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to the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative

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

December 2023
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December 2023

Fracking 2.0: Using CO2 to Extract Methane – Irene Weiser

Irene is the coordinator of Fossil Free Tompkins and a former member of the Caroline Town Board. She discussed the latest effort to bring fracking to the Southern Tier – using CO2 to bypass the NYS ban on hydraulic fracking.

  • The Southern Tier Solutions (STS) proposal part of nationwide feeding frenzy for federal tax credits and incentives designed to prop up fossil fuel industry
    • Dangerous, destructive, unsustainable experiment, consisting of grab-bag of costly false solutions
    • Diverts investment and human resources from real solutions
  • Southern Tier sent letter to 6500 landowners about cooperatively capturing and sequestering carbon dioxide
  • More information can be found at southerntiersolutions.com
  • Their proposal:
    • Begin series of pilot wells across Southern Tier Marcellus Shale
    • Build New Zero Emission Gas Power Plants (Allam Cycle)
    • Use generated power to support Direct Air Capture of CO2
    • Hydrogen from methane
  • Proposal Diagram
    • High pressure CO2 Pipeline
    • Drill and inject CO2 into shale
    • Recover methane from shale
    • Feed the methane into the power plant
    • Allam cycle gas power plant - Supply to the NYS power grid, Direct air capture CO2
    • Captured CO2
  • Why being proposed here?
    • Large expanse of rural lands over methane rich Marcellus and Utica Shale formations
    • Few existing well bores, less risk of leakage of CO2
    • No prior fracking, more methane reserves remain, no H2O from fracking interfering
    • CLCPA mandate for 100% carbon-free power generation by 2040
    • According to EPA, we have 7,284,743 tons of CO2 emissions annually w/in 50 miles radius of Binghamton
    • Also large network of existing gas pipelines in PA leading into NY
  • Why being proposed now?
    • 2008 GW Bush – 45Q tax credit incentivized investment in carbon capture and sequestration
    • 2018 Trump – increased tax credit over time plus no federal spending
    • 2021 Biden – Inflation Reduction Act increased tax credits
  • STS envisioned establishing a dozen or more hubs across the Southern Tier, which will have 300 MW power plants
  • Equipped with facilities for carbon capture, energy generation, and gas separation, supported by extensive land leases and an underground network
  • STS predicts it will replace water-based fracking option
  • IRS Tax code section 45Q accountability
    • Confidential – part of company tax filing
    • Company self-reports emissions and disposal path to EPA
    • No coordination between EPA and IRS to ensure numbers match
    • EPA doesn’t verify emissions, nor monitor disposal/storage
    • No mechanism to monitor CO2 leakage after storage
  • Idea is to capture industrial CO2 emissions from fossil fuel power plants and heavy industry
  • Hundreds of millions of $$ funded to do this – not many operational because uneconomic
  • Not fully effective – only 40-60% of CO2 emissions captured, and NOx & SOx remain
  • Located in highly impacted environmental justice communities
  • TOTALLY false solution: hard evidence oil and gas companies aware of this, just like they knew CO2 causes global warming – but allows them to keep operating and pretend they are fixing the problem(greenwashing)
  • John Kerry, COP28 “The bottom line is this COP needs to be committed to phasing out all unabated fossil fuels.”
  • Supercritical CO2 exhibits properties and behaviors between that of liquid and gas
  • Energy required to pressurize and heat CO2 must be maintained during transport & storage
  • We already have over 5,000 miles of CO2 pipelines – mostly in oil field
  • Regulated by several agencies: Pipeline Hazardous Materials and Safety Authority, Army Corps of Engineers, HUD, and states
  • MASSIVE CO2 pipeline expansion planned -- STS has proposed bringing CO2 from Gulf to NY by rail, then truck to injection site
  • FRA report (2020); North American fleet size approximately 1,300 cars – current fleet is captive
    • New business = new cars
    • Average cost of new car $200K - $225K
  • DOE has announced $27 million for carbon dioxide transport networks to manage carbon emissions
  • Long tradition of “enhanced oil recovery” using CO2 – since before 45Q
  • Inject supercritical CO2 into well – acts as solvent, releases more oil or gas
  • Vertical well plus “turn the corner” using conventional drilling and sealing methods – then drill horizontally – shorter distance, inject supercritical highly pressurized CO2
  • New method only being used in China for now
  • STS claims about methane recovery:
    • Electric trucks, drilling equipment: how will they do this out in middle of rural areas w/o power supply near?
    • Injecting CO2 occurs at lower pressure than hydrofracking -- they keep it in a supercritical state once they inject it
    • CO2 dissolves calcite in natural shale fracture networks
    • Only 12-18% CH4 recovered via hydrofracking – CO2 provides higher yield
    • Marcellus Shale has capacity to sequester 165 billion tons CO2 = 20+ years output of entire US: is their real plan aimed at sequestering CO2?
    • Landowners will earn more $ from CO2 sequestration than from CH4 production: seems credible thanks to 45Q
  • All wells leak eventually, and 7% will leak immediately – creates lots of pathways for gas migration
  • Fissures in abandoned wells offer pathways for leakage – liquid carbon dioxide waste could potentially acidify and permanently contaminate underground aquifers, poisoning drinking water
  • Increased risks for earthquakes could compromise seal integrity of these repositories
  • Companies claiming 45Q tax credits don’t need to ensure CO2 stays in ground
  • We’re pretending to fix climate crisis but none of this involves proven technology
  • Department of Energy putting a lot of $$ into Allam Cycle power plants – considered game changer
  • Only one operating plant right now, 50 MW – 300 MW also being planned in Texas
  • Why might NY be interested? Problem of long duration intermittency
    • CLCPA requires 100% emissions free generation by 2040
    • Possible 7-14 consecutive days when not enough sun or wind to meet energy needs
    • Unclear how to meet 10% of energy needs
    • Allam Cycle power plants might be something that meets needs of NYS
  • Other potential solutions being explored, but all in early stages and none of them scalable yet
  • Direct Air Capture: epitome of energy inefficiency
    • Runs fans (noisy)
    • Capture CO2 in filter
    • Heat filter to remove CO2
    • Heat, compress CO2 to put in pipeline for transport
  • Takes more energy to run than CO2 removed
  • What are the risks?
    • Pipeline rupture –> asphyxiation
    • CO2 leakage around wellbore
    • Risk of underground carbonic acid formation resulting in heavy metals (arsenic, lead) leaching into groundwater
    • Risk of earthquakes from CO2 injection
    • OPPORTUNITY RISK: investing in these massively energy intensive, false solutions instead of real ones
  • Wrong to do nothing to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels – Allam Cycle power plant does not reduce reliance on fossil fuels, it perpetuates it
  • Requires more land dedicated to drilling production, processing pipelines to procure and transport methane, more and more CO2 that must be piped and sequestered
  • Hundreds of billions being spent on these false solutions
  • Do NY laws help us? Maybe
    • Current fracking ban only bans high volume hydraulic fracturing defined as stimulation of a well using more than 300,000 gallons of water as fluid base
    • At this point, law doesn’t help us even though we have fracking ban
    • CLCPA might be helpful – law says sources in electric generation sector shall not be eligible to participate in carbon offsets

Q&A  

  • Peter expressed concern about fossil fuel industry eyeing NYS to shape environmental policy, using clean fossil fuel angle to distract from key green laws
  • Irene: STS proposal example of the nationwide feeding frenzy for federal tax credits and incentives that are designed to prop up fossil fuel industry
  • Diverts investment and human resources from real solutions and energy transition
  • Joe Wilson: Aso pulls away energy and resources from making sure we elect people who are going to drive us in right direction or support drive
  • Peter: We know extent to which fossil fuel industry dominates economic sector and extent to which that makes it much harder to promote and sustain democracy
  • Really something we have to take very seriously and somehow find energy, time, and resources to defeat
  • Irene: No real gas to be had out of the Utica Shale, but it's an enormous formation – do pores still exist and could they be use to inject CO2 into it?
  • Margaret Johnson (chat): Is DEC gearing up to permit this?
  • Irene: No, only statement from DEC is they will do what they’re required to do: conduct review if permit brought to them, and permit has not been brought to them
  • If called upon, they’ll carry out kind of review that's required of any proposals submitted to them
  • Brian: Many captivated by Mark Jacobson's papers years ago, suggesting we could achieve 100% reliance on wind, air, and solar if big energy investors shifted from gas and oil to renewables
  • So, everybody's been waiting for that to happen but most of them holding back from doing so
  • Even though wind and solar are getting traction, not attracting as much investment as oil and gas
  • They're not going to stop until we’ve reduced subsidies and make them pay for damages they’ve caused
  • Irene: They get tremendous amount tax credits and other subsidies – I think that's part of deal: we'll give you all these tax credits because we're going have to fine you in future and this way you'll get your money back
  • Peter: Climate Superfund and effort to end at least some of state fossil fuel subsidies two sides of same coin, holding oil and gas companies accountable
  • Governor pulling back on climate and energy transition reforms because she believes her reelection depends on support and funding from fossil fuel industry
  • Irene: Now move afoot to allow CO2 storage in our federal forests
  • Wayne Bezner Kerr: Largest EV battery in production in Hummer, is a 20,500 lb battery – only last 90 minutes at idle on our Earth Source heat drilling rig on campus – at peak power, lasts just 9 minutes
  • We connected to our 13.2 kilovolt on campus grid and ran drill rig that way – but battery electrification of drilling operations not feasible at scale
  • Irene: Is electrification of 18-wheeler transport trucks feasible at this point?
  • Wayne: Not common in North America but it is feasible
  • If you go to airports or shipping ports, a lot of heavy trucks running containers around are electrified
  • But as of today electric fleet doesn't exist in North America to electrify oil field operations
  • Question in chat: Will disadvantaged communities in Southern Tier be targeted?
  • Irene: When you do CO2 capture, you're not capturing all of CO2, and you're also not capturing some of other particulate matter and smog and pollution-causing problems
  • So, to extent carbon capture is being used in disadvantaged communities, they will be impacted because things aren't really getting cleaned up
  • Guillermo Metz: Does anyone have any information on what they're offering to farmers or landowners in terms of lease agreements or even purchases?
  • Irene: They're offering $10 per lease for signing, not thousands of dollars offered per acre in days of fracking leases
  • They're offering just $10 per lease with promise that landowners will make a lot of money when they start storing CO2 and recovering methane
  • Guillermo: Is it based on amount they're able to sequester?
  • Irene: Yes, on amount they're able to sequester and on amount they recover in methane, but I haven't seen an actual lease
  • To drill and recover resources, if 60% of landowners agree to activity on or under their property; the remaining 40% can be compulsorily integrated and reimbursed for what gets removed, even if they oppose the fracking
  • Legally, it's interesting there's no law allowing injection and storage under someone's property without consent, especially for waste material
  • Irene asked Carly Norton from NYSEG/RG&E if there's been any contact with the company regarding support for building three 300MW plants, and if transmission capacity exists to manage it
  • Carly: I haven't had any contact with them directly and I can't speak for renewables side of industry
  • Broadly speaking, our planned investments for just existing projects to meet CLCPA goals will be huge – transmission capacity definitely an issue we’re working on
  • Irene: I would hate to see these CO2 projects interfere with our ability to build out renewable solutions we need

 

Getting Involved – Discussion

  • Peter: If you're feeling dispirited or angry about information we just heard, here are couple of positive actions to consider
  • New York's moving to end 100-foot rule—a win against natural gas subsidies
  • A virtual teach-in about this and other elements of NY HEAT Act takes place at noon today – even if you can't join today, signing up will get you the recording
  • Also there's an ongoing call relay today to show our support for NY HEAT Act by reaching out to governor – let's not miss out on these chances to make a difference
  • We've got to step up involvement – need strong support for key legislation coming up in new session beginning in January
  • We need to push back against fossil fuel industry's efforts to defeat or at least water down these measures
  • If we don’t stand up and support efforts to meet CLCPA goals, nobody else is going to
  • Thanks again to Irene for sharing such critical information today and to Karen Edelsten for maps
  • Irene: I can't pull up the maps on my home computer, but when I visited a friend's house, they loaded instantly, so I grabbed a few quick screengrabs
  • Karen's working on adding more layers to the maps, and we're hoping to compile a nice portfolio for everyone to see
  • Peter: It's also great to know that AM Kelles and Sen. Webb are working on developing a ban on this practice because we absolutely have to expand definition of fracking ban to include CO2
  • Irene: We also have to somehow prohibit the injection of CO2 – we just can't become dumping ground for CO2 in nation
  • Peter expressed gratitude to Irene for her motivational role and likened her to Paul Revere of CO2 fracking and storage in Southern Tier

October 2023

Recycling and Household Engagement – Louise Bruce

Louise Bruce is the Managing Director of the Center for Sustainable Behavior & Impact at The Recycling Partnership. To improve recycling, and ultimately mobilize household participation in the circular economy, The Recycling Partnership established the Center for Sustainable Behavior and Impact, which aims to drive measurable improvement in household recycling rates. Louise, an Ithaca resident, shared insights from their research and potential opportunities for local collaboration.

  • All stakeholders contribute to success of recycling – Recycling Partnership seeks to mobilize people, data, and solutions across value chain to reduce waste and our impact on the environment while also unlocking economic benefits
  • Works with material recovery facilities, local recycling programs, companies and manufacturers of packaging, and policymakers
  • Louise’s work focuses on how to get households to participate in recycling programs
  • Why focus on household behaviors? 40 million U.S. households still do not have access to recycling programs
  • Despite consistently high levels of public support for recycling, half of all residential recyclables are lost to landfills each year due to behavior gaps
  • Adds up to 15 million tons of recyclables, equivalent to 63 million metric tons of CO2
  • Every 10 homes generate 7,680 lbs of recyclables per year – 3 out of these 10 homes don’t participate in recycling – they throw out 2,150 lbs of recyclables each year
  • Those that do participate still put 38% of their materials in trash, about 2,130 lbs
  • Different materials are captured in widely varying rates – 81% of cardboard vs. 30% of polypropylene, e.g.
  • What accounts for nonparticipation and partial participation?
    • People support recycling, but they’re confused -- half say plastic bags and styrofoam go in household recycling, e.g.
    • Recycling matters, but confidence in decline – less than half believe their recyclables get made into new things
    • Communication from purchase to disposal is critical – 75% don’t recall communication about their recycling program – not designing communications that are capturing people’s attention
  • EPR for Packaging laws have passed in ME, OR, CO, and CA – EPR laws being considered in 17 other states, including NY
  • Recycling Partnership working to help ensure these laws get passed and get implemented effectively
  • PET thermoforms (clamshells) in CA: average access rate is 72%, collection rate 23%, recycling rate 12% -- CA law is looking to achieve 65% in nine years
  • Recycling Partnership launched Center for Sustainable Behavior & Impact to drive measurable improvement in residential recycling behavior and increase household participation in circular economy
  • Four pillars of RP’s approach:
    • Restore confidence
    • Advance equitable solutions
    • Increase capture & participation
    • Decrease contamination
  • ~10,000 surveyed & 100+ interviews in 7 jurisdictions
  • Audience Segmentation
    • 5 types of single-family recyclers
  • Equity Gap Analysis
    • + demographics on our National Database, uncovering persistent inequalities in recycling services
  • Confidence Index
    • Baseline of confidence in US recycling
  • S. BIPOC
    • Baseline -awareness, behavior, barriers, motivators
  • Ethnography
    • Journey of recyclables through homes
  • Packaging / Labeling
    • Role of package and label in decisions, confusion followed by user experience of QR code
  • Took this information and designed 23 interventions that were deployed in 52,127 households in 7 jurisdictions
  • Audience segmentation identified 5 Groups, each with a few key traits (Single Family, Curbside)
  • 49% Dedicated
    • 25% Eco Activators
    • 24% Committed Followers
  • Most communications designed to reach this part of population
  • Leaving behind half of population: 51% Frustrated, Confused, & Less Dedicated
    • 18% Discouraged Self-Doubters
    • 16% Detached Abiders
    • 16% Conflicted & Overwhelmed
  • Erosion of confidence among younger people potential problem
  • Worked to figure out how to reach the 51% part of population – team of designers developed variety of messages, then took these to people who fit motivational segments they wanted to focus on
  • Came out of these focus group conversations with three messages
    • Empathetic: "We get it. It can be confusing."
    • Logical: Recycling makes sense."
    • Emotional: "We have to do better!"
  • Took these three messages and carried out micro-pilots in Chicago and citywide pilot in Reynoldsburg, OH
  • Lot of recycling messaging right now adopts logical approach
  • Pilot Design: 3 pilots testing motivational messaging delivered by cart tag and mail
  • Findings: Cart tags + mailers using emotional and empathetic messages increased recycling route tons substantially.
    • Empathetic Message Group: 38% increase in average route tons (51% increase on one route)
    • Emotional Message Group: 16% increase in average route tons (38% increase on one route)
    • Logical message had no discernable impact on rate of recycling
  • Looking to retest these findings with pilot in Folsom, CA
  • Estimate that it will take $17 billion investment to get recycling system where it needs to be nationally
  • People are hearing that recycling is not working, so they shouldn’t participate
  • Believe strongly that producers need to take on responsibility and not put whole burden on people – reason why EPR laws are crucial
  • Still struggling to get recycling up to par across country – people who recycle really want it to work
  • Sara Culotta: A lot of people dedicated to recycling are skeptical that these materials, especially plastics, are getting turned into something useful
  • Brian Eden (chat): We need to get away from plastics and go to refill over recycle model – huge battle with petrochemical industry because they need to find other ways to use oil and natural gas
  • Louise: Absolutely need more waste prevention and more reuse and refill
  • 9,000 different recycling programs in country, each with its own set of rules and each with its own way of messaging
  • RP has built first national database of all 9,000 programs and their accepted materials list – using this database to develop new tools that provide interactive packaging information
  • Rolling out pilot of test QR codes
    • 78% think QR code would make recycling less confusing
    • 74% would scan QR code to find out if a package can be recycled
    • 73% said QR code would help them trust it will be recycled into something else
    • 73% would feel better about brand’s commitment to recycling with QR code
  • Providing recycling managers access to database to verify information – can then be updated in real time
  • Residents can then scan package QR code for updated information – packaging producer doesn’t control what message is
  • Currently 315 localities using hub and updating their information

Q&A

  • Peter: Could you say more about the ethnography that you conduct?
  • Louise: We started out with our assumptions about what we thought was happening with recycling in homes, then sent teams of ethnographers into households in San Diego and Columbus to find out what was actually happening
  • Found quite a variety in systems
    • Some households have very centralized system
    • Others have distributed bins throughout home to collect materials
  • Discovered that people have integrated recycling into their lives in way quite different from trash
  • Outreach and education turned out to have much bigger impact than providing in-home bin, except for people who had not yet participated in recycling
  • Ethnography is helping us target our interventions more effectively
  • Brian Eden: Recycling plastic rate around 6% – even if we double this, still a lot of plastics around going to landfills and incinerators – also so wide variation in kinds of plastics makes it difficult to turn them into useful products
  • Need to get away from plastics – endocrine disruption major problem and we’re breathing microplastics and ingesting them in our food and water
  • Plastic industry talking about doubling or tripling their output – going in wrong direction when we focus on expanding recycling of plastics
  • Louise: So many challenges – we need to be thinking about what kind of packaging we’re designing in first place and how we’re designing for next life
  • There is so much out there that we need to pull it in and capture it
  • Peter: Push for extended producer responsibility will help move us in right direction – how would expansion of NY bottle bill and increasing deposit from five cents to ten cents help or hinder your work?
  • Louise: We definitely see higher rates of capture in states that have bottle bills
  • We would like to test our findings about empathetic messaging in at least four more markets – would like to do this in Tompkins County or elsewhere in NY and would love to find partners to work with
  • Also looking for partners to provide us with feedback on resources and tools we’ve developed

 

Ithaca College Energy and Climate Plans – Scott Doyle

Scott Doyle, Director of Energy Management and Sustainability at Ithaca College, discussed the IC plans for energy, reduction of GHG emissions, and climate resiliency.

