stephen Nicholson: Should try again to secure property tax abatement on any increased assessment due to energy efficiency improvement and installation of solar systems
  • Fernando de Aragón: Need to pay more attention to reducing GHG emissions generated by transportation
  • Ed: should anticipate growing demand for electric cars by installing more charging stations downtown
  • Fernando expressed concern about difficulty of moving away from dependence on cars in county
  • Scott Doyle turned discussion to climate change element of comprehensive plan
  • Noted that new Cleaner Greener study would provide good foundation to build on – also state climate change report and recent county hazard mitigation plan
  • What other concerns should county be considering when it comes to climate mitigation and resilience?
  • Stephen N: Need to take into account possibility of increased numbers on climate refugees coming into the county?
  • Anne Rhodes: Education about impact of climate change still a significant challenge – how can we increase effectiveness of current efforts and expand them?
  • Marian Brown: alternative crops as climate changes – also shift in kinds of trees we plant

TCCPI Priorities for 2014

  • Ithaca 2030 District will be flagship initiative for 2014 – provide model of campus-community collaborations for college towns
  • Other priorities: Smart Energy Policy Initiative, updating of county comprehensive plan related to climate change, energy and GHG emissions – help increase awareness and build consensus around county target for GHG emission reduction
  • Also help accelerate transition to renewable energy: Solar Tompkins, development of wood pellet infrastructure, Black Oak Wind Farm
  • Green workforce development: Solar Tompkins, new grant for training at Finger Lakes ReUse
  • Youth climate justice network
  • Focus on transportation GHG emissions?


  • Gay Nicholson: lecture on climate change and soil sequestration next Thursday evening – Peter Donovan of Soil Climate Challenge will be the speaker
  • Renewable Summit in Albany on Monday hosted by Alliance for Green economy – coalition of peace action and environmental groups
  • Lansing Community Circle looking at microhydro – group visited several sites in Madison county
  • Latest Finger Lakes Climate Fund grant went to Cayuga Pure Organics
  • Jon Jensen: Divert/Invest initiative announced two days ago – Park Foundation participating in this national effort
  • Ingrid Zabel: Museum of the Earth/Cayuga Nature Center has mobile exhibit on climate change – looking for new localities for next few months
  • Dee Gamble: suggested GIAC as possible location – will discuss with Ingrid
  • Ed: State energy plan out for comment now – period ends March 9 – emphasizes natural gas
  • Karim reminded everyone about GYGB’s carpool challenge

309 North Aurora Street | Ithaca, NY 14850 | info@tccpi.org

Meeting Highlights: 2014