to the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative
Alternatives Federal Credit Union
Center for Community Transportation
The Center for Community Transportation (CCT) envisions a community where travel by shared and active transportation is healthy, safe, affordable, and convenient for all. The CCT’s mission-focused services and activities include Ithaca Carshare, Bike Walk Tompkins, Backup Ride Home, and the newly launched Ithaca Bikeshare, emphasizing social equity and environmental sustainability. CCT works with local transportation providers, educators, planners, decision-makers, advocates, and users to fulfill the mission of enhancing transportation access in our community while reducing its negative environmental and economic impacts.
Bike Walk Tompkins
Backup Ride Home
Central New York Rotary
Rotary International made “Support the Environment” its seventh area of focus. Rotary International has 1.4 million members in 215 countries and territories. The governing body for the seventh area of focus is the Environmental Sustainability Rotary Action Group (ESRAG) – membership is open to the public.
Rotary is divided into over 500 districts. Our district covers seven counties: Broome, Chenango, Cortland, Delaware, Otsego, Tioga, and Tompkins. We have 1,100 members and several youth and young professional groups. Our first environmental sustainability strategy was issued June 5, 2020. We update the strategy every June 5, World Environment Day.
The district strategy is holistic and covers three broad areas: protecting our natural assets, biodiversity, and the climate challenge. Rotary works with partners at the international, national, and local levels in order to make a bigger impact. We have members that can provide presentations on many topics, including net zero waste, net zero carbon footprint, recycling and reuse, En-roads climate model, and community needs assessments.
Our major strategic partner is Tier Energy Network (TEN). TEN provides significant technical and regulatory analysis. They have identified all of the companies, organizations, and projects that make up the clean energy industry in the region. Our Rotary district is expanding the database to include companies and organizations in environmental sustainability.
The district strategic plan issued June 5, 2022 is available upon request. Activities for last year included:
Additional focus areas for 2023 include:
Rotary International provides four major strengths to environmental sustainability:
Citizens Climate Lobby, Southern Tier and Finger Lakes Chapter
Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, grassroots advocacy organization focused on national policies to address climate change. Our Southern Tier and Finger Lakes chapter includes 975 members from three Congressional districts: the new NY-19, NY-23, and NY-24.
Citizens' Climate focuses on bipartisan national climate policies. In particular, we support national solutions that 1) lower carbon emissions significantly; b) have bipartisan appeal; and c) don't hurt low- or middle- income people. To raise awareness and generate support for such policies, we have local conversations, publish media, and reach out to our legislators. It's also important to us to encourage civil dialogue across the political spectrum. Our volunteers span that spectrum, and we work with legislators of all stripes. Learn more here.
In 2022 members of our Southern Finger Lakes Chapter:
City of Ithaca
Climate Reality Project, Finger Lakes Greater Region NY (FLGR-NY) Chapter
The Finger Lakes Chapter of Climate Reality includes inspired climate activists located in the Finger Lakes and Southern Tier regions of Central NY. We are working to unify climate activism over a widespread area, with plans to improve public awareness of the climate emergency and to actively promote the completion of the goals of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) for our region and the Ithaca Green New Deal. The Chapter also aims to reach out and work cooperatively with other active environmental, climate justice, and sustainability groups within the region. On a global perspective, we support and include working toward the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations: https://sdgs.un.org/goals. We welcome all trained Climate Reality Leaders living in our region as well as community members who are interested in participating.
Cornell Cooperative Extension - Tompkins County, Energy & Climate Change Team
Clean Energy Communities and Climate Smart Communities
Clean Energy Communities Coordinators Gina Cassidy, Kristina Zill, and Todd Knobbe continued to support communities throughout the Southern Tier eight-county region to take on “high-impact actions” that save them money and make them more resilient while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In all, there were 13 additional Active Communities in 2022 (bringing the total to 87), 13 additional Designated Communities (total now at 63), and 121 additional Completed High-Impact Actions (total now at 405), bringing more than $300,000 in grant funds to the region.