  • Still shaping our plans – in new role for about 15 months – an undergrad at IC as a student
  • Former associate planner for Tompkins County for 15 years
  • Financial sustainability major concern last few years at college – Covid has had significant impact on enrollment
  • Presidents Climate Commitment signed at IC in 2007 around same time Cornell did
  • Commitment to climate neutrality
    • Within 2 months, create structures to guide development of plan to achieve climate neutrality
    • Within 1 year complete comprehensive inventory of all GHG emissions
  • IC Board of Trustees approved Climate Action Plan in 2009 with goal of climate neutrality by 2050 – energy roadmap developed in 2019
  • IC achieved gold level in STARS last year – higher ed assessment tool to measure sustainability of institution
  • EPA recognized IC for their commitment to green power for last five years and Princeton Review recognized IC as top ten green college
  • Mounted Sustainability Week last year for first time in several years
  • Working to reduce carbon emissions
  • Scope I - Stationary Sources
    • Natural gas for heat and hot water
    • Gasoline and diesel for our university fleet
    • Refrigerant used for air conditioners and chillers
    • Fertilizer used for lawns and gardens
  • Establishment of Energy Code Supplement in Town of Ithaca has guided IC’s thinking and planning – made college look at alternative options in its projects
  • Main administration building is geothermal – could IC put district thermal system in place like the one at Princeton?
  • Taking close look at County’s green fleet – IC fleet is about 160 vehicles – similar in size to County’s fleet
  • Put together roadmap for fleet electrification last year – thinking through how to expand charging stations on campus
  • Scope 2 emissions: electricity from NYSEG and current supplier Direct Energy
  • Scott sits on City Sustainability and Climate Justice Commission as resident – helpful in keeping up with latest IGND developments
  • Thinking about how to get more local supply of renewable energy – build on 2 MW solar farm in Geneva
  • Scope 2 emissions now eliminated as result of buying only green energy, primarily from out of state
  • Also looking at how to reduce demand – exploring energy performance contracting opportunities – also examining technologies for reducing usage such as smart plugs
  • Scope 3 emissions:
    • Faculty, staff, and student commuting
    • Business, academic, and athletic travel
    • Landfill waste
    • Paper usage
  • TCAT free for students – led to significant uptick in student usage
  • Also carrying out pilot to explore how Ithaca Bikeshare might work on campus – seems to be catching on without lot of publicity
  • In September alone more than 1100 trips started at IC and just over 900 trips ended there – about 330 trips started on South Hill and 340 trips finished there
  • Clearly lots of interest in program – will probably build up infrastructure on campus working with Ithaca Bikeshare
  • First year of Jumpstart, getting first year students familiar with community off campus – Scott led group on green tour around area – great intro to community for them
  • Scott wants to strengthen partnership with community as IC moves forward with its effort to drive down emissions and make campus more sustainable

Q&A

  • Peter: What is thinking on campus about stormwater management? Clearly an issue with college on top of South Hill and rise in extreme precipitation events
  • Scott: IC thinking through how it can strengthen and improve its retention system – issue comes up a lot in campus discussions
  • Peter urged Scott to look at issue more deeply: permeable parking lots and swales – AASHE can be good resource for ideas and what other campuses are doing
  • Storm management will play increasingly big role in community relations as climate change takes place
  • Nick Goldsmith: To what extent could carbon sequestration be part of effort to achieve climate neutrality?
  • Scott: Campus has substantial holdings in its natural lands – looking at potential for offsetting carbon emissions through sequestration
  • But third party verification required before college can make any claims in this area – also need to explore what kind of practices could maximize potential
  • Sara Culotta: What are possibilities for expanding resources and staff focused on sustainability?
  • Scott: Thinks there’s appetite for doing more along these lines and doing it well – clearly will take more than one person – discussions about how to build capacity creatively in office – encouraged by what he’s heard so far
  • Dawn Montanye: Pointed out CCETC’s Tiny Home Powerhouse as resource on first-year student green tours – great educational tool for learning about energy efficiency and related issues
  • Also brought up Way2Go program at CCETC as way to expose students to alternative transportation options available to them – already partnering with Cornell and would be happy to do so with IC
  • Also noted that Three Story Farm at EcoVillage good example of water management on land – offered to connect Scott with those folks
  • Nick (chat): What are chances energy manager position will be filled again?
  • Scott: Not in near future due to financial constraints but thinking about how to come up with creative solutions
  • Peter observed that putting sustainability at center rather than confining it to margins can help promote not just environmental sustainability but also financial sustainability

September 2023

Ithaca 2030 District: Recent Developments – Peter Bardaglio

It’s been awhile since the last update on the Ithaca 2030 District, so we took time this week to review the latest developments.

  • The Ithaca 2030 District is flagship project of the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative (TCCPI)
  • Builds on TCCPI model: provides non-competitive, collaborative environment built on trust and mutual respect
  • What are 2030 Districts?
    • Goal: Improve energy and water performance of commercial and mixed-use buildings & reduce transportation emissions
    • Private-sector led – voluntary collaboration
    • Based in market realities, building business case for sustainability
    • Collect, benchmark, and analyze data to track progress
  • Now 24 districts in U.S. and Canada – Ithaca is by far the smallest city in network
  • Existing Building Targets
    • 50% reductions in energy use, water consumption, and transportation emissions by 2030
  • New Building and Major Renovation Targets
    • Immediate 50% reductions in water consumption and transportation emissions, with energy use in the design year reaching carbon neutrality by 2030
  • Why focus on buildings?
    • Built environment responsible for about 42% of annual global CO2 emissions
    • Of total emissions, building operations responsible for about 27% annually
    • Embodied carbon of just four building and infrastructure materials – cement, iron, steel, and aluminum – responsible for another 15%
  • Ithaca 2030 District launched in 2016
  • TCCPI’s primary vehicle for engaging business community in effort to reduce GHG emissions
  • Effort to build culture of benchmarking
  • Members include building owners, community organizations, government agencies, and professionals
  • Current advisory board members:
    • Terry Carroll, County Chief Sustainability Officer
    • Rebecca Evans, City of Ithaca Sustainability Director
    • Andrew Gil, HOLT Architects
    • John Guttridge, Urban Core, LLC
    • Susan Holland, Historic Ithaca Executive Director
    • Conrad Metcalfe, NYS-BPCA (ret.)
    • Guillermo Metz, CCETC Energy Team Leader
    • Jan Rhodes Norman, Local First Ithaca Co-Founder
    • Lou Vogel, Taitem Engineering Director of Engineering & Past President
  • NYSERDA planning grant, 2015-16
    • Issued market analysis report, district strategy plan, and public outreach strategy
    • Developed financing guide, energy efficiency services guide, and small commercial toolkit
    • Conducted recruitment workshops on benefits of 2030 District and training sessions on Portfolio Manager
    • Created energy, water, and transportation baselines for 2030 District
    • Launched website at 2030districts.org/Ithaca
  • Ongoing activities since 2016
    • Collect monthly energy and quarterly water data for property owners and upload them to Portfolio Manager
    • Build online building performance dashboard for each property owner to track progress
    • Carry out annual transportation surveys to track commuter carbon emissions
    • Hold quarterly meetings of District Partners and publish quarterly e-newsletter
    • Issue annual District progress reports
  • Use Portfolio Manager to collect energy and water data and then upload to dashboard
  • Baselines and performance metrics used to track District’s progress are listed in the table below:

 

 

ENERGY

WATER

TRANSPORTATION

Baseline Type

Regional Baseline

Local Baseline

Local Baseline

Baseline Source

2003 Commercial

Building Energy

Consumption Survey (CBECS)

2014-2016 Water

Consumption Data

Provided by the Ithaca Water and Sewer Division (IWSD)

2012 Ithaca Commuting

Survey Results for City

Workers, Data from the

EPA and EIA

Baseline Considerations

Climate Zone, Space

Type(s), Occupancy

Climate Zone, Space

Type(s)

Location

Impact Metric

Annual Energy Use

Intensity (EUI)

Annual Water Use

Intensity (WUI)

Carbon Emissions per

person per trip per year

Units

kBTUs/square foot

Gallons/square foot

kgCO2/person/trip/year

Data Tracking Method

NYSEG + Energy Star

Portfolio Manager

IWSD + Energy Star

Portfolio Manager

Annual Transportation

Emission Survey

  • Currently 31 commercial property owners, 46 buildings, and 604,624 sq ft of committed space vs. 25 property members, 29 buildings, and 375,371 sq ft at end of 2020
  • For 2022 annual report, we focused on 30 property members, 41 buildings, and 532,097 sq ft
  • Property type breakdown by square footage:
    • Office – 40.5%
    • Educational/Cultural – 16.5%
    • Retail – 14.6%
    • Mixed Use – 19.6%
    • Hotel/Inn – 2.7%
    • Other – 1.1%
  • Current property members can be found at https://www.2030districts.org/ithaca/members
  • District reduced its energy consumption by 27% from district baseline in 2022
  • In addition, used 40% less water than baseline last year
  • Slight improvement in commuter emissions – 16% reduction from 2021 and significantly below the 2019 emissions level
  • 45% increase in committed square footage since end of 2021
  • Energy update: 2022 District Baseline EUI, calculated as weighted mean of individual buildings’ energy baselines was 104.76 kBTU/sq ft
  • At district level, the aggregated EUI in 2021 was 76.51kBTU/sq ft
  • Surpassed 2020 target and more than halfway toward the 2025 goal with three years to go – significant improvement over 2021 results
  • 2022 District Baseline EUI, calculated as weighted mean of individual buildings’ energy baselines: 104.76 kBTU/sq ft
    • At district level, the aggregated EUI in 2021: 76.51kBTU/sq ft
    • Surpassed 2020 target and more than halfway toward the 2025 goal with three years to go – significant improvement over 2021 results
    • 23 property members met or nearly met 2020 target of 20% reduction from their building baselines – of these 13 properties met 2030 target of 50%
  • Energy results
    • Energy cost avoided: $211,000
    • CO2e emissions avoided: 194,000 lbs.
    • Equivalent number of young trees planted: 15,114
  • Water update: 2022 District Baseline WUI, calculated as weighted mean of individual buildings’ water baselines: 22.33 gal/sq ft
    • At district level, aggregated WUI in 2022: 13.43 gal/sq ft – exceeded 2025 target – reduction of 40% from the baseline, well within striking distance of 2030 target of 11.16
    • 25 properties met 2020 target of 20% reduction from their building baselines – 22 of those properties met 2030 target
  • Water results
    • Water cost avoided: $184,000
    • Gallons saved: 7.3 million
    • Equivalent number of showers saved: 423,000
  • Transportation emissions benchmarked as annual emissions of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per commuter
  • Baseline for District in 2022: 1501 kg CO2e/commuter/yr
  • Actual in 2022: 1421 kg CO2e/commuter/yr, well above 2020 target but significant reduction from 1706 in 2021
  • Before COVID, only 10% of respondents worked at home – with 2020 spring lockdown, proportion of remote workers jumped to 45%
  • Even with reopening in second half of year, 32% of respondents continued to work remotely
  • Taken as whole, in 2020 the District achieved 1172 kg CO2e/commuter/yr, below 2020 target of 1200 kg CO2e/commuter/yr
  • Proportion of remote workers declined in 2021 to 28% -- percentage of commuters who drove alone jumped from 39% during 2020 lockdown to 51%
  • These trends continued in 2022, with the percentage of remote workers dropping to 15% and the rate of commuters driving solo increasing to 58%
  • Ithaca Green New Deal
    • City committed to achieving community-wide carbon neutrality by 2030
    • Latest GHG inventory: buildings make up estimated 58% of emissions in Ithaca – commercial sector contributes 38%
  • Energy efficiency and electrification in built environment key to achieving carbon neutrality
  • 2030 District’s focus on improving performance of commercial buildings can clearly help accelerate reduction of community’s carbon footprint
  • We’ve made some significant progress, but we still have lot of work to do
  • Irene Weiser shared some very kind remarks about the progress made by Ithaca 2030 District, noting that it’s hardest work to do – dealing where rubber meets road
  • Peter thanked Irene and observed that he couldn’t do this work without brilliant undergraduates helping as interns – they aren’t just number crunchers – they’ve embraced core values of enterprise
  • Really proud of them – they’ve gone on, as they graduated, to some really interesting and important jobs in the field
  • Like to think we’re providing interns with a good base of experience that helps them move into their chosen professions
  • But he felt that he benefits much more from them than they benefit from work they undertook – they’ve been exceptional, and have contributed so much to overall effort
  • He also noted that there were building owners who were really progressive and made some good headway because of work they’re committed to
  • John Guttridge has been exceptional in providing leadership on how to take old buildings and decarbonize them: Ithaca Journal building, Press Bay Alley, Press Bay Court, and Watershed
  • Also pointed to work of HOLT Architects in taking an old building and turning it into near net zero office; Taitem Engineering taking their old building and turning it into demonstration of how you can use off-the-shelf equipment that’s readily available and dramatically reduce your carbon footprint; Purity Ice Cream is another good example – under leadership of former owner Bruce Lane they installed geothermal heat pumps, placed PV solar system on roof, and tightened up envelope of building
  • Dawn Montanye: Agreed that transportation was the tough nut when it came to decarbonizing of city
  • Pointed out the work of Cooperative Extension’s Way2Go transportation education program – work closely with all transportation providers in community
  • We have to be much more proactive and intentional about reducing drive alone rates, and gas-powered car miles driven
  • Lots of solutions, including GoIthaca, to encourage use of more multi-modal transportation – many equity issues involved
  • Peter suggested that Ithaca 2030 District could be effective conduit for getting educational materials and raising awareness about alternatives to driving with property members – told Dawn that the two of them should connect on this and work on making this happen

 

Micromobility in Ithaca – Jeff Goodmark

Jeff Goodmark, Director of Micromobility at the Community Center for Transportation, discussed the challenges and opportunities for micromobility in Ithaca, and how it can contribute to the city’s decarbonization effort.

  • What is micromobility? A big word for a small idea: small vehicles for small trips and large vehicles for large trips
  • Need to open up transportation sector to multimodal options such as buses and bicycles
  • Fundamental problem: too many cars – making all cars EVs doesn’t solve problem
  • Unbundling the car is the answer
  • Sixty percent of trips in US are five miles or less – twenty-five percent of trips are between five and fifteen miles and fifteen percent of trips are more than fifteen miles
  • Bikes and scooters for short trips, ride hailing for medium trips, and car sharing for long trips
  • Shared micromobility includes shared-use fleets of bikes, e-bikes, and e-scooters
  • Fleet of 150 e-bikes currently in Ithaca – best option given city’s terrain
  • Benefits of micromobility
    • Environmental benefits
    • Personal health/exercise benefits
    • Increased travel options
    • Reduction in traffic and time driving means fewer GHG emissions
  • Ithaca Bikeshare provides new way to explore Ithaca – download app in app store
    • Pay as you go: $1.50 to unlock and $0.20/minute
    • Day pass: $20/day; unlimited trips up to 2 hrs, then $0.20/minute; no unlock fee
    • Annual: $150/year; unlimited trips up to 1 hour/day, then $0.20/minute after 1 hour; no unlock fee
    • All three options charge$1 convenience fee for parking out of hub
  • Forty percent of users on annual plan – much higher than anticipated
  • How it works
    • Register: Choose plan and sign up for Ithaca Bikeshare
    • Release: Tap scan and scan QR code on handlebar
    • Ride: Put on your helmet and enjoy ride
    • Park: Park correctly within service area – can check app for instructions
    • Over 100 parking hubs in city – locations on app
    • No charge if you park in one of hubs
  • 56,500 trips so far in city of 32,100 people – that’s 1.8 trips for every person who lives in city
  • 13,000 rides in last six weeks – rides increase when college students return in mid-August – about 400 rides each day
  • 500 new users in past two weeks and 2000 new users since July 1 – currently 7200 registered users – average of 7 trips per user
  • Estimate that college students make up 60 percent of trips on peak day
  • Ithaca Bikeshare can help city achieve its goal of 50 percent reduction in transportation emissions by 2025
  • NREL found at peak adoption shared micromobility could save 2.3 billion gallons of gasoline annually in US
  • In 2022 share micromobility offset 74 million pounds of CO2 emissions by replacing auto trips
  • 37 percent of shared micromobility trips replaces one car trip – save 16,000 car trips in Ithaca since November 2022
  • Micromobility replaces walking more than anything – can save valuable time
  • Between 6 and 10 percent of people who use micromobility are taking new trips – would have done nothing at all if micromobility not option
  • Global e-bike market projected to climb at compound annual growth rate of just under 10 percent between 2021 and 2028, reaching $48.5 billion
  • People in US equate bike riding with exercise, but outside US people equate it with transportation
  • Number of e-bikes in US have increased by 71 percent since 20 21 and number of e-scooters grew by 28 percent
  • E-bikes ridden about 56 percent more than regular pedal bikes in systems that have both
  • Since launch of Ithaca Bikeshare in November 2022 traveled over 76,300 miles in Ithaca – average of 12 minutes per trip with average of 1.65 miles per trip – 92 percent of trips rated four stars or higher
  • 25 percent of people use Ithaca Bikeshare for work or school, 33 percent for social activities such as entertainment or dining out, 15 percent for shopping, errands, and appointments, 27 percent for exercise and recreation
  • Ithaca Bikeshare bikes are Class 1 pedal-assist bikes – no assistance without pedaling – same rules and access rights as regular bikes – reach 16-17 mph

Q&A

  • Leon Porter: Are e-bike riders required to wear helmets?
  • Jeff: NYS law requires riders under 14 years old must wear helmets – optional for riders over 14 – Ithaca Bikeshare riders have to be 16 or older
  • Helmets available for free at Ithaca Bikeshare office during regular business hours – have also donated hundreds of helmets to Ithaca High School, where there is a helmet library
  • Peter asked to comment on how Amsterdam became the gold standard for micromobility
  • Jeff: Amsterdam completely different city in 1970s – then in early 1980s they decided they wanted cars off a lot of their streets – very controversial at time
  • Forty years later it is one of best bikeable cities in world
  • Similar things happening now in Paris, Washington, DC, and NYC
  • Every time this happens, everybody benefits from it – businesses, traffic, public health
  • Holly Hutchinson (chat): What are chances of getting these kinds of infrastructure changes in Ithaca?
  • Jeff: It’s happening but very slowly – Bikewalk Tompkins is advocating for changes in different parts of city – clearly needs a lot of work: bike lanes, barriers, bike signage, etc.
  • The more people who ride bikes, the more we can build demand for these changes
  • Jeff also pointed out that Common Council has passed legislation lowering speed limit in city to 25 mph – only thing holding this change up is bottleneck with getting new signs made
  • More we can bring speed of cars down and speed of bikes up to where they’re roughly the same, the safer it will be for everyone
  • Chris Skawski: With development of longer trails in and around city, what plans are there for expanding service area of Ithaca Bikeshare and are there any plans for installing e-bike chargers?
  • Jeff: Essentially no limit to our service area – already have people who read to Newfield, Varna, Trumansburg, airport, etc.
  • Our financial model requires that we raise 50% of our funding outside of rider revenue – would love to secure support from Town of Ithaca and Cayuga Heights, Varna, and Trumansburg, among others – increasing our service area would require support from these municipalities outside city
  • Madison, WI is installing e-chargers around city – Cornell has approached Jeff about finding ways to charge bikes outside – Cornell concerned about students who are buying e-bikes and charging them in dorm rooms
  • Big problem is different kinds of e-bikes have different kinds of chargers – no single standard
  • Better solution would be to have Ithaca Bikeshare provide service to entire campus and discourage students and others from bringing their own e-bikes to campus
  • Rebecca Evans: How much would Ithaca Bikeshare need to cover other 50% of its budget outside of rider revenue?
  • Jeff: Budget for next year is $465,000 – project about $260,000 in rider revenue – NYSEG, title sponsor, kicks in $150,000 so there’s $75,000-80,000 gap – hoping City of Ithaca can make up some of this gap in funding – does not include any capacity for capital expansion
  • NYSERDA grant makes it possible to purchase another 100 bikes – by end off 2024 we’ll need another batch of bikes – each batch costs $500,000 – important to keep refreshing fleet given how hard they’re used and how many miles are put on them
  • Rebecca: Does NYSEG have exclusive rights to sponsorship or is there room for other potential sponsors?
  • Jeff: Other sponsorship levels besides “title sponsorship” – Jeff will send Rebecca info
  • Guillermo Metz: What other options are there with onset of colder weather? Also there’s equity issue because lots of people can’t ride bikes
  • Jeff: Many different alternatives to needed to make transportation work – micromobility clearly doesn’t work for everyone – but more people who do use micromobility, the less pressure there is on traffic and parking
  • Biking not great in winter, but somehow last February there were 4,400 trips in Ithaca
  • Guillermo: Could you talk about other options that are being explored?
  • Jeff: Electric transit authority grant from NYSERDA bringing together TCAT and Center for Community Transportation to explore possibility of on demand van and car service for communities that have fewer transportation options such as Southside and West Hill
  • Jon Jensen (chat): Does Ithaca Bikeshare cut into TCAT ridership?
  • Jeff: It might potentially, but also has potential to enhance bus stops – lot of Bikeshare rides begin and end at bus stops – lot of our hubs are at bus stops
  • Also getting requests from riders to put more bikes in areas where TCAT has shut down routes
  • Peter: As e-bikes get more widely adopted and production gets scaled up, is it possible that unit costs will come down?
  • Jeff: Probably will happen when there’s more consolidation in sector and move towards adopting single standard – prices aren’t going to come down as long as we’re in current stage of hypergrowth and innovation

August 2023

Climate Change in the News – Peter Bardaglio

In keeping with past tradition, Peter reviewed the year’s most significant climate change developments for the August meeting. The main theme: extreme weather events have become so frequent in the past several months that the climate crisis, unfortunately, has become climate chaos.

  • Atmospheric CO2 hit another record high in 2023
  • In May, Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii recorded average concentration of atmospheric CO2 at 424 ppm, compared to 315 ppm in 1958
  • Increase of 3.0 ppm since May 2022 – fourth-largest annual increase and 50% higher than pre-industrial levels
  • CO2 levels were consistently around 280 ppm for almost 6,000 years of human civilization
  • Rate of increase in emissions over past 60 years more than 100 times faster than when last ice age ended
  • Annual emissions have increased every decade since mid-20th century – from 11 billion tons of CO2 per year in 1960s to over 36 billion tons in 2022
  • Now in territory not seen for more than 3 million years – at that time global surface temperature was 4.5-7.2°F warmer than during pre-industrial era
  • Despite decades of negotiation, global community unable to significantly slow, let alone reverse, annual increases in atmospheric CO2 levels
  • July 2023 warmest July in 174-year NOAA record – January-July global surface temperature ranked as third warmest on record
  • Global surface temperatures last month 2.02°F above 20th-century average – very likely 2023 will be among top 5-warmest years on record
  • July 2023 marked 47th consecutive July with temperatures above 20th-century average – for fourth consecutive month, global ocean surface temperature hit record high
  • UN Secretary-General António Guterres last month: “The era of global warming has ended; the era of global boiling has arrived. Leaders must lead. No more hesitancy. No more excuses. No more waiting for others to move first. There is simply no more time for that.”
  • Dr Joëlle Gergis, climate scientist at Australian National University, also in July: “What is playing out all over the world right now is entirely consistent with what scientists expect. No one wants to be right about this. But if I’m honest, I am stunned by the ferocity of the impacts we are currently experiencing.”
  • Climate apartheid: top 10% of world’s carbon emitters responsible for almost 50% of global greenhouse gas emissions 
  • Top 1% of global emitters generate more emissions than the entire bottom half
  • Carbon inequalities within countries now bigger than between countries
  • High concentration of global GHG emissions among relatively small fraction of population in both emerging and rich countries
  • Agricultural productivity has declined by 30% in many low-income regions due to climate change, aggravating poverty and food insecurity
  • Death toll from extreme weather disasters 15 times as high in vulnerable nations as in wealthier parts of world
  • Most sobering climate change news of year: system of ocean currents regulating climate in North Atlantic could collapse by end of century due to global warming
  • Last time major slowdown took place in Atlantic circulation, 12,800 years ago, it pushed Europe into deep cold for over 1,000 years
  • Study by Denmark researchers published at end of July
  • As Gulf Stream moves north it becomes colder and denser, causing it to sink to deep ocean and move back toward the equator
  • Melting of Greenland ice sheet adding huge amounts of fresh water to North Atlantic, disrupting balance of heat and salinity that keeps overturning moving
  • One of key climate tipping points scientists are watching closely, along with thawing of Arctic permafrost, loss of Amazon rain forest, collapse of West Antarctic ice sheet, etc.
  • Close runner up: global fossil fuel subsidies
  • International Monetary Fund report this week: Fossil fuels subsidized at rate of $13 million a minute in 2022
  • Total subsidies for oil, gas, and coal in 2022 were $7 trillion
  • Equivalent to 7% of global GDP – almost double what world spends on education
  • Biggest subsidizers of fossil fuels: China, US, Russia, EU, and India – ending subsidies should be centerpiece of climate action, according to IMF
  • Would put world on track to keep global heating below 2°C, prevent 1.6 million air pollution deaths a year, and increase government revenues by trillions of dollars
  • G20 nations cause 80% of global carbon emissions – spent record $1.4 trillion on fossil fuel subsidies in 2022
  • Recent extreme weather events once again called attention to accelerating climate crisis
  • Millions endured record temperatures this summer in Europe, US, and China
  • Intense heatwaves in these regions “not rare anymore,” climate scientists have concluded
  • China especially hard hit by extreme heat – country registered all-time high temperature of 126°F on July 16 in NW China village – Beijing has posted record number of days at or above 95°F this summer
  • Heatwave in China was “at least 50 times more likely” due to climate change, according to World Weather Attribution service
  • Chinese cities opened air raid shelters to provide relief and employers ordered to restrict outdoor work due to soaring temperatures – electricity production reached record highs
  • Boiling the ocean: Earth’s oceans hottest they’ve been in modern history by large margin
  • Average sea surface temperature spiked to record high in April – it’s remained exceptionally warm ever since
  • In late July water off Florida Keys reached 101.1°F
  • El Niño has contributed to spike in ocean temperatures, but influence of human-driven climate change undeniable
  • Global sea surface temperatures increasing since early 20th century – extreme heat destroying coral reefs and other marine ecosystems
  • Ocean covers about 70% of world’s surface – it’s absorbed more than 90% of heat generated by human activity
  • Water has much higher capacity than land to absorb and store heat – big cost, however: as ocean stores more heat, it expands, leading to higher sea levels
  • Wildfires in Canada: 2023 Canadian wildfire season largest and most devastating on record
  • Nearly 38 million acres have burned – area almost size of Georgia
  • Double size of previous Canadian record – more than dozen fatalities and thousands of evacuations
  • Smoke turned sky in NYC red and spread as far south as Atlanta – more than 1,000 active wildfires now burning – more than 650 considered out of control
  • Scientists found conditions setting off Quebec fires earlier this summer twice as likely to occur due to climate change – also made those conditions 20% to 50% more intense
  • Historic wildfire season expected to continue and may become even worse in coming weeks
  • Flash floods in NY and Vermont: intense storms in early July dropped more than month’s worth of rain overnight in NY’s Hudson Valley and Vermont
  • Caused historic flooding that killed at least one person, trapped dozens of others, and washed away major roads
  • Vermont saw flooding greater than during Tropical Storm Irene, one of worst floods in 100 years
  • Washington Post analysis of data indicated 100-year storm can now be expected to occur once every 19 years in parts of NY – parts of Vermont could face extreme rain events twice as often
  • Makes clear no place entirely safe from extreme weather caused by climate change – instead, more about picking extreme weather you can tolerate
  • Climate scientists have predicted for years global warming would lead to more extreme weather
  • IPCC synthesis report released in March concluded climate change impacts already more far-reaching and extreme than anticipated
  • Global warming of 1.1°C has already set off unprecedented changes to Earth’s climate – 3.3 billion to 3.6 billion people currently live in countries highly vulnerable to climate impacts
  • IPCC Sixth Assessment Report
    • Concentrations of CO2 unmatched for at least 2 million years
    • Glacial retreat unmatched for +2 million years
    • Last decade warmer than any period for about 125,000 years
    • Sea level rise faster than any prior century for 3,000 years
    • Summer Arctic ice coverage smaller than anytime in last 1,000 years
    • Ocean warming faster than at any time since last Ice Age
    • Ocean acidification at highest level of last 26,000 years
  • Rapid decarbonization only way out – to limit global warming to 1.5°C GHG, emissions need to peak before 2025 at very latest, get cut in half by 2030, and reach net zero by 2050
  • Global use of coal must fall 95% by 2050, oil must decline by 60%, and gas by about 45%
  • Path to net zero narrow but achievable – annual clean energy investment worldwide needs to increase between 3 and 6 times by 2030
  • Funding for adaptation as well as loss and damage also needs to rise dramatically – developing nations will need $127 billion per year by 2030 and $295 billion per year by 2050
  • How do Americans view climate change in 2023?
  • Yale annual survey, “Climate Change in the American Mind”: about three in four Americans (74%) think global warming is happening
  • Only 15% of Americans think global warming is not happening – 11% say they don’t know if global warming is happening
  • More than half of Americans (53%) are either “extremely” or “very” sure global warming happening
  • Far fewer (8%) are “extremely” or “very” sure global warming isn’t happening
  • 6 in 10 Americans (61%) understand global warming is mostly human caused
  • Less than 1 in 3 (28%) think it’s due mostly to natural changes in environment
  • Almost 6 in 10 Americans (58%) understand most scientists think global warming is happening – has trended upward since survey began in 2008
  • About one in five (22%) still think lots of disagreement persists among scientists about whether global warming is happening – only 2% believe most scientists think it’s not happening
  • Two-thirds of Americans (66%) say they are at least “somewhat worried” about global warming
  • 30% of Americans say they are “very worried” about global warming – has trended upward since survey began in 2008
  • 2 in 3 Americans (66%) say they “rarely” or “never” discuss global warming with family and friends
  • 1 in 3 (34%) say they discuss global warming “occasionally” or “often”
  • Washington Post-UMD Poll, July 2023: 74% of Americans say they’ve experienced extremely hot days in past 5 years
  • Only 35% of Reps/Lean Reps say climate change major factor – 85% of Dems/Lean Dems say so
  • Partisan divide persists with other extreme weather events – droughts severe storms, flood, and wildfires
  • Republican views have changed little since 2019, while Democratic percentage has increased from 79% to 85%
  • Pew Research Center Survey, May-June 2023: two-thirds of Americans say US should prioritize developing renewable energy sources over expanding fossil fuel production
  • Nine-in-ten Dems and Lean Dems say US should prioritize developing renewable energy sources
  • Among Reps and Lean Reps, 42% support developing renewable energy sources, while 58% say US should prioritize expanding fossil fuel exploration and production
  • Ready for some good news?
  • Inflation Reduction Act turned one-year old this month – clear success so far
  • Has spurred investment in massive buildout of battery and EV manufacturing across country
  • Nearly 80 major clean energy manufacturing facilities have been announced – investment equal to previous 7 years combined
  • Overall, more than 270 new clean energy projects in pipeline, with private investments totaling around $132 billion
  • Congressional Budget Office projected IRA would result in roughly $400 billion in government spending, but it’s on track to be at least three times that
  • IRA and related 2021 infrastructure law could reduce overall US electricity costs between $27 billion and $38 billion through 2030, according to Energy Department
  • The global renewables landscape: renewables will be largest source of global electricity generation by early 2025, surpassing coal
  • Cost of generating electricity from solar and wind falling fast – now cheaper than gas, oil, or coal in many areas
  • Record $1.7 trillion worldwide expected to be invested this year in technologies such as wind, solar, EVs, and batteries – compared with $1 trillion in fossil fuels
  • China projected to double its wind and solar capacity by 2025, 5 years ahead of schedule
  • In Britain, roughly one-third of electricity now generated by wind, solar, and hydropower
  • Most inspiring news of 2023: victories of young climate activists in court
  • Youth in Montana won landmark lawsuit this month – judge ruled state’s failure to consider climate change when approving fossil fuel projects unconstitutional
  • Federal judge ruled in June that young climate activists in Oregon can go to trial years after lawsuit first filed – attempt to hold nation’s leadership accountable for its role in climate change
  • Part of wave of litigation related to climate change targeting companies and governments around globe
  • Ecuador voted earlier this week to halt oil drilling in one of most biodiverse places on earth – 59% of voters sided with young activists who spent decade fighting for referendum – first time citizens voted to leave country’s oil in ground
  • Katherine Hayhoe, climate scientist, Texas Tech University and Nature Conservancy: “Sharing scary facts about climate change won’t motivate people to take action. If we don't know what to do, scary facts don't activate us, they just paralyze us.”
  • “What works is talking about how climate change affects us here and now, in ways that are relevant to our lives today. And then we start to look for solutions … Then people will feel empowered and keep pushing for more change.”

 

Discussion and Roundtable Updates – All

  • Peter asked group what jumped out from his presentation
  • Dawn Montanye raised issue of climate grief – psychological impact of global warming, especially on younger people
  • IMF report on global fossil fuel subsidies very striking – cheap oil has been propping up economy and now IMF saying end of subsidies and cheap oil would better serve economy in long run because of costs associated with climate breakdown and extreme weather events
  • Peter: When IMF calls for end of fossil fuel subsidies, that’s a big moment – useful information in report to use in advocating for end of at least some of fossil fuel subsidies in NY
  • Nick Goldsmith asked for clarification about point that carbon inequalities within countries now bigger than between countries
  • Peter explained that as developing nations industrialize and increase their GHG emissions, elites in those countries are generating by far larger proportion of these emissions than majority of population
  • Irene Weiser: Good news shared in presentation mostly about potential – so many logjams and obstructions halting progress
  • Utilities and PSC in NY, for example, dragging their feet – political will is still lacking
  • Peter pointed out that anger, not despair, should be part of response – but anger that leads to action, not paralysis
  • Irene will share talking points to persuade governor and PSC to deny rate increases requested by NYSEG
  • Paul Moore: Carbon emissions in atmosphere have increased 21% just since 1990 – underscores need to act quickly to halt runaway climate change
  • Peter agreed and pointed out need to quickly reduce emissions is why Bob Howarth has focused on methane – 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide – reducing methane emissions dramatically would buy more time for us to make progress on carbon dioxide emissions
  • Paul talked about his frustration over gap between what we say and what we do – what are most effective steps to take? Beliefs and vested interests get in way
  • Peter reiterated importance of talking with friends, neighbors, and friends about climate and how dire situation is, at same time pointing out things we can do, both individual steps to reduce our carbon footprint and collective action
  • Referenced Karim Beers’ recent article in Tompkins Weekly, noting that technological change not sufficient to get where we need to go in terms of climate justice, in particular – cultural change is crucial
  • Best way to mitigate climate despair is to take anger that we feel and turn it into action that connects with other people and builds community of activists to move forward together
  • Can see this happening in Ithaca and Tompkins County, and it has made difference, but frustrating that it hasn’t made more of difference
  • Will be interesting to see how upstate NY, in particular, reacts to need to build utility-scale solar and wind projects – only way to meet goals of CLCPA
  • Dave Bradley: Construction of large-scale renewable energy producers a kind of collective action – underscored potential of pumped hydro in region for energy storage
  • Right wing organizations have been very effective in blocking these largescale projects
  • Marie McRae: Part of group at Unitarian Church working with BlocPower to install heat pumps in at least one of buildings – hope it will get conversations going in congregation about other steps people can take
  • Alice Green talked about how Clean Energy Community incentives in Dryden have qualified town for $100,000 grant from NYSERDA to seal envelope and install heat pumps in DPW building – hope it can be model for other municipal buildings in state
  • Also been able to connect with sustainability club at Dryden High School – two voting members of town’s climate smart community task force are from the club – two of members will be talking about how young people can be involved in municipal decision making at upcoming NYSACC conference
  • Next step they’ll be helping with is creation of climate adaptation and resiliency plan – hope to get new plan adopted by end of year
  • Peter: Very impressed with how young people in Dryden helping to build culture of change – started with opposition to fracking and now has become positive effort to reduce community’s carbon footprint
  • Important to recognize and celebrate community achievements without becoming complacent
  • Ingrid Zabel: PRI has been focusing on education and outreach regarding climate change – recently expanded Earth@Home website to include sections on climate and biodiversity: https://climate.earthathome.org/
  • Ingrid also noted feedback station at Museum of the Earth’s new exhibit on climate change – every two weeks post news item about climate change and ask people to respond, either in video or text, and then post these responses
  • Way to get people talking about climate change and seeing what other people are saying about it – also have it in online version of climate exhibit: https://www.museumoftheearth.org/changing-climate/share-your-views
  • Peter remarked on terrific educators at PRI and their excellent work in this area, including Teacher-Friendly Guide to Climate Change: https://climate.earthathome.org/teacher-friendly-guide/
  • Peter asked Dawn to talk about what’s going on currently at CCETC
  • Dawn: We have three programs that Environment Issues team is working on: transportation, electrification, and waste reduction/conversion
  • New financial resources being channeled into effort to get off fossil fuels – Guillermo Metz and Karim Beers leading energy work, helping municipalities move towards electrification and reducing GHG emissions and working with individual homeowners to understand incentives and install air source heat pumps
  • Also providing information on induction stoves and using PowerHouse to demonstrate energy issues with hands-on exhibits
  • Working in transportation area to move people away from single-occupancy vehicles to multi-modal transportation as well as education about EVs and access to them for low to moderate income folks
  • Food waste reduction and diversion another area of focus, both at individual household and large event levels
  • Guillermo Metz: Working with municipalities across Southern Tier via Climate Smart Communities (climate adaptation and resilience) and Clean Energy Communities (GHG emission reductions in municipal operations)
  • Also working behind scenes with City of Ithaca on Green New Deal – also working with cooperative extension educators across state – focused last three years on issues related to large-scale solar in rural areas and providing information to variety of stakeholders
  • Jack Wright talked about PowerHouse – using it around eight counties of Southern Tier as part of outreach to community energy advisors in region connected with Clean Energy Hub – great tool to demonstrate some of energy choices in our homes such as LED lighting, energy efficient appliances, insulation, and heating systems
  • Karim Beers: Things are going well with Southern Tier Clean Energy Hub – pretty much fully staffed at this point – core of staff are community energy advisors such as Leigh Miller and Jack – also have other staff working on communications, administrative support, and workforce training
  • One of current challenges with transition involves carrying out commitment to lower income households, while at same time continuing work of various HeatSmart campaigns in region, which tended to focus on better-resource families
  • Nick Goldsmith updated group on activities of Park Foundation’s Sustainable Ithaca – providing $1.8 million in grants to local sustainability projects – providing $30 million at national level to environmental, democracy, and independent media efforts
  • Nick also noted Park’s recent successful efforts to diversify staff and board at foundation – equity effort somewhat more challenging when it comes to identifying and working with sustainability leaders
  • Peter also highlighted importance of Park’s work regarding extension of no-interest loans to local nonprofits facing financial challenges
  • Nick noted that loans can also be made available to organizations who receive reimbursement-type grants from state or federal government to help them bridge financial gap
  • Nick and Peter both recognized and praised work of Jon Jensen in establishing Sustainable Ithaca program

July 2023

Sunrise Movement Ithaca – Siobhan Hull and Isia Patie

Siobhan Hull and Isia Patie updated the group about Sunrise Ithaca’s recent activities and plans for the coming year. Siobhan is the Ithaca Hub coordinator and Isia is a rising senior at Ithaca High School.

  • Siobhan presented overview of organization and its history, how it operates at national level, and what ongoing work entails
  • Sunrise Ithaca formed around push to get Ithaca Green New Deal passed by Common Council
  • Held rallies and town halls and delivered public comments during Common Council meetings
  • Ithaca Green New Deal (IGND) adopted in June 2019 following Sunrise Ithaca’s actions
  • IGND established two main goals:
    • Reach carbon neutrality by 2030
    • Do so in a manner that shares benefits among all local communities in away that reduces social, historic, and economic inequalities
  • Latter goal has been focus of Sunrise Ithaca’s work following passage of IGND
  • Subsequent work:
    • Comments on Ithaca Energy Code Supplement
    • Campaigned for Solidarity Slate in city election
    • Pushed city to declare “climate emergency” – called for 24/7 carbon-free energy, tenant protections, forums for community input such as City Sustainability and Climate Justice Commission
    • Strengthened relationships with community organizations such as TCCPI
    • Held educational events such as webinar on Indigenous sovereignty and climate justice
    • Provided support for statewide campaigns such as NY Renews Climate, Jobs, and Justice package
    • Mobilized rallies calling for equitable implementation of IGND
  • Isia provided overview of what is happening at national level
  • Primary focus on getting Biden administration to declare climate emergency and address climate crisis using executive authority
  • Why?
    • Unlock millions for climate disaster relief
    • Allocate funds to renewable energy investments, resilient public housing, and transit
    • Combat public health crisis emerging from climate crisis
    • Create millions of new, good paying unions job to fight climate crisis
  • Sign the petition here.
  • Current Sunrise national demands
    • End practice of leasing public lands and waters for fossil fuel production
    • Stop issuing permits for any new fossil fuel infrastructure
    • Update and strengthen outdated standards limiting particulate matter, ozone, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, mercury, coal ash, and tailpipe emissions, as well as lead and copper rules preventing contamination of drinking water
    • Finalize new methane standards for new and existing oil and gas operations
    • Direct EPA to designate greenhouse pollutants as criteria air pollutants and set a science-based national pollution cap under Clean Air Act
  • Sunrise 2.0 establishes new democratic structure to strengthen empowerment of local hubs and secure greater public support
  • Establishes delegate body with proportional representation: one representative per hub and two per chapter, organized by region
  • Delegates meet to discuss and vote on decisions as needed
  • Volunteer leadership team meets frequently to discuss and decide with staff support – higher commitment, compensated role – working to put more diverse team together than in past
  • National call for implementation of federal Green New Deal policies: “Build people power, disrupt the status quo, and achieve local wins that set us up to win national Green New Deal policies that meet the scale of the crisis we face”
  • Focus of Sunrise Ithaca hub going forward:
    • Justice50 implementation
    • Climate Action Plan for City
    • Public Outreach/Engagement
  • Public Outreach/Engagement
    • Door-to-door canvassing
    • Hear concerns and needs of residents
    • Disseminate transparent information on current status of IGND
    • Outreach to CJC communities
  • Survey and data collection
  • Green New Deal for Schools
    • Schools can be birthplace of change
    • Establishing climate justice and action within schools:
      • Free, healthy meals, climate curriculum, building sustainable infrastructures
      • At college/university level: divest endowment from fossil fuels, invest in local community (i.e. Cornell PILOT)
    • In Ithaca
      • Getting Cornell to pay for TCAT
      • ICSD GND (Sunrise LACS)
  • Siobhan outlined ways people could support Sunrise Ithaca
    • Make public comments advocating for the implementation of Justice50 at Common Council and Sustainability and Climate Justice Advisory Commission meetings
    • Incorporate equity as a key pillar of your campaigns and general efforts
    • Attend events when we host them!