Through the Climate Smart Communities program, which we coordinate in Tompkins and Chenango Counties, our CSC Coordinator, Rachel Zevin, helped four new communities formally enter the program by taking the pledge to become “Climate Smart,” with two previously involved communities achieving Bronze level and one, Tompkins County, achieving Silver level.
Get Your GreenBack Tompkins
Get Your GreenBack Tompkins successfully concluded its management of the NYSERDA-funded Community Energy Engagement Program for the eight-county Southern Tier region. Over a period of four years, staff provided over 3,000 residents—mostly low and moderate income—with free energy advising, and over 1,200 of those residents took a high-impact action, such as insulating their home, or installing a heat pump or solar. Close to $9 million was invested in clean energy projects, with over $6.5 million in grants and incentives from local, state, and federal sources.
The tiny home PowerHouse—which now has an adequate truck and hitch, so it is not dependent on the kindness of our local towing company—was used to support energy outreach in various venues, and revenue was raised through fee-for-service programming at area schools and libraries, which complemented our grant funding. Get Your GreenBack as a program and identity will be coming to a close in 2023, but its work will continue with the NYSERDA Regional Clean Energy Hub, a $3.5 million four-year grant serving the Southern Tier.
LMI EV Program
Growing out of EV Tompkins, Holly Payne continued to lead our collaboration with Way2Go, Ithaca Carshare, Ridge Road Imports, and Clean Communities CNY, under a program led by Energetics, to identify and work to address the barriers to the wider adoption of EVs, including growing the local used EV market, working with local lenders to provide more accessible financing options, and providing education and outreach to underserved populations (with a focus on low- and moderate income community members.
Through the Ag Energy NY Program, Robbie Coville created resources for farmers across NY to reduce the energy use of their farm operations. Working closely with about a dozen CCE offices, he walked educators through a Moodle Course and provided resources including fact sheets and a web site (https://agenergyny.org) they could use with farmers in their communities.
Ithaca Green New Deal
We continued our collaboration with the City of Ithaca to further design and implement the Ithaca Green New Deal. Focusing on the South side community, Anne Rhodes forged relationships with local residents, the Southside Community Center, Ithaca Catholic Worker, and others to create a community-based program that helped unite the community around the benefits of widespread electrification of buildings, workforce development opportunities, and the deep history of that community. Guillermo Metz also worked with a group of partners to help Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services explore bringing a set of services, including heat pumps, solar, battery backup, and electric vehicle charging stations, to a multi-family multi-use building. While ultimately deemed not feasible, it did provide valuable insight into the complexities of fully electrifying multiuse buildings.
NYSEG Lansing Non-Pipes Alternatives Program
Later in the year, we launched an education and outreach component for NYSEG’s Non-Pipes Alternatives (NPA) program. As the name suggests, the NPA is an effort to reduce gas use in the Lansing moratorium area in order to ensure adequate gas pressure even at moments of highest demand without the traditional approach of expanding gas infrastructure. The education and outreach effort supports other projects in the NPA portfolio, including the installation of a geothermal heat pump system at the Cornell Childcare Center, a district geothermal system connecting about a dozen homes, a community-wide heat pump and weatherization campaign that is offering additional incentives in and around this geographic area (in addition to those available to all NYS home and business owners), and energy upgrades and installation of new higher-efficiency gas boilers at the Lansing Central School District. If successful, this program will divert millions of dollars previously approved for a larger pipeline and show that reducing gas use is an effective way to increase reliability, along with myriad other benefits.
Connecting People to Transportation: A Focus on Mobility Options and Equity
Way2Go continued to shine a light on transportation equity and access as it led the Transportation Equity Coalition’s Transportation Equity Needs Assessment, designed to identify the strengths and weaknesses of our transportation system as experienced by people in underserved communities.
Part one of the assessment included interviews with six key focus groups to get an in-depth understanding of their experiences with Tompkins County’s transportation system. Through these focus groups, the coalition heard directly from people who often experience the most barriers to transportation, including people with disabilities, seniors, youth, BIPOC, and people with limited access to transportation, such as rural residents with limited income or without the ability to drive or access transit.