Q&A

  • Peter noted that national Sunrise Movement held gathering earlier in week in Washington, DC focused on labor – how is local hub working on this issue?
  • Siobhan: Provided support to Starbucks workers in Ithaca when they went on strike – hope to reach out more in future to local labor unions, especially regarding declaration of climate emergency
  • Peter: Are there Sunrise Ithaca members on the City Sustainability and Climate Justice Commission?
  • Siobhan will be serving on commission – a few other openings so maybe others will also serve on commission
  • Peter asked Rebecca Evans about her perspective on Sunrise Ithaca given her early involvement with its founding
  • Rebecca: COVID crisis made it difficult for Sunrise Ithaca to engage in critical relationship building needed for strong activist group – nice to see students still working on moving Sunrise Ithaca forward
  • Peter asked Rebecca to provide brief overview of Sustainability and Climate Justice Commission and how it’s progressing
  • Rebecca: Mayor will be appointing two new members at August Common Council meeting, Siobhan and Aaron Fernando – getting more young people and renters on commission very important
  • Nick Goldsmith is hoping to join with Park Foundation approval – should be full commission in August – David Kay is chair
  • David: Great news that we’ll have full commission in August – commission has big agenda – have had a couple of meetings with members already appointed – looking forward to meeting as full commission
  • Commission has two main responsibilities under city law
    • Serve as technical advisory group to city based on our areas of expertise, providing feedback
    • Provide connection between government and people who will be affected by policies put in place
  • Rebecca: Lot of different areas of expertise on commission – still lot of education needed to bring all members up to speed – already received very helpful guidance and feedback from commission
  • Jaden Beck: Second function of advisory group – reaching out to community – crucial appreciates Sunrise Ithaca’s focus on community outreach
  • Peter: To what extent are ICSD students pushing administration, especially at high school, to take more significant steps than they have already to install solar power?
  • Isia: IC and Cornell have lot more funding to support solar development
  • Sarah Carson: Anyone trying to move in this direction finds out quickly that it’s not easy – takes lot of persistence
  • Need time to develop understanding of what options are available – need to follow state procurement rules as public school system – adds another layer of challenges
  • Peter wondered whether incentives in Inflation Reduction Act might make more progress possible
  • Sarah: Might be good if there was K-12 representation on NYSERDA’s Green NY Council, charged with figuring out how state agencies are going to comply with state order to use 100% renewables by 2025, among other things
  • David: Anyone who moves back and forth between activist, outsider arena and insider effort to bring about institutional change soon understands challenges of doing so – most important factor in creating change is extent to which outside pressure demands system change – requires both supporting and pushing
  • School districts need to be part of change if state is going to achieve its climate goals – school systems need to be paying more attention than they are
  • Peter: Would send important message to students if Ithaca High School at least installed PV system on its roof – students need to feel that they have some sort of concrete connection to energy transition
  • David: Very impressed with Sunrise Ithaca presentation and work they are doing – already a lot to take on, never mind adding solar issue on top of it
  • Peter agreed and noted that the other new area of focus, based on presentation, sounds like greater coordination between local hubs and national leadership
  • Peter asked Siobhan and Isia how they carry out recruitment – through social media, showing up at meetings of other organizations, etc.?
  • Siobhan: Recruitment during COVID quite challenging – a lot of new recruitment has come out of IHS and LACS – Siobhan also hoping to do more recruiting among college students
  • Isia: We do reach out to other organizations and table at related events
  • Sarah put in quick plug for youth component of upcoming NYSACC conference this fall – great opportunity for young people to connect with environmental and climate activities

 

Zero Waste Ithaca – Yayoi Koizumi

Yayoi Koizumi, founder of Zero Waste Ithaca, discussed the group’s goals and priorities, as well as recent work on PFAS, sewage sludge, and plastic pollution, among other issues.

  • Zero Waste Ithaca (ZWI) grassroots organization started in 2018
  • Upcoming events: https://zerowasteithaca.substack.com/zerowasteithaca.org
  • ZWI urging county legislature to adopt three measures
    • Pass Skip the Stuff Law – will require businesses to provide single-use items like utensils and condiment packages only when requested by customer
    • Ban Artificial Turf – will limit dissemination of PFAS and plastic pollution
    • Ban Land Application of Sewage Sludge and Its Export -- safeguard soil, water, and overall public health
  • Mission: promotion of zero waste policy and culture
  • Two-prong approach: Policy advocacy at local and state level on one hand, and everyday zero waste practice on other
  • We believe everyday practice is vital for bringing the community together – zero waste practice highly social activity – great way to connect people
  • Zero Waste International Alliance: “Zero waste is conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of products, packaging, and materials without burning and with no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten environment or human health”
  • Bring Your Own Container flagship program of ZWI – recruit businesses to participate – also utensils by request only
  • Table at events to raise awareness – also good coverage from local media – part of national BYO support network (USReduces.org)
  • BYO movement also prominent in Canada and Australia – working to change state and federal laws in U.S. to support practice
  • ZWI carried out study of move-out dumpsters on Cornell campus last year – tremendous waste issue that needs to be addressed – more effective messaging needs to be adopted by university – compiling another report this year
  • ZWI has campaigned against installation of artificial turf at IC’s football stadium – Cornell has also installed artificial turf on multiple fields
  • Another campaign seeking state ban on use of sewage sludge for compost, soil amendment, and fertilizer due to PFAS contamination
  • Why BYO? Why Reuse?
    • Only about 5% of plastics are being recycled
    • Both plastics and bioplastics are toxic
    • Plastic is in our body: in placenta, veinous tissues, lungs, and intestines
    • We eat more than one credit card size of plastic per week (2019 Australian study)
    • Plastics are in our air, water, soil, and foods (even vegetables!)
    • Plastics are killing wildlife
    • Plastic particles found in the remotest corner of planet, such as the Arctic and Grand Canyon
    • Plastic production is extremely polluting and a major source of emissions from extraction to incineration at the end of life
    • Plastics and solid waste affect climate justice communities around the world
    • Waste colonialism: Plastic wastes from rich countries are shipped and smuggled into poor countries

Renewable Heat Now – Lisa Marshall

Lisa Marshall is the advocacy and organizing director of New Yorkers for Clean Power and a key leader in the statewide Renewable Heat Now (RHN) campaign. Lisa provided a preview of RHN’s fall plans.

  • Renewable Heat Now statewide campaign focused on renewable heating and cooling and energy efficiency policy education and implementation
  • Began campaign six years ago – not single organization but rather many organizations joined together
  • Pushed PSC to provide significant incentives for heat pump installations – shifted in past two years to focus on legislation
  • All Electric Building Act key victory in last legislative session as well as Advanced Building Codes and Standards Act year before – also part of group that successfully advocated for thermal energy network bill
  • NY HEAT Act is our cornerstone legislative effort – will end ratepayer subsidies for utility gas system and instead invest in renewable heating and cooling solutions that will help us meet state climate act targets
  • Also has energy affordability component for lower income households
  • Organizational sign-on letter calling on Gov. Hochul to support bill – also has digital postcard that individuals can sign on to: https://actionnetwork.org/letters/governor-hochul-put-ny-heat-in-the-budget
  • Also planning on series of local events in fall, Renewable Heat Now Roadtrip – there will be one in Tompkins County in October
  • Involves teach-in on NY HEAT Act, shared meal together, and distribution of stickers and buttons for campaign
  • Part of mobilizing people for large rally in NYC in early December and rally and lobby day in Albany in January
  • Need to push governor hard – will be uphill battle
  • Mothers Out Front sponsoring event in Tompkins County – welcome support from other organizations such as TCCPI

Q&A

  • Peter: TCCPI happy to be co-sponsor – also will be participating in other advocacy efforts this fall, helping to lobby, send letters, and outreach on social media
  • Lisa: Appreciate support and really proud of our campaign and how effective it’s been – building section of final climate plan one of its strongest sections – due in part to years of work on renewable heating and cooling
  • Tompkins County organizations and activists instrumental in helping to make this happen
  • Buildings are hard – we need our policies to align with our goals, and right now they don’t
  • Really gratifying to have such great people involved in campaign and to help bring about meaningful change at state level
  • Millions of dollars being spent by gas utilities and industry lobbyists in effort to defeat our campaign
  • Yayoi asked Lisa to explain 100-foot rule
  • NY utility law states utilities have obligation to serve all customers within their territories – when customer asks to be hooked up, utility has to say yes
  • Original intent positive – put in place to make sure utilities couldn’t redline or discriminate against low-income neighborhoods
  • If customer makes request and is within 100 feet of existing gas line, ratepayers cover cost of installation
  • In other words, ratepayers obligated to cover cost of gas expansion in NY – NY HEAT Act will amend utility law to end 100-foot rule
  • NY HEAT Act passed state senate last year – now have about 66 General Assembly co-sponsors
  • Need to reach governor earlier this year – came very close to passing last session

June 2023

GYGB & Southern Tier Clean Energy Hub – Karim Beers

Karim Beers is the director of the Southern Tier Regional Clean Energy Hub. Previously, he served as the coordinator of Get Your GreenBack, which recently came to an end. Karim talked about lessons learned during his time with GYGB and the transition from GYGB to the Clean Energy Hub.

  • Karim has been coordinating Get Your GreenBack Tompkins for the last 11 years – focusing on lessons learned regarding how to engage more people to help build sustainable, just future
  • Goal of GYGB was to engage all 42,000 households and every business in county to take step to save energy and money in four areas: 1) food; 2) waste reduction; 3) home energy use; and 4) transportation
  • Over last 11 years, we’ve done some things well and others not so well – many of projects begun by GYGB are continuing through other initiatives, mainly Southern Tier Clean Energy Hub
  • GYGB always envisioned as initiative of limited duration – steering committee recently came to conclusion that time was right, given the emergence of the regional clean energy hub
  • Original goal was elusive, but GYGB able to accomplish a lot working in partnership with others
  • In area of food, GYGB established first community-supported agricultural distribution locations at Cornell, providing weekly supplies of farm fresh produce to two parts of campus
  • With assistance of Friendship Donation Network and several plant nurseries, hundreds of vegetable and flower seedlings distributed through food pantries – also established hunting networking group connected experienced hunters with beginners
  • In area of waste management, online directory of over 40 reuse stores put together and thousands of rack cards distributed directing people to website
  • Collaborated with Finger Lakes ReUse center on a fix-it series for small appliances and lamps
  • In transportation center, GYGB key supporter of Bike Walk Tompkins and Way2Go
  • Energy sector received bulk of GYGB’s attention during last several years, expanding to regional effort – over past five years, staff spoke to over 20,000 people about energy efficiency and renewable energy
  • Supported 3,000 people while documenting 1,200 high impact energy projects such as home insulation, solar, and heat pumps, mostly in low to moderate income households
  • Investment from these projects totaled $9 million, of which $6 million came from local, state, and federal grants
  • Also built tiny home PowerHouse to provide people with hands on education regarding home energy efficiency, solar, and heat pumps
  • Just some of accomplishments over last decade – in beginning believed it would be easy to mobilize thousand so people to take steps in area of food, waste, transportation, and energy
  • First lesson learned was each of these areas came with its own set of obstacles and benefited from particular approach or solution
  • Once this was understood, creative ideas emerged, such as marketing of reuse stores, drop off spots at workplaces for CSA produce, and free, personalized advising on home energy issues to navigate labyrinth of contractors, NYSERDA programs, and incentives available
  • Became clear that bringing together people concerned about climate change and those focused on poverty and social justice was crucial to building larger, more diverse, and stronger movement that contributes to just transition
  • Second lesson learned was importance of centering equity, not technology – too many times, technology placed at center of solution
  • Seeing technology as making up whole picture has major shortcomings – to achieve sweeping changes needed, first need to build broad, diverse coalition but such coalition will not emerge with narrow focus on technology
  • Need to cultivate inclusive values that think about everyone – not just technical fix
  • More GYGB focused on equity such as access to local healthy food, clean energy, and clean energy jobs, the more it was able to engage larger numbers of people
  • When equity and environment worked on together, we see powerful leadership emerge from those most vulnerable to and affected by climate change
  • Focus on equity helps moderate tendency towards self-interest and excessive consumption
  • State and federal governments investing so much around clean energy that if we don’t think carefully about equity, these investments will just end up reinforcing current stratification
  • Third lesson is around shift from individual to collective action – early focus of GYGB on individual steps – great starting point but have to go beyond individual household actions
  • Have to broaden vision – individual steps good but not sufficient
  • Energy navigator program provided opportunity for volunteers to engage in collective action
  • Individual and social change are mutually reinforcing – the more changes we make in our own lives, the more committed and able we become to shift policy
  • Self-interest and greed feed our current crises, and community and generosity will lead way out
  • We need to build capacity for everyone to participate more effectively, but particularly for those who have historically been left behind by our educational system
  • What would it look like to center our work around equity? How can we bring together environmental and social justice activists?

Q&A

  • Peter commented on role Kirby Edmunds played in GYGB and Building Bridges in centering concern about climate change around equity and justice
  • Karim: Kirby one of founding members of GYGB steering committee – invaluable in guiding work of GYGB and providing personal support and advice
  • One of programs Karim and Kirby worked on together was the Community Education Organizers (CEOs) – focused on identifying people from lower income backgrounds who were interested in making changes in their communities in any one of four areas GYGB was working on
  • GYGB and Building Bridges partnered on recruiting, supporting, and offering training for CEOs – Kirby was fundamental to success of program
  • Part of wisdom Kirby imparted: our relationships with each other as well as our relationship with the natural world need to change
  • Chuck Geisler: Such an important observation that individual and collective actions are mutually reinforcing – really helped Chuck in thinking about his work on raising awareness around energy efficiency and mobile homes – has become increasingly collective and collaborative
  • David Kay: How do you think differently about equity and coalition building as you move to a more regional approach with the Southern Tier Clean Energy Hub?
  • Karim: Excited about potential in region for growing green jobs – who is going to benefit from infusion of money into this effort? Important to create opportunity for people who’ve been left behind to get good paying jobs and start their own businesses
  • Finger Lakes ReUse Center has done fantastic job of illustrating how this can be done, meeting an important environmental need while providing people from marginalized communities with good paying employment
  • Peter pointed to earlier essay that Karim and other folks wrote on energy and equity as providing great example of this approach: https://www.tccpi.org/energy---equity.html
  • Peter: Believe that TCCPI’s work can become more centered on equity by becoming policy advocates working in coalitions focused on issue of climate justice – TCCPI has become very active in last two years as participant in coalitions such as NY Renews, Renewable Heat Now, and Climate Can’t Wait
  • Good example of this is bill Assemblymember Anna Kelles and others are working on, the Gap Fund – would step in and make sure LMI households are brought up to standard that will then qualify them for important NYSERDA clean energy incentives
  • Need to do more thinking like this about how we can make sure no one is left behind as we make energy transition

10-Year Solid Waste Management Plans (State and Local) – Diane Cohen

Diane Cohen, the executive director of Finger Lakes ReUse, Inc., provided an overview of these new draft plans and shared her perspective on them based on her 22 years in the sustainable materials management profession. In particular, the public comment period on the County’s draft plan is open until August 7 so we’ll be discussing what may be possible in the next 10 years.

  • Idea for reuse center came from Tompkins County Recycling and Solid Waste under Barb Eckstrom – included in County’s 10-year solid waste management plan in 1998 – Finger Lakes ReUse Center got underway IN 2008
  • Park Foundation early funder and Cornell Cooperative Extension – Tompkins County was fiscal sponsor
  • Comments on NYS solid waste management plan due 6/29 – CR0WD also submitted comments with focus on circular economy, too
  • County 10-year draft plan released last week – open for comments until August 7
  • Both documents talk about circular economy – exciting that they are highlighting this approach
  • Circular economy based on three principles:
    • Eliminate waste and pollution
    • Circulate products and materials (at their highest value)
    • Regenerate nature
  • CR0WD’s definition: “circular economy a regenerative and restorative system by design that keeps components and materials at their highest utility and value, distinguishing between biological and technical metabolisms”
  • According to Felix Heisel at Cornell’s Circular Construction Lab, next to reducing waste, reuse is the most immediate and effective circular economy materials management strategy
  • Finger Lakes ReUse Center’s mission: “to enhance community, economy, and environment through reuse” – 501(c)3 that takes strong business approach – a social enterprise
  • Founding goals: “to reduce waste, relieve poverty, and teach skills through reuse activities”
  • Vision: “a just, resilient, and waste-free world that values people and resources”
  • Lots of data in NYS draft plan – 80 pp. plan with over 500 pp. of appendices – most of it from 2018
  • State generated 42.2 million tons of waste in 2018 – recycling rate increased 43% in 2018
  • Construction and demolition debris made up 46% of waste in 2018 – no data on how much of waste going into landfills and incinerators is actually reusable
  • Built environment produces 40% of GHG emissions
  • 3 million tons of waste equal to disposing 24 million SUVs annually – 135,00 tons per day or 77,000 SUVs per day in NYS
  • So much more valuable material in waste stream than anyone talks about – average value per ton peaked in 2021 at about $185 and then dropped to just under $70 in 2022
  • Materials sold to local markets through ReUse Centers in Tompkins County totals more than $2,000 per ton – why don’t we set up systems to capture more of this value?
  • Ripple effect of Finger Lakes ReUse operations:
    • $6.5 million in employee wages from 2019 to 2022 – 85 employees
    • Generated nearly $9 million in annual revenue and paid $346,000 in county sales tax between 2018 and 2022
    • Diverted almost 10 million tons from landfill during same period
  • Direct impacts of Finger Lakes ReUse:
    • $2.4 million in sales in 2022
    • 45,000 drop off donations in 2022
    • 750,000 items returned to local use in 2022
    • 20% business growth each year for the past 10 years
    • Now employing 80+ living wage employees,
      10 apprentices, and 10 youth workers
  • Growth driven by public engagement – overwhelmed by enormous volume of stuff people are bringing us – need help in figuring out how to handle it
  • Key takeaways from the NYS solid waste management plan:
    • 10 year plan, acts as a guide for funding, local plans, and policy
    • Legislative Action (included 3 highlighted actions)
      • Broad packaging and paper product legislation – adopts Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) approach targeting generators
      • Expand and amend food donations and food scraps recycling
      • Require a per ton disposal disincentive surcharge on all waste landfilled or combusted in NYS and all waste generated in NYS being sent for landfilling or combustion out of state to provide financial support for reduction, reuse, and recycling projects
    • Extensive research and excellent resource (2018 data) by County
    • Local Planning Units defined: A county, two or more counties acting jointly, a local government agency or authority established pursuant to State Law for the purposes of managing solid waste…that the NYSDEC determines to be capable of implementing a regional waste management program. In order for a county to be a planning unit, it must include all cities, towns, and villages within its borders.
    • Appendices are rich with data and information
      • State plan history
      • NYS solid waste generation and waste imported
      • Local and regional materials management and planning unit summaries
      • Focus on Disadvantaged Communities (DAC) and Potential Environmental Justice Area impacts (PEJA) – opportunities for enterprise startups
  • NYS exports 30% of total waste generated to other states -- about 46% of the total waste imported to NYS in 2018 was MSW (municipal solid waste), 36% was construction & demolition debris, 18% was industrial waste, and the remaining 1% was biosolids
  • Would make more sense to retrieve valuable materials for reuse and prioritize local economy
  • 8 landfills and 2 incinerators in DEC Region 7, which includes Tompkins County – 83% of MSW generated in Region 7 in 2018 processed or disposed of within region and 17% of exported -- 54% of the C&D debris generated in region was disposed of or processed within region
  • In 2018 in Tompkins County:
    • 91% of Tompkins County waste exported, primarily to Region 8 (84%) and Region 9 (7%) – Region 8 landfill in Ontario County slated to close in 2028
    • Will stop taking out-of-county waste so Tompkins County some thinking to do to address that problem
    • 87,200 tons were sent to landfill or combustion facilities
    • C&D accounted for 15% of total waste, and none was recovered
  • NYS made recycling mandatory in 1992 – how could it take same approach to reuse, which has even greater local economic and environmental benefit?
  • Finger Lakes ReUse recommended actions for NYS draft management plan
    • Review definition of “solid waste” – reuse continues to be undervalued and relatively absent from existing government planning priorities and funding structures
    • Transform and expand “waste” collection methods – increase focus on how activity of reuse (and its supporting infrastructure) is absolutely central and essential to reducing waste and supporting a circular economy
    • Define Community ReUse Centers or reuse-specific facilities/hubs handling greater than (# TBD) tons per year as a part of materials management system – understand breadth of engagement activity of reuse can bring to Sustainable Materials Management efforts
    • Note how public engagement and concern combined with large, diverse workforce and enterprise ecosystem can effectively help facilitate this effort
    • Recognize role and partnership CRCs can provide in diversion of hazardous and toxic materials that persist in current waste stream
    • Add mattress recycling and expanding reuse infrastructure as explicit action items
    • Add Deconstruction as a definition
    • Add Salvage as a definition
    • Clarify definition of circular economy
  • Recognizing massive inefficiencies in how waste is currently transported, imported, and exported, support development of efficient network of reuse material exchanges and hubs, where local markets are prioritized, then regional, then statewide/out-of-state
  • Economics will contribute to this logic, but an intentional mapping of this system will help vastly improve efficiencies and reduce impacts in terms of cost and energy used to transport marketable materials commingled with waste to various waste destinations
  • Here is the link to our comments on the NYS Solid Waste Management Plan Draft
  • Public meeting on draft local plan: July 11, 2023 at 5:30 pm in BorgWarner Room at Tompkins County Public Library
  • Diane would love to get help with drafting comments – how can we as community support County Recycling and Materials Management Dept. to maintain its leadership role in NYS?
  • If interested contact Diane at diane@fingerlakesreuse.org

Q&A

  • Peter: State appears to put concept of circular economy at center of plan, but vagueness of language about how to implement this concept is concerning
  • Diane: Waste management is huge mess – part of reason it doesn’t get more attention is because problem is so overwhelming
  • Need to build much better catchment systems to retrieve reusable materials, taking enterprise approach – how to do so largely absent from state plan – need more state investment in this industry to move it to next level
  • Opportunity in local plan to commit to steps that could move us forward in manageable way and create local enterprises and create good paying jobs
  • Reuse should be brought more formally into materials management system – Diane is reaching out to large waste handlers to see if there is different way to operate their businesses
  • Anne Rhodes: Tompkins County is focusing on cleaning up “what’s right in front of us” – it’s creating a model that’s rippling out across the state
  • Peter: One of big disappointments of last state legislative session was inability to get package reduction act across finish line – what do you think chance of its success in next session?
  • Diane: Producer responsibility has to happen but so much resistance to it – took years to get 5 cents bottle deposit law passed
  • Would rather figure out ways to set up local entrepreneurial systems that have immediate local return and generate sales taxes and jobs, as well as a positive environmental impact
  • Doesn’t want Finger Lakes ReUse to be only one in reuse business – wants to see other businesses created that are successful – capacity issues are holding us back
  • Local government is making enormous investment in recycling and some of that should be directed to reuse – labor intensive but generates far more revenue than commodities recycling – could transform way we handle materials
  • Should see it as source of wealth and opportunity – huge economic development potential – really interested in reframing how things are collected and processed
  • David Kay: How do we use the system that exists to push at the margins? Agrees with Anne that things here have potential for resonance beyond our community
  • We all wish we had magic wand we could wave to bring about truly transformative change at systems level, but we need to focus on pragmatic change we can bring about within the system while pushing envelope
  • Karim: Reuse materials are there and market is there, but what’s lacking is capacity – see similar situation with social enterprises involving clean energy – there’s work to be done, contractors booking out months ahead to install heat pump systems, market is there, and incentives are there, but it’s capacity to support emergence of these social enterprises that’s main challenge – the obstacle is on the administrative side, someone who can structure and manage things and them set up and under way
  • Peter: Hope that discussions around 10-year solid waste management plan will lead to concrete outcomes

State Legislative Session Roundup – Peter

  • We had some big wins in this session, including the All-Electric Buildings Act and Build Public Renewables Act
  • But also some real disappointments – even as State Senate moved on some very forward-looking bills as part of implementing Climate Action Council plan and CLCPA Act of 2019
  • Lack of leadership at top in General Assembly – bills blocked from going to floor for vote by the Speaker
  • We just have to keep working on these bills – bills introduced this year still remain live next year – so bills passed by Senate need to be taken up next time
  • Knowing Assemblymember Kelles will be in Albany pushing climate and clean energy issues forward should give us hope
  • TCCPI will continue to be involved in statewide NY Renews, Renewable Heat Now, and Climate Can’t Wait coalitions
  • Stay tuned for more emails as we move into fall about actions we can take collectively – keep in mind that Governor’s executive budget is set by October

May 2023

Climate Change and the Global Food System – Rachel Bezner Kerr

Rachel Bezner Kerr is professor of global development and director of graduate studies for the Ph.D. in Development Studies at Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Rachel was the lead author of the chapter on food in the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report issued in 2022. She discussed the findings of that study and shared with us an overview of her work on the global food system, including her research in Malawi and Tanzania.

  • Served on IPCC for 31/2 years – arms-length scientific advisory group to UN to provide policy-relevant information for governments and others to act on
  • So far six assessments – Rachel worked on Working Group II, “Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability” – reviewed all relevant literature since last assessment
  • 270 authors in all from 67 countries – more than 34K scientific papers included in the assessment
  • Rachel’s team had 13 people plus contributing authors – both social and natural scientists
  • Draft placed online for peer review – received over 1,000 comments on her chapter – then revise chapter twice before final version released
  • Full report synthesized into summary for policymakers – Rachel contributed to this summary
  • Negotiate each word of summary with governments – they then sign off on this document
  • Recent work on climate focuses on interconnections among climate change impacts, risks, and responses
  • Underlying ecosystems, including biodiversity, critical dimension – must make sure we’re supporting those to bolster our ability to withstand climate change impacts
  • Also social dimension: who’s more vulnerable to climate change? Need to make sure more marginalized groups in society are at table for discussion of adaptation responses
  • Compared with previous report, more robust and widespread evidence of impacts on food systems – increasing extreme events have exposed millions of people to acute food insecurity
  • Climate change has slowed agricultural growth over past 50 years globally with regionally different impacts
  • Women, children, low-income households, Indigenous or other minority groups and small-scale producers, at higher risk of malnutrition and livelihood loss
  • If we fail to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees C, risk even more severe impacts:
    • Heat stress
    • Water scarcity
    • Food security & nutrition
    • Flood risk, especially in coastal areas
  • Wanted to make clear much more disruptive events if we don’t significantly reduce GHG emissions – no one will be spared from impacts on food systems: rising food prices, supply chain challenges
  • Five key risks in food systems
    • Food security and nutrition: acute and/or chronic food and feed shortage
    • Food safety and dietary health: climate-related food poisoning or pollutant contamination as well as limited access to dietary diversity leading to malnutrition
    • Livelihoods of people in the food and ecosystem service sectors
  • Ecosystem services: declines in soil health, pollinator, biodiversity
  • Policy related risks
  • Multiple climate hazards cause multiple impacts, interacting to compound risks to food security, nutrition, and human health and leading to cascading events
  • Key messages related to adaptations in food systems
    • Adaptation happening in food systems, but not quickly enough
    • Many effective, feasible adaptation options in food systems that have synergies with other goals
    • Several barriers to transformational, widespread adaptation
    • Robust evidence for ecosystem-based adaptations supporting ecosystems, biodiversity, and food systems
    • Integrated, inclusive solutions that take ecosystems and enabling conditions into account to avoid maladaptation particularly important
  • Effective & feasible adaptation options
    • Cultivar improvements
      • Agroforestry
      • Agroecosystem diversification
      • Community-based adaptation
      • Agroecological approaches
    • Wider benefits
      • Food security and nutrition
      • Health and well-being
      • Livelihoods
      • Ecosystem services & biodiversity
  • Ecosystems, biodiversity, and climate systems deeply connected
  • Agroecology, ecosystem-based management in fisheries, & other approaches that work with natural processes can be key strategies in adaptation & mitigation
  • Need to widen effort beyond just technical fixes and adopt broader, holistic approach to adaptation and food systems
  • Agroecosystem diversification, instead of monocropping: multiple spatial & temporal patterns, e.g. mixed planting, intercrops, crop rotation, diversified management of field margins, agroforestry, integrated crop livestock systems
  • Improves regulating and supporting ecosystem services such as pest control, soil fertility and health, pollination, nutrient cycling, water regulation, buffering of temperature extremes, yield stability, and reduced risk of crop loss
  • Synergies with agroecosystem diversification
    • Crop diversification reduces sensitivity to precipitation variability, yield losses, and crop insurance payouts under drought
    • Example: study in Canada compared diversified rotations vs. corn – found significant positive yield impacts, yield stability, and increased soil organic carbon
    • Variable impacts depending on crop combination, agroecosystem;
    • Rigorous assessments of adaptive gains and potential trade-offs still need to be conducted across socioecological contexts
  • Evidence of maladaptation
    • Adaptation can result in unintended consequences, including increased GHGs, inequity, or ecosystem degradation
    • Most disadvantaged groups often affected by maladaptation
    • Need to think about how you’re doing adaptations, who’s involved, where it’s being carried out, and risks involved for ecosystem and people
    • Irrigation done poorly, for example, can lead to increased salinization, inequity among food producers, groundwater pollution
  • Agricultural intensification tradeoffs
    • Can increase GHG emissions with fertilizer, fuel use, land use change – potential negative impact on biodiversity and ecosystem services such as soil erosion, salinization, and water quality decline
    • Short term food production increases, but may displace local food producers and worsen their food security and livelihoods
    • Overall impact could increase climate risk and vulnerability, especially marginalized groups such as smallholders and farmworkers
  • Addressing social inequities should be key dimension of adaptation
  • Marginalized groups (e.g. farmworkers, women, Indigenous people, and other ethnic and racial minorities) at greater risk from climate change impacts
  • Inclusive governance approaches which involve marginalized and vulnerable groups ensure adaptation benefits them
  • Technical approaches in adaptation which ignore power inequities can worsen climate impacts for these groups
  • Integrated & inclusive solutions to transform food
    • Combining mitigation & adaptation for transformative pathways
    • Integrated, multi-sectoral solutions that address social inequities
    • Differentiate responses based on climate risk and local context will enhance food security and nutrition
    • Adaptation strategies which reduce food loss and waste or support balanced diets contribute to nutrition, health, biodiversity, and other environmental benefits
  • Major gaps in adaptation research
    • Climate risk reduction of ecosystem-based adaptation and diversified production
    • systems under different contexts/scenarios
    • Risk reduction from integrated and inclusive approaches under different climate scenarios
    • Post-production and across food value chain research
    • Cost of adaptation programs and cost savings from implementation
    • Global and regional assessment of maladaptation impacts
    • Regional gaps in adaptation research
  • Rachel has done research in Malawi and Tanzania for over 20 years
  • Contrasting approaches to food security & climate change adaptation in Africa
  • Most common approach to climate change adaptation in Africa is called “sustainable intensification” – combination of synthetic fertilizers, hybrid seeds, and expert-driven strategies – doesn’t deal with social and political inequities
  • In contrast, Rachel has focused on agroecology – dynamic concept, expanded from field and farm to whole food system
  • Transdisciplinary science: brings together agronomy and ecology
  • Set of practices: harness ecological processes in agricultural production – generic principles, applied locally - no prescribed set
  • Social movements: political, assert collective rights for smallholder farmers, holistic approach to food system, and advocate diversity in agriculture and food systems
  • Rachel participated in panel in 2019 that produced report on agroecology – literature review that identified underlying principles
  • Some of them at field level: recycling, finding synergies between plants and animals, reducing reliance on toxic and fossil fuel based inputs, and enhancing biodiversity
  • Much of agroecology is on the “beyond the farm” levels – bringing in research on local and Indigenous knowledge, democratizing food system, addressing questions of equity and fairness, producing foods that are culturally appropriate, diversifying food system, and building greater connectivity between producers and consumers
  • Diversified production enhances resilience, strengthens adaptation to climate change
    • Agrobiodiversity a key principle in agroecological systems
    • Reducing synthetic inputs also principle
    • Strengthens key ecosystem functions e.g. pollination, soil organic carbon, soil microbial activity, nutrient cycling, water quality
    • Biodiversity in turn increases resilience to extreme events e.g. droughts, pest outbreaks;
    • Multipurpose benefits e.g. food, shading, food, fodder, income
  • At heart of agroecology is involving farmers and food producers in crafting the way food is produced, bringing in local knowledge, and addressing inequities in food system – not just set of practices
  • UN panel reviewed literature to see if agroecology could improve food security and nutrition – found strong evidence that it could do so
  • More complex agroecological systems (e.g. crop diversification, farmer-to-farmer networks) more likely to have positive food security & nutrition outcomes
  • Rachel’s field research has focused on whether agroecological methods can improve food security, nutrition, livelihoods, and well-being of smallholder African households
  • Has led three main studies
    • 400 households in Malawi, highly food insecure, 20 villages, pre-post design
    • 6,000 households in Malawi, pre-post/control
    • 588 households in Tanzania, pre/post and delayed intervention, cluster randomized trials
  • Typical strategies used by farmers included:
    • Agroforestry (fruit & leguminous trees)
    • Intercropping different kinds of nitrogen-fixing legumes (pigeon pea, groundnuts)
    • Compost and intensive animal manure application
    • Crop diversification e.g. sorghum, finger millet, cowpea
    • Farmer-to-farmer learning, exchange, and experimentation
  • Incorporated ways of addressing gender and other social inequities
    • Developed integrated curriculum (agroecology, climate change, nutrition, social equity) aimed at farmers in southern Africa
    • Theatre, hands-on activities, storytelling, small group discussions.
    • Developed by farmers, scientists, NGO staff
  • Research demonstrated that this approach to agroecology significantly improved food security and dietary diversity
    • Crop diversity, compost application and participation in agroecology project significantly improved food security
    • A household was 32% less likely to be severely food insecure per additional food crop grown
  • Found farmers using many different ways to increase their food security
    • Farmers reported that increased crop diversity reduced labor in weeding
    • More crop diversity increased dietary diversity
    • Saved money on foods previously purchased & fertilizer, invested in animals as a source of savings
    • Significantly higher but modest farm income reported (average $59 vs $21 on average);
    • No longer had to work on other people’s farms, instead could invest in own farm and dry season vegetable gardens
    • Increased food security allowed more food and seed sharing – community-wide benefits from crop diversity
  • Gender relations matter for agroecology impacts
    • In Malawi, farmers who discussed farming with their spouse were 2.4 times more likely to be food secure & have diverse diets
    • In Tanzania participation in peer-to-peer agroecology intervention increased men’s help in household tasks and reduced odds of women’s probable depression
  • Women and children’s dietary diversity improved
    • In Malawi women’s dietary diversity higher for those in participatory agroecology intervention
    • In Tanzania those in participatory agroecology intervention:1.48x odds of child having minimum acceptable diet
  • Longer term change: Agroecology improves food security, income, & land use
    • Significant link between # of agroecology practices and likelihood of becoming food secure and with higher income
    • Farmers participating in farmer-to-farmer learning activities significantly more likely to practice agroforestry, composting, mulching and legume intercrops;
    • Two years after project ended, 90% of surveyed participants (n=600) still using agroecological practices
  • Agroecology led to stronger social connections
    • Longitudinal study found households practicing agroecology had an increase in social capital
    • Bidirectional relationship – increased social capital more likely to increase the number of agroecological practices

Q&A

  • Peter asked Rachel how she got started in this field – before her undergraduate studies, she traveled in Mexico and Guatemala – became very interested in food security and social justice issues
  • Did undergraduate degree in international development studies – loved soil science
  • For undergraduate thesis lived in Guatemala for year working with nonprofit – studied soil conservation methods with smallholders
  • Ingrid Zabel: What are best ways to persuade people and businesses to protect ecosystems if we can’t count on regulations?
  • Rachel: Making impact seem relevant to people you’re trying to motivate – but we shouldn’t give up on regulation and should continue to push for it
  • Chuck Geisler: Over last decade land greater than size of France has been transferred from local producers to large corporations and investors – doing so has diminished social interconnections and made it more difficult to address equity and social justice issues as well as connection with climate change – to what extent do you see land tenure as an issue in your work and work of others?
  • Land tenure is addressed in our chapter on climate and food systems in 6th IPCC assessment – looked at how land acquisition can have harmful impact on food systems and climate adaptation and mitigation
  • Climate adaptation and mitigation strategies need to take marginalized groups into account
  • Peter: What kind of assistance did you have in your research, especially in Malawi?
  • Rachel: Worked with great teams in Malawi – farmers, soil scientists, epidemiologists, geographers, public health experts, and nonprofits
  • Long-term partnership with nonprofit in Malawi, Soils, Food, and Healthy Communities – also had undergraduate and graduate students helping out
  • IPCC assessment all volunteer effort – drew on willingness of scientists to put in time
  • Dawn Montanye: Have you seen any signs of gathering momentum regarding agroecology that indicates it can take place on scale needed to deal with global threat of climate change to agriculture?
  • Rachel: Rising food prices have raised alarm in many different parts of world – could perhaps become tipping point and provide opening for alternative approaches other than intensified agriculture
  • Aaron Fernando: Could you say more about how theatre and drama were used to drive behavioral change around land use practices and addressing social inequities
  • Rachel: Allows for presentation of difficult ideas such as gender inequity or changing farming practices in way that brings in humor and is very engaging and less threatening
  • Peter: Empowering women crucial to strengthening climate resilience and food security
  • What’s next for you in your research?
  • Rachel: Working on securing funding to do larger scale project on climate change adaptation in Malawi – also working on several smaller research projects looking at impacts on biodiversity from landscape-scale adoption of agroecology practices and another on developing forest inventory and exploring natural forest regeneration
  • Peter: To what extent does your research involve undergraduates?
  • Rachel: Working with undergraduates for many years as research assistants and on undergraduate thesis projects – developing course that will bring undergraduates to Malawi for intensive study of agroecology – often three or four students accompany her in Malawi
  • David Kay: How have climate-induced floods in Malawi affected farmer response to that risk?
  • Rachel: Hits very close to home – people in Malawi very heavily affected by flooding – requires more landscape-scale planning – can there be forest regeneration in places where deforestation has taken place? Are there places where you have to engage in soil rehabilitation? Also looking at ways to set up warning system using mobile phones

 

Current Climate and Clean Energy Legislation in Albany– Anna Kelles

Assemblymember Anna Kelles represents the 125th District, including Cortland and Tompkins Counties. She is a force to be reckoned with on environmental issues in the General Assembly and has been hard at work this session, which will be winding down in the next couple of weeks. She provided her assessment of the progress made this session—what she saw as the biggest victories as well as the areas that need continued attention going forward.

  • Anna opened up with comments on important team effort undertaken in this year’s legislative session, emphasizing how important it was for TCCPI members and others to stay involved in advocating for climate and clean energy policies
  • Budget five weeks late this year – held up by debate on bail reform rollback – cap and invest, as result, did not get time and attention it should have – incorporated into budget without any guardrails whatsoever
  • Essentially place holder for governor, giving her authority to establish cap and invest program – only requirement was that 35% of revenue raised must go for rebates to LMI households and small businesses
  • Needed to be more like 65-70%, at least for first few years
  • Just Energy Transition Act would compensate at least to some degree for what’s lacking in cap and invest program as adopted
  • No language that made sure cap and invest didn’t just become trade system – important that there’s no trading of allowances, as happened in California
  • Also DEC should’ve been given much more power to put floor and ceiling on price of allowances – also should’ve been required that DEC hold back some of allowances so energy intensive industries could be better supported through transition to non-fossil fuels and risk of job losses could be minimized – no definition of “energy intensive industry” included
  • Public comment period this summer or fall – important to watch closely – will be including her public comment in her newsletter
  • Waiting for governor to put out her version, then come back in January and fix it if necessary – already have draft bill in place
  • Build Public Renewables Act one of two big wins in approved budget
    • Currently NYPA cannot build solar and wind projects in market, only private sector can – not happening fast enough to meet state’s climate goals – NYPA will not be required to fill in gap to make sure 2030 target reached
    • Language to democratize NYPA board not included – members handpicked by governor
    • NYPA has authority to place solar and wind on state-owned land but is not doing any of that – this bill will require NYPA to become part of solution
  • Other big win was All Electric New Buildings Act – oil and gas industry, including utilities, formed front group and spread disinformation about this act, saying state is trying to take gas stoves away – simply not true
    • People can still replace their gas stove with another gas stove In existing buildings – only prohibited in new construction
    • Beginning in 2026 all new buildings up to seven stories will have to be all electric, and starting in 2029 requirement will be extended to new buildings above seven stories
    • State currently adopts international building code with NY overlay – next three-year cycle will come out in December 2025, which is why 2026 date was adopted – means that legislation can be incorporated into next round of NYS updated building code
  • Biggest threat was Parker-Barrett bill, which included gas and oil industry wish list aimed at rolling back CLCPA
    • Ended up not being included in governor’s budget but will still have to be pushed back against – will surface again
    • Biggest component was changing calculation of methane emissions from 20-year timescale to 100-year timescale – would’ve artificially deflated impact of methane emissions and reduced need for renewable energy infrastructure to meet climate law targets
    • Peter: Inspiring to see groundswell of opposition from grassroots organizations across state that forced governor to withdraw this move
    • Anna agreed that public pressure was key – governor reserved option, however, of reintroducing bill
    • Provisions in Parker-Barrett bill regarding biofuels was equally problematic – would’ve underestimated impact of biofuel GHG emissions, too
    • Linked to effort to make biofuels exempt from cap on GHGs in NYS – agriculture lobbyists joined fossil fuel advocates in pushing for this change
    • CLCPA allows use of biodigesters on farms, but energy produced has to be used onsite – bill tried to remove onsite requirement – effort to create LNG export from farms to domestic and international markets
    • Bill also adds trash incinerators to list of renewable energy generators – need to keep close eye on this bill and make sure it gets killed
  • Climate and Community Protection Fund Act (Glick and Harkham) one of initiatives Anna strongly supported – ensures we invest in transition of workforce, and no one falls through cracks
    • Also would guarantee that significant portion of funds raised would be used for community-driven renewable energy projects and makes sure funds invested in environmental justice communities
    • Very little chance, though, this bill will get to floor in this session because it’s budget bill – need to push governor hard over summer and fall to include bill in her executive budget
    • If not, then need to push General Assembly and Senate to include it in their one-house budgets next year
  • Gap fund another bill Anna hopes to get passed – would take NYSERDA funds and help LMI families carry out necessary repairs and weatherization so they can, for example, qualify for solar system incentives and other NYSERDA programs
    • Anna hopes to get this included in governor’s executive budget – again, need to push this over summer and fall – even by October governor is starting to wind down budget for introduction in January – very front-loaded process
  • Anna supports effort to keep policy out of budget process due to disproportionate influence governor wields over budget process – have to be careful, though, in making this change not to put governor on defensive
  • Would make it less likely that process would get hung up on policy issues and budget would be approved on time – also would help reduce extent to which policy gets negotiated behind closed doors
  • Would need to be constitutional amendment so important that education effort takes place for general public since they would be voting on it at ballot box – last time amendment was successfully adopted was in 1938 – that’s when it became possible to include policy in budget

Q&A

  • David Kay: Any ideas about creating new roles for municipally owned utilities?
  • Anna: Strongly supports idea and is on her radar – came up too late in this session – was able to get community broadband in last year’s budget – this year was able to secure support for enabling municipalities to issue bonds for community broadband for duration of system’s life instead of just ten years
  • Third stage would make it possible for municipalities to join together and create communication union districts so they can leverage their collective bargaining power – modeled after system created in Vermont
  • Dave Bradley: What is NYS going to do to dramatically ramp up renewable electricity generation?
  • Anna: No magic bullet – need to chip away at it from every angle – was able to get $1M approved for agrovoltaic research center at Cornell
  • Lot of resistance at local level to solar farms – legitimate in cases where solar farms are taking over prime agricultural land
  • Need to find ways to carry out large-scale food production combined with solar power

April 2023

Multi-Residential Passive House Projects in NYC – Ken Levenson

Ken Levinson, the executive director of the Passive House Network in Brooklyn, discussed the organization’s work and the development of multi-residential passive housing in New York City. Ken has been a registered architect in New York State since 1993 and is a Certified Passive House Designer, as well as founding board member of New York Passive House, the National Passive House Alliance, and the North American Passive House Network.