The second part of the Needs Assessment is a transportation survey, which will be broadly disseminated to reach a diverse cross-section of the Tompkins County population. The survey results will help to educate decision makers about the transportation needs in our community and drive potential solutions. By enhancing mobility options where they are needed most, Tompkins County has an opportunity to identify solutions that don’t just close transportation gaps, but do so in a way that increases the overall sustainability of our transportation system.
Addressing Transportation’s Contributions to Climate Change
Way2Go worked with CCE Tompkins’ Energy Team to strengthen community knowledge of electric vehicles (EVs), so that low- and moderate-income residents can benefit from the transition to EVs once they become affordable.
Among other activities in 2022, Way2Go offered practical EV education through free online Auto Finance Classes in April and July. Our partner, Alternatives Federal Credit Union, discussed the cost and benefits of loans vs leasing, and ways of refinancing predatory car loans while improving credit scores. CCE educators shared comparisons of the operational savings of EVs compared with traditional gas cars. By advertising through partner networks, we attracted 61 registrants and 28 participants – largely people of color whose financial questions suggested low-income streams.
We also organized car buyer maintenance classes for the same group, taught by a mechanic partner from Ridge Road Auto, who demonstrated simple techniques to assess used cars before purchase, and to see firsthand the basic differences between gas and electric car models.
Way2Go and the CCE Energy program hosted and collaborated on six large EV promotion events that spanned rural and urban venues from Ithaca, Dryden, Caroline, Newfield, and Trumansburg. We kicked off the series by hosting and organizing a National Drive Electric Earth Day Show at Cass Park where 19 EV owners showed off their EVs alongside TCAT’s electric bus, EVs from CarShare, Maguire, and BikeShare eBikes. Despite damp weather, over 100+ people attended, most of whom spoke directly with EV owners and event leaders to learn about safety, battery range, different types of chargers, and how to find EV chargers with owner-informed free apps like plugshare.com as well as operating an EV with a disability (e.g. loading walkers and wheelchairs into different EV models).
Tompkins County’s demand for electric vehicles is on the rise, and once the EV supply has caught up, our low- and moderate-income drivers stand to benefit.
Other Programs and Activities
EcoVillage at Ithaca, Inc.
Finger Lakes Land Trust
During 2022, Finger Lakes Land Trust surpassed some key milestones: over 29,000 acres permanently conserved, nearly 5 miles of lakeshore protected, and 52 miles of trails open to the public. The Land Trust accomplished the following in the greater Ithaca/Tompkins County area last year:
Finger Lakes ReUse
In 2022, Finger Lakes ReUse celebrated its 15th year anniversary! The organization continues to grow, driven by increased donation drop offs from the public. We now employ 80 living-wage employees, and we worked with 16 apprentices through our ReSET job training program in 2022. In order to acclimate to our growing workforce and donated material volumes, we focused on creating and providing training for new leadership positions in 2022, to build inclusive decision making and provide leadership opportunities as we continue to grow in size.
In an effort to keep up with the continuing increase in material donations, we secured an additional warehouse space, which has been extremely helpful in materials management as well as providing a great space for skills training for denailing and building materials processing activities.
After a long hiatus due to the pandemic, we welcomed back the Ithaca Fixers Collective, in a new space at the ReUse MegaCenter at Triphammer Marketplace. Originally started in 2014, the all-volunteer “Fixers” have once again been successfully assisting local people to learn repair skills on Saturdays since November 2022! This is a great resource for many people in the community to share skills, knowledge, and resources in a fun and relaxing setting! Volunteers across all our programs continue to help us at both of our locations with 7,500 hours logged in volunteer hours in 2022, equal to more than four fulltime employees.
We continued our partnerships with 40+ local human service organizations, to provide materials to community members in need through our ReUse Materials Access Program (ReMAP). In 2022, we were able to provide 480 households with ReUse gift cards for shopping at both of our locations.
Finger Lakes ReUse earned nearly $2.5 million in revenue in 2022, a 19% sales growth over 2021.