  • Passive House Network is national 501c3 – associated with Passive House Institute in Germany, the international association
  • Members and chapters across U.S., including Passive House Empire State, which is active upstate
  • Focused on education and capacity building – culture change key to sustainable future – need to change conversation and people’s expectations
  • Buildings are failing us – building is not neutral act – huge part of carbon pollution problem – account for 40% of global emissions
  • Often unreliable in their performance, expensive, and unhealthy – underserved and marginalized communities bear disproportionate share of burden
  • Passive House supports fundamental performance – platform for sustainability
    • Reduced Carbon Emissions
    • Net Zero Energy
    • Support Healthy Environments
    • Green Infrastructure
    • Provide Resilience
    • Support Affordability
    • Environmental & Social Justice
    • Historic Preservation
    • Protect our Investments
    • Comfort & Joy
  • World’s most rigorous energy efficiency standard – also health standard and comfort standard – energy efficiency, health, and comfort all interconnected
  • Passive House also supports electrification and renewable energy – reduction in demand makes for much more flexibility in implementation of both
  • Recent studies demonstrate that passive house construction does not increase load on grid – results in 75% reduction in heating & cooling systems and up to 90% reduction in energy use
  • Demonstrates value of well insulated home – if power goes out in winter time, can actually stay warm with couple of candles
  • Produces clear outcome with fixed targets
    • Airtightness
    • Heating Cooling/Dehumidification
    • Energy Use Intensity
  • Passive house standards can be applied to all kinds of building types: offices, factories, hospitals, gymnasiums, and libraries as well as housing – issue now is scaling up and normalizing them
  • First modern passive house built in Germany in 1990 – based on years of scientific research
  • Integrated methodology with five key principles
    • Climate specific insulation levels
    • Airtightness
    • Thermal bridge free connections
    • High performance windows and doors w/ solar protection
    • High efficiency, heat recovery, appropriate ventilation
  • Smart controls and renewables should enhance high-performance, not compensate for poor performance
  • Passive House should be for everyone, not just affluent
  • Fluctuation in energy usage much narrower in passive house design than LEED or built-to-code structures
  • Passive House can avoid cost-plus paradigm and stay in budget and on target by adopting following:
    • Passive House on day one
    • Work with certifier from day one
    • Require team to have proper training
    • Optimize from start & stick to certification & target
  • Should be able to stick close to conventional construction costs – 2 to 2.5% more – retrofits are tougher
  • HANAC Corona Gardens in Queens first certified multifamily Passive House – 100 units for senior housing – around 2015
  • Cornell Tech on Roosevelt Island 24-story housing for students and faculty – all electric except for domestic water heating – sparked many other similar projects
  • Convivium on East 36th (market-rate rental housing) and Flow Chelsea (mixed market rate and affordable housing) on West 29th St. in Manhattan built around same time – makes solid financial sense with long-term ownership – lower vacancy rates
  • Sendero Verde in East Harlem next big step – occupied entire city block – required Passive House for residential floors above base to win bid – over 600 units in three buildings
  • Breaking Ground in Bronx provides certified Passive House residences for low-income seniors and formerly homeless seniors with special needs – includes on site social services
  • NYSERDA sponsored three-year Buildings of Excellence design competition spurred construction of Passive House and total electrification by making $40 million available – across state but primarily in NYC
  • Newton, MA has become hub of sustainable development – Green Newton promoted Passive House for 15-building project, mostly multifamily – turned out to have nine of buildings certified
  • Now state has come out with new building code to drive more Passive House construction of multifamily and commercial buildings in MA – focuses on restricting capacity of HVAC systems, compelling robust enclosures

Q&A

  • Peter: Idea of Passive House standard as foundation not just tip raises question of why aren’t we doing this more?
  • Ken: Construction industry fundamentally conservative – difficult to persuade contractors that this is future – same holds true for real estate developers
  • At end of day culture change is generational, not timetable we need it to be on
  • Peter: Getting people to understand difference between upfront cost and long-term investment is key
  • Fred Schoeps: If we’re really going to create culture change, the developers and bankers have to be on board
  • Ken: You need someone on the inside in the bank or real estate development firm who’s working to get to yes instead of trying to find the no, and who’s working to convince everyone else on the inside that this is doable – usually someone in the middle who’s pushing
  • Sarah Carson: Passive House isn’t always the answer – there may be other ways to get the same results in terms of a building’s performance – love concept of Passive House as foundation of super-efficient shell and foundation upon which you layer other generation sources – shows that concerns about the impact of electrification on grid are bit of a red herring
  • Brian Eden: Big part of problem is focus on upfront premium and inclination of contractors to avoid doing anything they haven’t already done – great to see that it’s become much more broadly accepted
  • Peter: What are the main changes in evolution of Passive House over last few years?
  • Ken: Integrating renewables into the calculation – not degrading performance but maintaining same standards but electrifying more smartly
  • Also supply of components is another significant change – many more companies importing from Europe to US and American manufacturers getting on board – also many more examples to point to and greater inclusion of mainstream voices
  • Also important that tension between affordable housing advocates and energy efficiency advocates has declined considerably – affordable housing must be healthiest and most resilient for climate and social justice
  • Peter: How does Passive House address tension between energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions
  • Ken: Renewable energy doesn’t match up with demand, so we have to drive down demand – we’re going to flip from summer peak to winter peak in terms of demand on grid – so question is how much of demand is it going to be? How much infrastructure and battery storage capacity is going to be required?

 

Plastic Waste Management in Burundi – Jean Marie Nizigiyimana

Jean Marie Nizigiyimana is a Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow at Cornell University this year. He is the founder and CEO of JENI-ECO Company, a plastic recycling and manufacturing company in Burundi, and has been involved in a wide array of sustainability efforts there. Jean Marie shared with us the challenges of plastic waste management in Burundi and solutions he is developing to address them.

  • Burundi is small country in central Africa surrounded by Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, and Tanzania – became independent nation in 1962
  • Working to address three main challenges: pollution, empowerment of women, and youth unemployment
  • Burundi, like many other African countries faces issue of waste in general and plastic pollution, which is main cause of diseases related to poor hygiene
  • Burundian women still depend on their husbands for almost everything, especially in rural areas -- not fully empowered to be free and work to provide for their families
  • Also problem of youth unemployment widespread
  • Serve as head since 2015 of the Department of Environment Protection and Climate Change Resilience within United Forces of Partners for Sustainable Development (UFPSD) 
  • Main activities:
    • Educate - climate change workshops and seminars
    • Plant trees - campaigns resulting in planting of 470,500 trees in 5 years
    • Access to drinking water - manage and maintain water fountains in rural areas to provide drinking water
    • Sensitize population to principles of hygiene 
  • Waste management very big issue in Burundi – mountains of trash everywhere
  • Poor hygiene in Burundi cause of several diseases, including cholera, dysentery, malaria, amoeba- related illness, and others
  • Waste management first step – in 2018 we started Tube Heza project to help clean Gitega City by collecting waste from houses
  • Undertook city cleaning campaign to remove most of mountains of waste – simple wooden garbage bins put in place – not easy to change people’s minds and get them to stop throwing waste everywhere and start using bins
  • Local administration stepped in to help, providing metal bins to replace wooden ones and expanding paving
  • Buy-in from public key to success – everyone felt concerned
  • City totally different from one in 2018, when campaign began
  • From beginning of waste management initiative, rise of plastic waste became clear – that’s when I decided to launch ENI-ECO Company in 2019 to carry out plastic recycling
  • Sought to solve issue of plastic waste by making something that could last for at least 50 years – took year to work on a product that could be sold at the market – pavers made from melted plastic waste mixed with sand and other materials
  • Fighting plastic waste to prevent it from polluting water bodies, soils, and atmosphere
  • From waste to value: remove 5 tons of plastic waste each month from environment and recycle it
  • Total of 120 tons of plastic waste recycled from January 2020 to June 2022
  • Empowering women and creating jobs: 18 women and young people employed
  • Engage community: more than 100 students get school supplies at end of each summer holiday from collecting plastic waste and selling to JENI-ECO Company
  • Initiative appreciated – we have requests from other provinces and countries to help
  • Future projections on waste management, recycling, and women and youth empowerment
    • Expand waste management and recycling from one province to whole of Burundi
    • Recycle more than 60 tons of plastic waste each month
    • Create more than 100 new jobs with priority given to women
    • Empower women financially by hiring at least 50% women
    • Seek out support to achieve our goals – move to help other African countries
  • How can we solve plastic waste issue? By making products form this waste – not just pavers but also roof tiles and bricks
  • Need to shift from manual to machine production to increase from 5 tons per month to 60 tons per month
  • Getting the right tools essential: shredder, mixer, extruder, and press
  • Would like assistance from engineer to identify specifications
  • Peter: Very inspiring to see how both Jean Marie and Ken are acting as agents of change and transformation in both their fields – really about collaboration and network building
  • Need to make sure we are maximizing our human resources by making sure everyone is around table in coming up with innovative sustainability solutions
  • Other theme that ties two presentations together is public health – in many ways sustainability is about health – makes it clear that sustainability not just an abstract concept but something that touches on every aspect of our lives
  • Fred Schoeps: Difficult to identify potential sources of grants and other funding that would allow Jean Marie to make shift from manual to machine production – only needs additional $50K
  • Spending time with Humphrey fellows from around world has provided Fred with broader perspective beyond Ithaca
  • Peter encouraged people to take look at Kiva.org – online platform for making microloans to women entrepreneurs in developing countries
  • Jean Marie invests portion of revenue from his company to local organization working on issues of women empowerment – brings groups of women together to provide financial training that encourages them to invest pooled savings in small businesses
  • Peter invited Brian Eden to talk about his recent work around issue of plastic packaging and waste
  • Brian: Wrote resolution along with Barbara Eckstrom that County Legislature passed unanimously in support of State Sen. Harckham’s Packaging Reduction and Recycling Infrastructure Act -- legislation will shift NYS’s approach to solid waste, focusing responsibility on the corporations that use packaging in their commercial activities
  • Plastics are booming – doubling and tripling production of plastics as fossil fuel industry looks for other ways to leverage oil and gas
  • Peter: We clearly need to reduce production of plastics as well as find ways to recycle and creatively reuse them
  • Question in chat: Are most of plastics in Burundi from inside country or from outside of it?
  • Jean Marie: Plastics we’re recycling are from inside country but much of it comes into Burundi as packaging of products imported from other countries – Burundi does not accept plastic waste from other countries

March 2023

Tompkins County Food System Plan – Don Barber

The Tompkins County Food System Plan approved by the County Legislature last July is now in the implementation phase. Don Barber, chair of the Food Policy Council of Tompkins County and former Town of Caroline supervisor, updated the group about the plan and next steps.

  • Don reminded the group that when he last appeared in February 2022 the food system database had just been put together – the plan has now been completed and he wants to share it with the group
  • Ninety percent of our food comes from outside the home – food travels average of 1,500 miles before arriving to our table – has significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions and climate change
  • Food spending in Tompkins County: $349,583,000 annually, $8,556 average per household
  • Widespread food insecurity among county residents: 11.9% of adults, 13.6% of children
  • Diet impacts health and contributes to chronic diseases – 24% obesity rate in Tompkins County
  • Six key elements to food system: production, infrastructure, retail, access and security, consumption, waste
  • Why a food system plan?
    • Like air and water, food is a necessity and touches everyone
    • Decisions about food affect our resilience, well-being, and health
    • Good plans can guide sound decision making and improve quality of life for all residents
  • Effort to create county food system plan launched in 2019 with Katie Hallas coordinating it – Covid crisis exposed serious vulnerabilities with our food system
  • Food system planning pathway:
    • Process: Two-year effort funded by Legislature and Community Foundation led by Food Policy Council and CCE Tompkins
    • Baseline: First comprehensive study of local food system challenges, vulnerabilities, and opportunities
    • Engagement: 50+ businesses and organizations, 2,000 individuals participating
    • Outcome: Community Food System Plan with vision, directions, goals, and recommendations
  • Plan and executive summaries regarding Food System Baseline Assessment can be found on web at http://www.tompkinsfoodfuture.org/reports
  • Baseline Sections
    • Production
    • Infrastructure
    • Food Environment
    • Food Access and Security
    • Consumption
    • Waste
  • Data sources for these studies
    • Primary interviews and surveys
    • USDA ERS Food Environment Atlas
    • USDA Ag Census
    • US Census
    • Feeding America
    • JobsEQ (Ithaca Area Development)
    • Various local studies
  • Farmers in Tompkins County sell $65 million worth of products each year – 523 farms in county with 75% of them under 180 acres – 94% of farmland in county use for growing animal feed
  • Food environment mix of businesses and institutions
    • 113 food retail outlets, 105 full-service restaurants, and 74 fast food restaurants – employ about 3,300 workers
    • Significant portion of food provided by institutions, including Cayuga Medical Center, Cornell, Ithaca College, and K-12 schools – very little local food purchased
    • 17 food pantries in county and Southern Tier Food Bank has 25 partners in community
  • Food security means always having physical & economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets needs for active and healthy life
  • Additional $7.4 million needed to meet needs of food insecure families – 62% of residents eligible for SNAP not enrolled
  • Food consumption patterns:
    • 24% of adults and 12% of children obese and 53% say healthy, affordable food is key issue
    • 60% of food eaten at home and 40% outside of it
    • Increasing access to healthy food identified by Tompkins County resident as highest priority
  • Nationally and locally, 35% of food remains uneaten – 3.4 million pounds of food waste ends up at Cayuga Compost each year – 1,400 pounds rescued each day
  • Challenges and vulnerabilities in county food system
    • Production: profitability, land access, climate change, and short growing season
    • Infrastructure: local sourcing, scaling up, and access to processing facilities
    • Food environment: reliance on multinationals, hiring and retention, volume and consistency, consolidation, and concentration
    • Food access and insecurity: transportation, systemic problems, evolving emergency system
    • Consumption: limited access to fresh food, racial disparities, chronic diet-related illness
    • Food waste and recovery: sheer volume, funding, lack of access and education, misconceptions re: liability
  • Food system accounts for one-third of global GHG emissions – heavy use of fossil fuels in agribusiness, commodity crops produced in central NY
  • Extreme weather, seasonal shifts, invasives, and population growth all pose serious challenges to food production in Tompkins County
  • Dramatic increase in food prices due to infrastructure damage, flooding and drought, geopolitical turmoil
  • Paul Hawkins identifies plant-rich diet, reducing food waste, silvopasture, and regenerative agriculture as critical ways to reduce GHG emissions
  • Key equity issues:
  • Less than 1% of local farms run by farmers of color
  • 7% of SNAP recipients are Black, while only 4% of population is Black
  • 96% higher diabetes hospitalizations among Black residents
  • Historical food system oppression maintains present-day inequities
  • Key food security issues:
    • Average meal in Tompkins is 17% more expensive than national average
    • One-third of food insecure residents not eligible for SNAP
    • Consolidated supply chains leave us vulnerable to shortages and price fluctuations
    • Threats to global food system are varied and disruptions will impact local residents
    • Need local ownership of food production and processing
  • 2020: $6.1 trillion global food system, $1.82 billion in US, and $250 million in Tompkins County
  • 10% of Tompkins County Food is local, 90% is sourced from agro corporations
  • Food system monopolies control choices and prices for growers and on the shelves
  • Processed food provides consistency, convenience, and saves time, but many studies have shown this source is unhealthy: few nutrients, added sugar, carbohydrates, salt that cause chronic disease
  • Food insecure adults annually pay $1,193 more in health care
  • Red meat releases >100x GHG and dairy 10X more per serving than fruits and vegetables
  • Based on input from residents, food system plan outlines three directions: build resilience, cultivate equity and economic opportunity, and promote human and ecosystem health
  • Build Resilience
  • Goal 1: Mitigate and adapt to climate risks that affect the food system
  • Goal 2: Double local food production to sustainably meet community food needs and support the viability of local farms
  • Goal 3: Promote coordination and collaboration among food system stakeholders to meet community needs
    • Cultivate equity and economic opportunity
  • Goal 4: Halve food insecurity rates by increasing access to affordable, nutritious, safe food
  • Goal 5: Grow land access and food production opportunities for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), low income, and historically excluded resident
  • Goal 6: Create opportunities for entrepreneurship, innovation, investment and fair employment in the food economy
    • Promote human and ecosystem health
  • Goal 7: Protect natural resources by prioritizing climate smart practices
  • Goal 8: Provide widespread opportunity for community participation in food waste reduction and recovery
  • Goal 9: Integrate broad nutritional support for a healthier population
  • Food Policy Council has developed Community Food System Pledge to implement plan
  • Calls on community members to support creation of county food system that:
  • Mitigates and adapts to climate risks that affect our food system
  • Expands capacity for local food production while improving the viability of farms
  • Enhances coordination and collaboration among food system stakeholders
  • Increases community food security by creating equitable access
  • Expands opportunities for excluded residents within the food system
  • Facilitates opportunities for food system entrepreneurship and innovation
  • Protects natural resources that sustain us by prioritizing climate smart practices
  • Reduces food waste and increase food recovery
  • Improves community health through broad, equitable nutritional support
  • Can sign pledge online at https://www.tompkinsfoodfuture.org/pledge
  • Besides signing pledge, some other steps people can take:
  • Food Choices
    • Eat for your health
    • Eat for planetary health
    • Eat to reduce food waste
      • Plan meals including leftovers
      • Compost inedible scraps
      • Donate edible items thru FDN
    • Eat for our local economy
      • Restaurants & retail that buy from regional farms.
      • Farmers markets, farm stands, and local CSA share
    • Build a food budget that aligns with your values
    • Eat seasonally & be flexible about the varieties
  • Food Preparation
    • Grow more of your own food
    • Prepare your owns dishes from whole foods
    • Use food prep as family & community building times
    • U-pick
  • Social Justice
    • Support local food justice efforts by donating your land, money, or time
    • Engage with local and national food advocacy efforts

Q&A

  • Peter: What do you see as our biggest opportunity?
  • Don: Need to find ways to build and strengthen connections among different participants in food system – Food Policy Council working on communication and outreach
  • Each of us individually need to be more aware of food choices we make every day – also make sure to plant trees and gardens to sequester carbon
  • Peter: One of most striking points in presentation was fact that food system generates one-third of GHG emissions
  • Don: What’s really driving this is changing diet around world with increased consumption of beef – going in exactly wrong direction
  • Peter: Also unsettling to find out that 94% of all farmland in Tompkins County devoted to growing food for animals and only 10% of food we consume is locally produced
  • Don: Farmers who focus on growing food for people actually more profitable – surprising when you examine own food decisions to find out how little food is local
  • Dan Lamb: Glad to see more emphasis on GHG emissions in plan – moving toward more plant-based food consumption could make big difference – any ideas of how to address issue of so much farmland being used to grow food for animals?
  • Don: If we can create mindset to buy more local food, then farmers would shift to growing food for people – people need to participate more in CSAs and farmer markets – individual choices do make difference
  • Peter: A lot of people think recent increase in food prices is temporary, but lot of your presentation underlined possibility that lot of rising food costs could be permanent going forward
  • Don: We’ve been lulled into complacency by availability and convenience of corporate-prepared foods – even more consolidation going on now
  • Need to draw more attention to healthcare costs incurred by consuming corporate food instead of local food
  • Dave Bradley: Where is necessary protein going to come from if you’re vegetarian? What are sources of local vegetarian protein that can displace meat?
  • Don: Beans can be good source of protein – several growers and manufacturers in area – also chickens only have one-quarter of carbon footprint of beef
  • David Kay: What about debate over regenerative agriculture? Growing concern that term may have been hijacked by corporate interests – also what about possibility of cellular meat? To what extent was this discussed during planning process?
  • Don: Cellular meat not discussed – we did have large discussion about sustainability and regenerative agriculture – decided to emphasize resilience in plan
  • Peter: Could you delineate distinction between organic and regenerative for us?
  • Don: Organic means not to use synthetic fertilizers and other means to change dynamics in ground – regenerative focuses on putting more carbon into ground through photosynthesis process – soil is one of most effective technologies for capturing carbon
  • David Kay: Heart of issue involves infrastructure and bureaucracy regulates organic practices and sets standards through certification – no such determination about what constitutes regenerative agricultural practices and no enforcement mechanism – concern that regenerative agriculture could be used to undermine organic standards
  • Don: Organic label has been coopted by many corporations – many people are practicing organic farming in Tompkins County without getting certified
  • Margaret McCasland: Dairy is a contributor to climate change and to lake pollution in our region – also need to take into account dietary restrictions many people have – as result of climate change, possible to grow rice here now but getting right equipment to process it a major obstacle – are there opportunities at state and federal level to provide more support for smaller farmers so they could grow rice as well as beans?
  • Don: Lots of opportunities in farm bill but not very optimistic about Congress providing assistance to small farmers – hasn’t been much support for small farmers since 1970s
  • Food Policy Council is working to bring farmers together to talk about what they need to create new products locally – lack of commercial kitchens a major challenge – exploring options for space to install them in city
  • Peter: Could you say more about steps being taken to enhance coordination and collaboration within the food system?
  • Don: Looking for ways to increase connections between local healthcare providers and food system – one example of how Food Policy Council is bringing together different players in food system who haven’t interacted in past – also working on getting major area institutions which are largest food purveyors to buy more local food – Cornell had been putting system in place when pandemic hit and disrupted effort
  • Peter suggested we might need to think more about global aspects of food system – Don encouraged Peter to reach out to Rachel Bezner Kerr at Cornell to come speak to group about this topic
  • Dave Bradley: Important to remember that very often cost to produce food is very different from price being charged to buy it – expense of purchasing food is only going to go up

 

Sustainable Finger Lakes Heat Pump Pilot – Gay Nicholson

Sustainable Finger Lakes has recently received significant funding to launch an affordable heat pump pilot. Gay Nicholson, president of Sustainable Finger Lakes, shared the details of this innovative program and how it will contribute to climate justice in our community.

  • Gay introduced her colleague Milena Bimpong, who presented along with Gay – Milena has served as tenant engagement coordinator on project
  • Many barriers to the transition to clean energy, especially for lower-income folks in rentals – Gay became very familiar with issue as member of HeatSmart Tompkins board and through work with Finger Lakes Climate Fund
  • 119 low-income families helped through our Finger Lakes Climate Fund and an earlier NYSERDA project
  • Decided to focus on rentals – two-year pilot project to convert 100 rentals from fossil gas to heat pumps
  • NYSERDA providing $585,000 in extra incentives from its Innovative Market Strategies Program to provide heat pumps for low-income households
  • Objectives of pilot project:
    • Increase accessibility to energy efficiency for low-to-moderate
    • income tenants in 1-4 unit rentals (24% of all LMI housing in NYS)
    • Address the split incentive with additional incentives
    • Provide energy education to tenants
    • Document quantitative and qualitative data on costs, energy use, comfort, and landlord/tenant relationships.
    • Contribute to the Ithaca Green New Deal’s climate goals
  • Split incentive difficult, long-standing barrier to energy efficiency investments in rental properties
    • Tenant pays for energy either directly or indirectly
    • Landlord pays for the efficiency investment, but is not direct beneficiary
    • Tenants have only marginal control over consumption and landlords see tenants as consuming energy carelessly
  • Tight rental markets make it hard to shop around for efficient apartment – tenants don’t have much bargaining power
  • Given these challenges, LMI rentals receive the least amount of NYSERDA subsidies
  • Why Heat Pumps?
    • Really efficient!
    • Provide both heating and cooling, as well as cleaner indoor air and lower monthly bills
    • Low carbon footprint and run on green electricity
    • Local installers
  • First step is to reduce heating and cooling load – requirement of program
    • Insulate the roof (R30), walls, and floor (R14)
    • Stop the drafts – 7 ACH (air changes/hour)
    • Then you can ‘right size’ your heat pumps – too many oversized heat pumps getting installed
    • Cheapest kilowatt is the one you don’t use
  • Who qualifies for pilot?
    • Rental in the City or Town of Ithaca
    • 1-4 unit buildings
    • Use natural gas for heating
    • At least half of rental units are low income
    • Must be brought up to insulation standard
    • Landlords limited to 5 rentals in pilot
  • Annual income requirements per individuals in household
    • 1 -> $50,200
    • 2 -> $57,400
    • 3 -> $70,544
    • 4 -> $83,984
    • 5 -> $97,408
  • What incentives are available for this pilot?
  • Insulation and Air Sealing
    • $5000-$10000 for first unit, then $2500-
    • $5000 for each unit more.
  • Air Source Heat Pump -
    • $5000 for first two tons, then $500 per ton
  • Electric Panel Upgrade - $2000 (limited quantities)
  • Heat Pump Water Heater - $500 (also limited quantities)
  • Plus NYSEG rebates and tax credits
  • Cost of installing heat pumps make most sense when landlords have to replace their old gas systems
  • What’s required of landlords to participate in pilot program?
    • Can’t raise rent for two years
    • If heating costs moved from Landlord to Tenant, must reduce rent equal to previous year’s heating load
    • Utility release form
    • Media release form and interview
    • Must insulate and air seal first
  • What’s required of tenants?
    • Utility release form to track energy
    • Media release form and interview
    • Take home energy survey before
    • Take home energy survey after
    • Attend home energy workshop (and receive a dozen LED bulbs!)
  • Tenant pre-installation and post-installation surveys
    • Basic information (monthly rent, gross income, household size, etc.)
    • Electric and gas bill information (who pays for utility bills, POD numbers, etc.)
    • Heating and cooling conditions – before and after installation
    • Identifying problem areas and how landlords address them
    • Energy behaviors
  • Post-installation survey will be 1-4 months after – goal will be to evaluate effectiveness of upgrades and impact on improving home comfort
  • Topics in home energy workshops will include:
    • Phantom load/plug load
    • Reading NYSEG bill
    • Buying ENERGY STAR appliances
    • LED lighting
    • Storm windows
    • Weather stripping
    • Heat pump best practices
  • Workshops required of tenants – will be 45 minutes long, over Zoom
  • Measurement and verification
    • Partnering with PSD to measure performance over time
    • Pilot is special case for Compass platform funded by NYSERDA and DOE
    • Upload all building and project data, installer findings and photos
    • Accessing 1-yr pre and 1-yr post NYSEG utility data
    • Installing 50 Emporia real time energy monitors
    • Detection of performance problems to report to occupants and installers
    • Final report to integrate performance, costs, comfort results
  • Electrify Tompkins! LMI Mobile Home Heat Pump Pilot
    • Received grant from Tompkins Community Recovery Fund
    • Launching April 2023, 18 months – goal is to upgrade 50 mobile homes
    • 4,054 mobile homes in county (1,750 in parks, 2,304 solo)
    • Unique needs of mobile homes – use lots of energy due to poor quality of doors and windows – 20% more on average – also get very hot in summer, creating health risk
    • Access utility data pre and post and survey occupants pre and post
    • Track barriers to participation
  • LMI mobile home requirements to participate in pilot
    • Must own their mobile home
    • Household income <300% of federal poverty guideline
      • 1 -> $40,770
      • 2 -> $54,930
      • 3 -> $69,090
      • 4 -> $83,250
      • 5 -> $97,408
    • Envelope must be brought up to Comfort Home Standard (R24 attic, R21 belly, R6
    • walls, 12 ACH)
    • Installers will apply for all subsidies and rebates
    • Owner responsible for applying for $2,000 federal tax credit
    • Utility and media waivers
  • Costs for mobile home upgrades
    • Significant envelope work likely
    • Replacing propane furnace typically with 3-ton air source heat pump
    • Heat pump water heater not good fit for mobile homes
    • Electric panel upgrade likely and can be pricey
  • Incentives available
    • Empower+: $5,000-$10,000 toward envelope upgrades
    • NYSEG rebate: $1,400 per 10K BTUs (typically $5,040)
    • Mobile Home Pilot: $5,500 for heat pump and $2,000 for electric panel
  • After various incentives, including $2K federal tax credit, net cost to mobile homeowner might be about $7,500
  • Replacement cost of propane furnace would be about $5K
  • Fuel savings over 18-year lifespan of air source heat pump would be about $19K
  • Added benefits: greater comfort, air conditioning

Q&A

  • Peter: What kinds of conversations are you having with INHS regarding mobile homes?
  • Gay: Good conversations about how to prevent hedge fund investors buying up mobile home parks and then jacking up rents
  • Also what possibilities are there for cooperatively owned cellphones in mobile home parks?
  • Are there opportunities for INHS to step in beyond Compass mobile home park in Trumansburg?
  • Terry Carroll (in chat): Are 3-ton air source heat pumps really necessary for mobile homes?
  • Gay: Mobile homes very energy inefficient so they are necessary – new NYSERDA requirements to meet Comfort Home Standard should help with oversizing issue – we’re aware of problem and working to put guard rails in place to prevent oversizing
  • Peter: Are there opportunities for Cooperative Extension to collaborate on education?
  • Gay: We’ve been meeting with Energy Navigators and Clean Energy Hub to discuss how they can help get word out about the two pilots – also hope TCCPI members could help with outreach
  • Gerri Wiley (in chat): Who will be cleaning the air filters in the rental heat pump pilot?
  • Gay: Not clear but will probably vary depending on situation
  • Gerri: Will there be any funding for annual or semi-annual maintenance?
  • Gay: No, not through our pilot – will be up to landlords
  • Chuck Geisler: Appreciate how these two pilots help focus attention on issue of affordability in what is a very high rent county – what do you think energy cost burden should be after upgrades take place?
  • Gay: Has heard it should be about 6% -- very worried about how much prices of energy, equipment, and labor have gone up – five installers participating in rental pilot and Gay is advising landlords to get at least two bids – we need more competition and more workforce
  • Lot to learn due to complexity of pilots – one of reasons why NYSERDA so interested
  • Dave Bradley: Indoor air pollution problem arose due to extent of insulation sealing as part of heat pump installation – had to purchase air exchanger which turned out to be very expensive, too
  • Peter wrapped up the meeting by reminding people to pay close attention to the climate and energy bills being debated in Albany – next couple of weeks is especially critical for making sure we implement NYS climate plan and meet CLCPA targets
  • Encourage people to sign up for updates and reminders from Renewable Heat Now and NY Renews – TCCPI active member of both coalitions in terms of advocacy
  • Peter also congratulated Nick Goldsmith on becoming the new program officer for the Park Foundation’s Sustainability

February 2023

Transportation Options, Decarbonization, and Equity in Tompkins County – Dawn Montanye

Dawn Montanye is the Environment Issue Leader for Cornell Cooperative Extension-Tompkins County and former Team Leader for Way2Go, the county’s transportation information and learning hub. Dawn discussed the crucial role of multi-modal transportation in reducing our community’s greenhouse gas emissions and meeting the challenges of climate justice and social equity.

  • Very robust transportation community in Tompkins County – time to talk across sectors in terms of role transportation has in people’s daily lives, climate change, and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions
  • Providing big picture overview today with hope that it’s just start of more in-depth conversations about transportation issues in our community
  • Second largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions in city at 37.7% compared to space and water heating at 57.4%
  • Transportation accounted for the largest portion (27%) of total U.S. GHG emissions in 2020 (light-duty vehicles 57% -- in 2022 was 28% in NYS
  • Often transportation is elephant in room that people don’t talk about because it’s very hard to tackle
  • Much more complicated than just shifting internal combustion cars to EV cars
  • High emissions in city due primarily to large number of commuters driving in and out for work – in 2020 60.2% of commuters in Tompkins County drove alone – in city 28.6% of commuters drove alone
  • Key issues regarding GHG reduction in Tompkins County
    • Getting people out of cars and using multi-modal options where available
    • Transitioning shared/public transportation to electric
    • Transportation access in rural areas
    • Reducing barriers to buying an electric vehicle
    • Improving infrastructure
    • Ensuring equity
    • Funding, planning and policy
  • Micromobility one approach to getting people out of cars
  • Involves range of small, lightweight vehicles operating at speeds typically below 15 mph and driven by users personally
    • Bicycles, e-bikes, electric scooters, electric skateboards, shared bicycle fleets, and electric pedal assisted bicycles
  • Bike Walk Tompkins launched Ithaca Bikeshare in Fall 2022 – successor to Lime Bikes which left following drop in ridership during Covid crisis
  • Microtransit another viable approach – form of on-demand multi-passenger transport vehicle for hire
  • Offers highly flexible routing and/or highly flexible scheduling of minibus vehicles shared with other passengers
  • TCAT in process of procuring four eight-passenger electric vans for county – intends to expand after initial phase
  • Multi-mobility offers third option – uses combination of different modes to take trip from start to end – works without having to make major infrastructure changes
  • For consumers, being multi-modal means understanding different vehicle options are better suited for different trip needs; bikeshare, carshare, fixed route transit, on demand transit
  • Getting people out of cars doesn’t necessarily mean giving up cars, just using them less
  • Changing culture of how people think about moving around essential to reduce driving alone
  • Number of incentives to encourage people to consider alternatives
  • GO ITHACA
    • Free program for anyone commuting to and from Ithaca urbanized area
    • 50% off an Ithaca Bikeshare membership
    • $50 credit for Ithaca Carshare
    • Free 40-ride TCAT pass, then 50% off monthly top ups
  • Ithaca Carshare
    • Easy Access program is income qualified
    • 30 vehicles and counting
  • School Success-Way2Go/ICSD
    • Rideshare
    • Free TCAT for students 17 and under or older if in high school
  • Way2Go CCE-Tompkins education and outreach
    • Transportation options
    • How-to videos
    • EV car show
    • Financing classes for purchasing EVs
    • Buying guidance for used EV
    • 211 transportation troubleshooting
  • Bike Walk Tompkins also doing lots of education and outreach
    • Low-cost refurbished bikes (“bike match”)
    • Bike mechanic support & education
    • Bike skills education for adults and kids
    • Advocacy for biking & walking infrastructure
    • Ithaca walking map
    • Travel training for transit use
  • Transitioning shared/public transportation to electric another important dimension to reducing GHG emissions
  • When we talk about electric vehicles, so much more than cars – also includes bikes, busses, scooters, etc. – how do we use this moment to deemphasize use of cars?
  • City is looking at replacing passenger fleet vehicles with EVs
  • In 2021 TCAT launched “electric bus fleet” with 4 electric busses – NYSERDA grant for the purchase of six 40-foot electric transit buses
  • Carshare purchased first 2 electric cars in 2021 – over next 3 years Ithaca Carshare slated to purchase 9 electric vehicles, several of which will be placed in low-income neighborhoods
  • In late 2022, Ithaca Bikeshare launched a 100-vehicle, pedal-assist ebikeshare, with plans to add 150 more in spring 2023
  • Transportation access in rural areas another key component to reducing GHG emissions – difficult nut to crack
  • Dispersed character of towns and villages combined with fixed-route transit challenging
  • Move Together NY, CCE-Tompkins program, working on improving cross-county bus connections
  • TCAT diversifying fleet to enhance on-demand-micro transit to reach further and deeper in county
  • Also efforts to improve accessibility for purchasing electric vehicles, increase multi-modal options, and enhance culture of rideshare with ICSD students ways to improve transportation in rural areas
  • Several initiatives underway to reduce barriers to buying electric vehicles
    • CCE-Tompkins and Energetics: EV Tompkins Drive Electric and EV LMI project
    • Support increase in new and used EV inventory at local car dealerships
    • Increase public awareness
    • Class on purchasing used electric cars
    • Information on rebates and tax credits
  • Development of low or no credit programs for purchasing used EVs and leasing new batteries through the Ithaca Electric Transportation Access (ETA) project
  • Subsidies available for purchasing electric bike through GOIthaca’s Easy Access program
  • Improving charging infrastructure crucial to reducing GHG emissions
    • EV Tompkins Drive Electric and EV LMI projects carried out by CCE-Tompkins and Energetics in 2018 installed 11 charging stations in county
    • TCAT working with TC3, New York Public Transit Association, and NYSEG so that park and rides have both public and TCAT charging stations
    • TCAT collaborating with L-Enterprises, Standard Hydrogen, Shift Capital, and City of Ithaca on future Chain-works project to convert hydrogen fuel to electricity to charge TCAT buses
    • TCAT installing 8 pantograph charging dispensers for ease of charging and 1.4mw charger in their own facility
    • City deploying level 2 charging stations in Green St. garage
  • Other important infrastructure projects:
    • Bridge construction over Rt.13 for Dryden Rail Trail
    • City identifying funding opportunities for on-street charging analysis, which may include bike infrastructure, and contracted with Siemens for EV load forecasting
    • County updating Countywide Priority Trails Strategy and developing Safety Action Plan project across 10 municipalities with NYSDOT
    • Bike Walk Tompkins promoting networks of protected pedestrian and bike ways
    • Also important to expand broadband for remote work and app access
  • Efforts to ensure equity
    • Transportation Equity Coalition working towards equitable transportation sector that advances quality of life for historically excluded people in Tompkins County
      • Coalition currently carrying out Transportation Equity Needs Assessment
    • Easy Access programs available through Ithaca Carshare, GO ITHACA, Ithaca Bikeshare, Bike Walk Tompkins used bikes
    • Unbroken Promise Initiative and Ithaca Electric Transportation Access (ETA) project exploring potential of micro-business development
    • Enhancing shared mobility options where most needed
  • What are current and potential sources of funding?
    • TCAT, Community Center for Transportation, GO ITHACA, and Unbroken Promise Initiative received $7 million NYSERDA Clean Transportation Prize for Ithaca Electric Transportation Access (ETA) project (West End, West Hill, Residents in more rural locations)
    • Go Ithaca awarded $1.7 million in NYSERDA and NYSDEC grants to support expanding the program and its offerings over the next three years, particularly targeting communities of need.
    • $463,855 available in Carbon Reduction Program from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Legislation (BIL), County has applied
    • Energy and climate provisions of IRA will provide significant incentives going forward
  • Recent planning and policy developments
    • Speed limit reduction citywide to 25 mph – approved, with implementation in 2023
    • Two major Bike Walk Tompkins efforts with the City right now include:
      • Supporting the development of a Bicycle Master Plan & Pedestrian/ADA Compliance Master plan
      • Supporting full design & construction of Better Bicycle Network for Ithaca, a network of six connected safe bicycling corridors, for which the City is currently applying for Carbon Reduction program funding
    • Strengthening cross-county bus connections
  • Key challenges in transportation sector
    • Grid capacity and presence of charging stations
    • Rural parts of the County are not fully served by transit/multi-modal options
    • Shortage of TCAT drivers and mechanics, supply chain issues – transit still recovering from fallen ridership from Covid
    • Ithaca Carshare: affordable insurance poses risks to its continued existence
    • Limited supply of used EVs for low- and moderate-income population
    • Persistent inequities that may leave populations behind
    • Financing, planning and infrastructure that favors cars, not walkers, bikers, transit riders
    • Historical pattern of sprawl, lack of affordable housing at urban core
    • Lack of adaptation measures for accommodating transition – for example, bus shelters for extreme temperatures and impacts from flood events on infrastructure
  • Reliance on transition to electrification itself poses serious issues such as ecological and societal Impacts from lithium mining for batteries and GHG emissions from EV production
  • Next steps
    • Planning, especially with IGND
    • Coordination with other sectors: affordable housing, density planning, health, infrastructure investment
    • Testing models regarding microtransit and how we use our roadways differently

Q&A

  • Ivony Arnel directed people to Go Ithaca’s Commutifi dashboard (https://dashboard.commutifi.com/to/go-ithaca/) – helps people plan their commutes and provides carbon score
  • Fernando de Aragon explained the insurance issue involving Ithaca Carshare and other carshare programs in NYS and why new legislation is necessary -- without change, won’t be possible for Ithaca Carshare to continue operating past May
  • Also pointed out that in Tompkins County 63% of all trips are less than three miles and 52% of trips are less than two miles – lots of potential to get people out of cars by making bikes more available
  • Underscored how unique and exceptional programs such as Ithaca Carshare, Gadabout, Bikeshare, and TCAT are
  • Dave Bradley noted there is no shortage of commercially available lithium in U.S.—also contended that cars are still much more convenient in certain situations
  • Dawn pointed out that many people can’t afford car and we should work on improving the transit system so it works for everyone – multimodal transit very stressful and can be made to work better
  • Peter asked Dawn how transportation needs assessment is gathering input from people in community – she said that planning process was very inclusive so they are getting lots of guidance regarding who they should be reaching out to and questions they should be asking
  • Have already held focus groups with priority populations and in process of finalizing survey that will go out countywide soon
  • Ingrid Zabel: Very interested in culture change and shifting norms – asked Dawn what approaches have been most effective
  • Education and training work well in getting people to overcome their fears – a lot of it just involves becoming familiar with something new and different
  • Peter asked about plans to make more level 3 chargers available – Fernando said that there will be funding from federal and state government to install them along Rt. 13
  • Also observed that we don’t need everyone to stop driving – would only take a shift of 10% of trips to other modes to be transformational
  • Ivony emphasized extent to which everyone can make a positive difference by using bike more often
  • Peter asked Dawn what her perspective is on the need to bring transportation into the conversation when discussing the IGND given the focus so far on buildings
  • Dawn said she thought there was a lot to be learned from people who are already using multimodal transportation – what is possible and how to make it better
  • Strong consensus in transportation community about what needs to be done – IGND could really raise level of conversation around transportation by making it more of centerpiece
  • Peter wondered what provisions in IRA addressed used EVs – Dave Bradley said that there was a $4500 tax credit available but that assumed you made enough income for that to be useful
  • He pointed out that besides EVs, it makes sense to electrify streetcars and trains as part of creating a less carbon-intensive transportation system

 

TCCPI Issues & Topics for 2023-24 – All

We broke into small groups for about 20 minutes and discussed what issues and topics participants would like to see TCCPI focus on in 2023-24 (June to June). Then we came back together and shared out.