In 2022, Finger Lakes ReUse:
Fossil Free Tompkins
NYSEG – In May 2022, NYSEG filed its proposed rate case to take effect June 1, 2023 for one to three years (three years if a settlement is negotiated, otherwise one year). NYSEG proposed a whopping 35% increase in electric delivery costs (for one year!) and a 14% increase in gas delivery costs. Many of these costs were deferred from the prior rate case. Once again, Fossil Free Tompkins (FFT) joined as a party to the case, which gives it the standing to participate in negotiations and (theoretically) have its comments taken more seriously. In October FFT filed rebuttal testimony, underscoring the deficiencies the Department of Public Service staff found in their review of the company’s proposal. FFT called for the proposal to be withdrawn or dismissed. Subsequently confidential negotiations have ensued, the outcome of which will be determined sometime in 2023.
Lansing Non-Pipe-Alternative – Finally, in the fall of 2022, five years after the non-pipe alternative proposal was approved, NYSEG completed contracts with several vendors to begin NPA projects. Unfortunately, because of delays and perhaps also Covid, one of the vendors approved to develop a project was no longer able to undertake their project. In addition, another project’s scope will likely change when Borg Warner closes some of its industrial facilities in Tompkins County.
Renewable Heat Now Coalition (RHN) – FFT continued active participation in the RHN coalition where it aided in advancing several legislative initiatives. Unfortunately, the State Legislature did not do the same.
Cryptomining – 2022 was a big year for our battle against Cryptomining in NYS. FFT gave several zoom presentations to interested groups across NYS, discussing the environmental impacts of cryptomining and its impact on NYS ability to reach our climate goals. Assemblymember Anna Kelles advanced a bill to place a two-year moratorium on cryptomining at fossil fuel power plants while the state undertakes a comprehensive environmental impact study on the practice. FFT was instrumental in helping to achieve passage of this legislation, by coordinating “call relays” that resulted in phone calls being placed to the Governor’s office and key legislators every 5 minutes from 9 am to midnight for three days straight until the bill was finally passed.
Historic Ithaca and Significant Elements
Historic Ithaca and Significant Elements believe that preservation and the environment go together. Historic Ithaca is Tompkins County’s only non-profit preservation organization and was founded in 1966. In 1991, Significant Elements Architectural Salvage Store was founded as Historic Ithaca’s answer to waste diversion with donated items and salvaged house parts. Approximately 12,00 visitors come to the store yearly and attend Historic Ithaca’s community events, all of whom are exposed to the values of an ethical interaction with our built environment. Historic Ithaca is currently exploring electrification of our own buildings (210 and 212 Center St.) for more efficient energy use. We are working with Electrify Ithaca to hold ourselves to a high environmental standard.
Ithaca 2030 District
Ithaca Downtown Business Improvement District
Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services
Sustainability is one of INHS’ core values. All INHS homes and developments are designed and built to the highest construction and green standards. INHS is a national leader in real estate development incorporating green building and is one of the developers that helped create the LEED for Homes building standards, the leading national residential green standard.
INHS develops housing that consistently exceeds industry green building standards, including 85 that are certified as LEED Platinum, 93 as LEED Gold, and 77 as LEED Silver. The remainder of INHS-developed housing units are built to or above certification requirements, with energy efficiency in each unit at least 48% greater than required by the NYS Energy Conservation Code, appliances, and lighting above Energy Star rates, and 93% efficient HVAC systems. In addition, INHS’s Community Housing Trust (CHT) Program, has built or rehabilitated 63 for-sale affordable housing that meet or exceed LEED’s Gold standard.
In addition to development that aims to reduce its impact on climate, INHS strives for a holistic and sustainability-driven approach to all of its activities, from repair and homeownership programs to property management and public education programs. INHS also prioritizes environmental justice and climate adaptation in our strategic planning by prioritizing nodal development, visitability of developments, by supporting access to a variety of support services for residents, and by advertising to, and serving, income constrained and marginalized communities. These efforts ensure access to micromodal and public transportation, mitigate the negative local and global impacts of climate change, and facilitate climate adaptation for all INHS low- and moderate-income residents and clients.