  • Paul Moore (for group #4 – Ivony, Nick, Jack, and Paul):
    • Information and updates about federal and state funding available in next year for climate change and energy transition
    • What is best intervention level for action, town, city, county, state, or federal, and how you avoid duplicating effort?
    • How can we better design multimodal transportation to take into account Ithaca’s climate?
    • Jack: How can we better translate all wonderful conversations into action?
  • Dawn (for group #3 – Ben, Ingrid, Margaret, and Dawn):
    • How do we do better outreach and let folks know what’s going on, especially those often left out or hard to reach?
    • Need to think more about equity and how it applies to rural communities
    • Identify areas of transportation where we really want to dig in after today’s overview – for example, how do we get reduction goals for vehicle miles traveled into county, municipal, and state plans?
    • How do we do better cross-sector planning with areas such as housing, buildings, transportation, etc.?
    • How do we engage youth regarding the IGND?
    • Climate change adaptation and resilience – impact of extreme weather events on those with fewer resources, especially with flooding
  • Tom (for group #2 – Janelle, Leigh, Milena, and Tom):
    • How do we deal with onslaught of misinformation from fossil fuel industry, utilities, and others?
    • Climate adaptation and extreme heat – EMC beginning to deal with these issues – how does community prepare?
    • Land trust efforts in the county such as Camp Barton and role of natural areas in carbon sequestration
    • Regional clean energy hubs once they get underway
  • Dave (for group #1 – Hailey, Rachel, Sarah, and Dave):
    • How do we better convey sense of urgency when it comes to climate change and need to accelerate energy transition?
    • Opposition to wind farms in NYS – what are solutions, if any?
    • Ways to leverage new IRA provisions to install municipally owned electricity production
    • NY electricity pricing system (NYISO) and why it’s so ill-suited to renewable electricity deployment in state
    • Rachel: What are top three challenges for each of TCCPI partners in taking action and what synergies can be deployed?
    • Tracking key dates for communities and state involving IRA incentives and benefits to make sure we don’t miss anything important and understand where we need to be connecting and collaborating
    • How do we create better bridges with groups that don’t attend TCCPI meetings? Maybe one or two groups each year where we get together with them
  • Peter wrapped up with summary of steering committee discussion about issues and priorities
    • Making sure transportation issue is ongoing conversation
    • Pushback on decarbonization – public fears and anxieties and dealing with fossil fuel industry misinformation
    • Monitoring state developments and keeping track of relevant climate and energy legislation in Albany
    • Debate over hydrogen
    • Grid capacity and upgrades needed, as well as ways around the need for these upgrades using virtual power plants
  • Peter urged folks to weigh in with their representatives as budget and related climate and energy policies come under consideration – critical time in legislative session coming up

January 2023

The Final Scoping Plan – Bob Howarth

Bob Howarth, the David R. Atkinson Professor of Ecology and Environmental Biology at Cornell, is a member of the Climate Action Council, which recently issued its Final Scoping Plan. Bob discussed the climate action plan and next steps for implementation.

  • Peter thanked Bob for his leadership on Climate Action Council, especially for way Bob held his ground and at same time brought other people on board
  • Climate Leadership & Community Protection Act (CLCPA) of 2019 mandated:
    • 40% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030 (relative to 1990)
    • 85% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050 (relative to 1990)
    • 70% renewable electricity by 2030
    • 100% carbon-free electricity by 2040
    • At least 35% of economic benefits have to go to historically disadvantaged
  • CLCPA established the Climate Action Council, charged with producing Scoping Plan by Jan. 1, 2023 to outline policies for implementation
  • Final Scoping Plan approved Dec 19, 2022 by 19-3 vote – culmination of 32 meetings of the full Climate Action Council starting in March 2020, hundreds of hours of meetings by advisory panels in 2021 and Council subgroups (2022),
  • Following release of the draft plan in Dec. 2021 for public comment, held 11 hearings statewide and received written comments from more than 35,000 individuals and organizations
  • Council subgroups met weekly between June and Oct. 2022 to hash out especially contentious issues such as how to pay for implementation of plan – Bob served on two of these
  • Bob was pleased with draft plan – better than he would’ve expected at outset – would’ve given if a B+ if grading it – felt the final plan was much improved and would’ve given it an A-
  • Buildings biggest source of GHG emissions in NYS (32-40%), followed by transportation (about 28%)
  • Cost of inaction $115 billion more than cost of implementing plan – some jobs will be lost but expect net increase of over 200,000 jobs by 2030 – by & large better than jobs lost – and over 300,00 by 2040 – net direct costs are small relative to size of NY economy (0.6% by 2030 and 1.3% in 2050
  • Health benefits will be huge – tens of thousands of premature deaths avoided
  • Emphasis throughout plan on:
    • Beneficial electrification for both transportation and buildings
    • Wind, solar, and hydro, with storage, not nuclear
    • Equity, social justice, and high-quality union jobs
    • Health benefits
    • Resilient, reliable, and predictable energy supplies & costs
  • Big debate over renewable natural gas, biogas, biofuels, and hydrogen, but final plan downplayed these elements, and they aren’t mentioned in Executive Summary
  • Hydrogen mentioned only once in Executive Summary, in context of use with fuel cells for transportation – also nuclear not major emphasis
  • Plan stresses we have one-in-a-generation opportunity to reimagine the state’s economy and energy system and rebuild rust belts of upstate NY
  • Buildings: majority of new purchases for space and water heating will be heat pumps by 2030 – 85% of homes and commercial building space electrified by 2050
  • Zero emission building codes (no combustion of fossil fuels) by 2025 for new homes and low-rise residential buildings and 2028 for new high-rise residential and commercial buildings – draft plan called for 2024 and 2027
    • At least 250,000 retrofits per year away from fossil fuels in residential units (homes & apartments), 10X current rate – supported by increased incentives and low-cost public and private financing
    • After 2030, prohibition on purchase of fossil fuel powered furnaces, stoves, water heaters, dryers, etc.
    • Transition away from hydrofluorocarbons to natural refrigerants, to reduce greenhouse gas consequences of heat pumps
  • Bob testified before NY State Senate on blueprint to implement NYS’s progressive Climate Law (CLCPA of 2019) on Jan. 19, 2023
    • Argued in support of draft plan timeline: 2024 (single family homes) & 2027 (commercial buildings) for all electric requirement for new construction
    • Immediately end 100-ft gas hookup requirement
    • Immediately end subsidies by utilities (and NYSERDA) for fossil natural gas appliances
  • Transportation: Prohibition of sales of internal combustion engine cars, SUVs, and pickup trucks by 2035
    • Incentives to purchase electric vehicles before then, and taxes/fees to discourage purchase of new internal combustion vehicles
    • Enhancement of public transportation and smart growth
  • Electricity: Electricity demand to double by 2050, with shift to winter peak from summer
    • Requires enhanced & modernized, more resilient grid, and increased energy storage (electricity and thermal)
    • By 2030 expect 12-15% increase in demand for electricity
    • Increased production to come largely from wind, solar, and hydro – in winter, mostly offshore and onshore wind
    • No fossil fuel produced electricity by 2040, as stipulated in state climate law
    • Plan will lead to 70% reduction in GHG emissions in electricity power generation by 2030 relative to 1990 – already at 40% -- zero by 2050
  • Gas System Transition: “Achieving the Climate Act’s emission limits will require a substantial reduction of fossil natural gas use and a strategic downsizing of the gas system.”
  • In full report, Climate Action Council clearly states little if any role for renewable natural gas (RNG) and hydrogen for home heating and pipelines – big victory
  • Some other hard-fought victories: NY will not follow lead of federal government in recent legislation on “clean hydrogen”
    • Very strong emphasis in plan on green hydrogen (electrolysis from 100% renewable energy), with brief mention that pink hydrogen (from nuclear plants) could be allowed
  • Strong preference for biogas rather than renewable natural gas (RNG, which is made by processing biogas to reduce CO2, for injection into pipelines)
  • Strong preference for using biogas at site of production (dairy farms, landfills, wastewater treatment plants), and for fuel cells rather than generators if used to produce electricity
  • No major role for renewable diesel, biodiesel, and other biofuels for transportation – NY will not follow California lead on this
  • Adoption of “fossil natural gas” terminology
  • Cap-and-Invest Program: We rejected carbon fees on individual economic sectors, which NYISO urged for electricity – by not equally taxing fossil natural gas might have penalized beneficial electrification
    • Also rejected carbon tax on all fossil fuels based on social cost of carbon, etc., which would have required new legislation
  • The cap-and-invest approach an economy-wide fee, but derived from the CLCPA and requires no further legislation – DEC is tasked with developing regulations to implement by end of 2023 – “devil will be in details”
    • Caps set by CLCPA – fee will go up on an annual basis if caps not being met, and down if caps exceeded
    • Hochul has endorsed cap-and-invest approach
  • Provides funding stream to implement CLCPA goals, and increases ability to leverage federal funds from IRA, etc.
  • Rebates to be provided to low- & moderate-income families to avoid their being penalized as transition away from fossil fuels takes place
  • Mechanisms will be included to help make sure industries don’t leave NY or are discouraged from coming here
  • Benefits & costs for accelerated transition away from combustion relative to status quo inaction
    • $130 billion in net benefits by 2050 based on 2021 fuel prices – cost of implementing plan will be $270 billion and benefits will total about $400 billion (health benefits $160 billion)
    • If fuel prices remain at 2022 levels, net benefits would be $163 billion
    • Funding from federal IRA could increase net benefits for New Yorkers by up to another $53 billion, for total of >$200 billion if fuel prices stay high

Q&A

  • Peter asked Bob if he could explain difference between cap-and-invest and cap-and-trade
  • Bob: With cap-and-invest, the caps are set by the CLCPA whereas with REGGI caps are arbitrarily established – in both cases, not an offset and cap goes down over time
  • Funds collected will be used in beneficial electrification – if we’re not on target, fees will go up substantially by law – includes rebate feature to make sure burden doesn’t fall disproportionately on working families
  • DEC charged with developing details of program – important to watch this closely to make sure it’s done right – DEC staff pushed hard to get this concept adopted
  • Diane Stefani (chat): Could you say more about how businesses will be helped through transition?
  • Bob: Plan is pretty vague beyond saying we need to do this – charges DEC to make sure measures are taken to avoid industry leaving state because of high energy prices
  • State already taking steps to bring in battery storage and chip manufacturers – will also be aggressively recruiting heat pump and EV parts manufacturers
  • Leon Porter (chat); Won’t most of benefits generated by climate plan get globalized and thus NYS will only receive small fraction of them?
  • Bob: Benefits calculated in plan are just for state – reducing fossil fuel air pollution will be a huge benefit, in particular, for historically disadvantaged communities in state
  • As plan gets rolled out and people see that transition to clean energy doesn’t destroy economy and actually strengthens it, and health benefits become clear, other states and countries will move in this direction – will have multiplier effect
  • Rene Carver (chat): Will DEC be provided with additional staff and resources to make sure they can meet new responsibilities being assigned to them?
  • Bob: Plan is silent on that issue but CLCPA and scoping plan binding on all state agencies, including DEC – incumbent on DEC to make clear to governor and state legislature what its needs are – DEC will clearly need lot more staff
  • Carol Chock (chat): Not clear that representatives from DPS and PSC are on board with plan – approving three-year contracts in rate cases that don’t seem to push needle fast enough
  • Bob: PSC chair on Climate Action Council and strongly endorsed plan – PSC has big role in making sure plan is carried out – but recent actions little puzzling – hoping they will step up to challenge – public pressure will be important factor
  • Dave Bradley (chat): Would hydrogen be good candidate for use in NYC district heating systems
  • Bob: We didn’t specifically discuss NYC heating system – NYC has its own climate laws and regulations and even moving faster than state away from fossil fuels
  • Hydrogen pretty leaky and explosive – difficult to handle – plan overall discourages use of hydrogen for heating and for distributing via pipelines
  • Currently, NYC district heating uses steam generated by fossil fuels – hot water would be more efficient and could be generated more cheaply using means other than hydrogen
  • Ingrid Zabel: What is risk plan could be weakened or dismantled with different governor and legislature?
  • Bob: CLCPA is law and you’d have to amend law or nullify it – would require majorities in both General Assembly and State Senate as well as signature of governor to do that
  • Governor could slow walk implementation of plan so important to have governor who is supportive of plan
  • Important to remember, though, that plan has force of law and would not be easy to undo it
  • Peter pointed out that there are quite a few bills getting introduced in legislature that would go long ways towards firming up implementation of plan
  • Bob: Much of implementation doesn’t require further law, but everyone agrees no harm in legislature putting its own stamp on plan and would make it harder yet to undo it
  • Fossil fuel industry lobbying legislature very hard as they did with Climate Action Council – if we can demonstrate in NY we can degasify our system, then it will make clear it’s possible for other states to do so – lobbyists spent over $10 million in past year alone in NYS

 

Rewiring America – Luis Aguirre-Torres

Luis Aguirre-Torres is Senior Advisor at Rewiring America, where he focuses on identifying, incentivizing, and articulating community-scale electrification projects. Prior to joining Rewiring America, he was the director of sustainability for the City of Ithaca, NY, where he led the implementation of the Ithaca Green New Deal. Luis shared Rewiring America’s vision and strategy for electrifying the nation.

  • Peter welcomed Luis back to TCCPI in his new role at Rewiring America, national nonprofit focusing on electrification
  • Luis noted that at recent World Economic Forum in Davos three models for city electrification discussed – one of them was Ithaca electrification effort – we dared to try doing something new and different
  • Rewiring America is also trying to do something different in different way
  • Rewiring America leading electrification nonprofit, focused on electrifying our homes, businesses and communities – instrumental in drafting Inflation Reduction Act and Defense Production Act – also working with states, including NY
  • We develop accessible, actionable data, and tools – believe in shared abundance and a climate safe future
  • Everything can be electrified and that will lead to sustainable prosperity
  • In US, electricity makes up 37% of nation’s total energy stock – to fully decarbonize by 2035 we need to increase electrification by 5-6% each year
  • Founded in 2020, Rewiring America pursuing three goals:
    • Lower energy costs
    • Healthier homes
    • Safer climate
  • Focused on energy because it makes up 87% of all emissions on planet – coal, natural gas, and oil – includes:
    • Cars we drive
    • How we heat our homes and water
    • How we cook our food
    • How we dry our clothes
    • Where our electricity comes from
  • 42% of our energy related emissions come from decisions made around kitchen table: what car we decide to buy, what washing machine, etc.
  • 70% of Americans concerned about climate but don’t know where to go to find solutions – we need to change conversation and control narrative
  • First energy crisis in 1970s underscored need to secure enough energy to power our needs
  • Needed standards such as EnergyStar and MPG labels on cars – emphasis on efficiency
  • But climate crisis different – we cannot efficiency our way to zero – most efficient gas car still uses gas and most efficient furnace still uses fossil fuel
  • Electrification is way to efficiency – for example, 70% of fossil fuel energy we use to heat our homes wasted – electrification eliminates most of this waste
  • We have 1 billion machines to replace or displace thru electrification across 121 million households in US – need to focus on half of these machines, such as furnaces, cooktops, vehicles
  • Average American household would save $1,800 if they electrified – if we stopped paying for energy wasted, it would be largest wealth transfer in history from energy producers to consumers
  • Over next decade we must change market default so efficient, electric machine becomes most affordable, convenient, and accessible one to purchase and install – there’s market failure we need to fix: cost of carbon pollution should stop being externalized
  • Hasn’t happened yet because fragmented, fossil-fueled market is the default, creating fossil fuel feedback loop
  • Consumers don't know what's available, installers aren’t incentivized to sell something different, and without scale, upfront cost of machines remains high
  • Thanks to IRA, we have an incredible opportunity to not just electrify our households, but our nation
  • Because of the IRA, every household now has a bank account with thousands of dollars in it to go electric – they just don’t know about it
  • Widespread household uptake means community economic growth, fulfilling electric potential
  • Generally thought that potential in IRA for residential electrification is $100 billion, but actually $858 billion thanks to tax breaks it provides
  • To makes this happen we need to drive down costs thru economies of scale, change narrative, and create new market
  • Can drive down costs and make electrification affordable by deploying federal and state incentives, aggregation at community level, consumer education, and realizing carbon value of every home
  • Rewiring America launched IRA electric savings calculator in August – has attracted major media attention – over 400,000 users since launch – also providing guides with case studies and manual for decision making
  • Customized electric planning toolkit:
    • All incentives and rebates available at federal, state, municipal and utility levels
    • Custom household electrification plan based on needs and opportunity
    • Community based resources and service providers
  • Makes it possible to maximize incentives and minimize upfront costs
  • Unleashing carbon value at community level will have tremendous impact – if 1.2 million homes electrified each year, it would lead to $2.2 billion in annual savings for homeowners, mitigate 120 million metric tons of carbon, and create 49,000 new jobs
  • Objective is to create local, synthetic markets and leverage for increased savings to organize 500,000 households and help them go electric

Q&A

  • Peter: Clearly important to get word out about IRA and its benefits – seems to be one of chief purposes of Rewiring America – key to changing narrative – very pragmatic and concrete way to accomplish this
  • Aggregation is crucial to making sure electrification takes place – a collective action by definition – but IRA focused on individual action – how do you take legislation largely aimed at encouraging individual action and turn it into collective action that leads to aggregation?
  • Luis: IRA provides certainty at policy level for electrification – certainty has to be translated into reduced financial risk for investors
  • Synthetic market created out of aggregating individual homeowners and building owners to create economies of scale
  • IRA provides not only tax benefits but also $100 million for point-of-purchase rebates and other incentives
  • Peter: By changing narrative, Rewiring America can tell story of collective action based on what IRA offers – getting word out by itself is collective effort
  • Karim Beers (chat): Could you speak more to role of education in bringing down costs? Is this a kind of scaled up HeatSmart campaign?
  • Luis: Part of what Rewiring America is trying to do is to is communicate message that has been very effectively conveyed by organizations like HeatSmart at national level in coordination with federal and state governments
  • We focus on what exists and where it doesn’t exist we create it – synthetic markets are example of this approach – creating markets for electrification in regions where they don’t exist or are scarce
  • Demonstrable political will key to success of this effort to create market at community level that will provide certainty and enable investors to see electrification of individual homes as single project and investment opportunity, and deploy capital at lower cost
  • Also important to coordinate electrification efforts with contractors to reduce industry fragmentation
  • If consumers are more educated about options for reducing energy costs and carbon footprint, then they will demand more effective solutions that are less expensive
  • By all of us as community doing this, we will force volume and generate business that will increase competition among contractors
  • Looking to launch “rewiring communities” later this year
  • Karim (chat): Lot of rebates provided by IRA for heat pumps won’t be available until later this year – aren’t yet in place for NYS
  • Lag time involved while machinery for providing rebates gets put in place
  • Luis: Good news is that all of rebates will be retroactive even if not available at time of installation
  • White House considering using Defense Production Act to establish small- to medium-sized manufacturing facilities for heat pumps throughout US
  • Need to synchronize IRA with Defense Production Act and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act – will begin taking place in first half of this year
  • Peter: How does IRA make benefits available to not-for-profit institutions?
  • Luis: IRA puts in place changes in tax code that make it possible for nonprofits and municipalities to leverage tax exemptions for energy upgrades – direct cash payments and transferability under Infrastructure Act will also play important role
  • From chat: What are some of ways Rewiring America is thinking about how to address issue of split incentives?
  • Luis: Rewiring America not currently focused on this question but Biden administration taking up issue of renter protection
  • Peter reminded Luis he would like to set up meeting for him to meet Rob Harmon, executive director of MEETS Coalition, which is working on problem of split incentives for energy upgrades
  • Luis expressed hope that Ithaca and Tompkins County would become part of Rewiring Communities program
  • David Kay: Could you say little more about how Rewiring America hopes to strengthen coordination and collaboration among communities undertaking decarbonization efforts
  • Luis: Rewiring America reaching out to local community organizations that have already begun this work to see what they’ve been doing so they can share lessons learned – creating website and putting together knowledge base to help get word out
  • Peter: Clear parallels between NYS climate plan, on the one hand, and Rewiring America and IRA, on the other, and together they tell exciting story about how we can move forward with decarbonization
  • Very fortunate to have both Bob and Luis in our community representing us out in larger world and exercising their leadership to reshape dominant narrative by challenging fossil fuel industry and normalizing an electrifying America
  • Peter also expressed thanks and congratulations to Lisa Marshall for her role in helping to organize very successful Renewable Heat Now rally in Albany earlier this week

Meeting Highlights: 2023