INHS completed construction on Founders’ Way in the City of Ithaca in 2022, which complies with EPA Energy Star Homes V3.1 as well as providing easy access to downtown Ithaca’s services and transportation options. Work on home efficiency upgrades and critical infrastructure repairs within the Compass Manufactured Home Community in Trumansburg began in 2022, with substantial completion planned for 2023. Village Grove, also within the Village of Trumansburg, was awarded a Building of Excellence award from NYSERDA for its passive design.
Construction on Village Grove is slated to begin in 2023. Minor and major repair programs, as well as the INHS property management team, completed countless repairs and upgrades for tenants and clients that increase home efficiency and create a more healthy and comfortable home environment. Lastly, INHS has continued to work towards operational efficiencies by providing opportunities for remote work and training for staff, and a focus on decreased energy use as well as increased efficiency in all operations.
Ithaca-Tompkins County Transportation Council
The Federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) created a slew of grant programs and other funding. Much of 2022 was spent planning and applying for funds. Here are some efforts where the Ithaca-Tompkins County Transportation Council (ITCTC) played an important role. As always, the ITCTC works in collaboration with municipal, county, and state partners so in all initiatives below there were multiple parties involved in search of successful outcomes.
Other significant transportation activity in 2022:
Looking ahead to 2023:
Local First Ithaca
New Roots Charter School
New Roots is a small public high school with a big mission located in the heart of downtown Ithaca. Open to any student in New York State eligible to attend high school, the tuition-free college and life preparatory program engages students in learning actively, thinking critically, and solving real world problems creatively and collaboratively, developing the knowledge and skills to turn 21st century challenges into opportunities. New Roots features a unique four-year learning sequence that fully integrates Education for ustainability (EfS) standards and interdisciplinary, community-based projects featuring sustainability themes while meeting all New York State graduation requirements. The lower school program (grade 9-10) cultivates foundational understandings and skills that prepare students to become actively involved in their school and local community as leaders, entrepreneurs, and activists when they move into the upper school program (grades 11-12).
On Thursday, March 17, 2022, the State University of New York awarded New Roots Charter School a charter renewal for a fourth charter term, which will run from July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2025. The charter renewal arrived on the heels of the United States Department of Education (“USDE”) designating New Roots as a Green Ribbon School at the beginning of the 21-22 school year. The award recognizes schools that reduce environmental impact and costs; improve the health and wellness of schools, students, and staff; and provide effective environmental and sustainability education.
New Roots is pleased to share the following updates on our schoolwide sustainability initiatives and activities:
The New Roots “Big Farm”
New Roots currently maintains a 400-square-foot plot of farmland at Kestrel Perch at EcoVillage, which yields about 400 pounds of produce annually. Some of the produce harvested at the “Big Farm,” as it’s known, is used in the school’s Farm to School lunch program, which provides fresh, seasonal, and healthy meals to students and staff at no charge. Extra produce is also donated to the Newt’s Grocery Program, a food rescue and donation program organized by New Roots in partnership with the Friendship Donation Network. The program provides free grocery bags of food on a weekly basis to students in need and their families, and under the guidance of school nurse Mitch Schaff and Spanish teacher Tanya Kingsley, the program is largely student-run. So far this school year, 80 pounds of produce from the farm have been donated to the Newt’s Grocery Program, and our goal is to increase this amount over the next year.
The Big Farm also provides engagement opportunities for students to get their hands dirty cultivating the land and learning about agriculture. This spring, school farm coordinator and New Roots teacher Aaron Snow has been plotting out the summer and fall crops that will be planted, including carrots, peppers, potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, jalapenos, and tomatoes, as well as some herbs and flowers. Students in his Food and Farming elective started growing the seeds as a class project and are tending to the sprouting seedlings, some of which will be transplanted at the farm later this season. The remainder of the seedlings will be used in a student-run seedling fundraiser planned for the late spring, the proceeds of which will be used for farm expenses. Volunteer workdays and harvest days also provide opportunities for engagement with the school community. Last summer, for example, students and families lent their hands to harvest about 300 bulbs of garlic from the farm, which have since been incorporated into school lunch dishes.
As part of our strategy to grow the capacity of the school farm and create new educational opportunities and pathways for students, New Roots submitted a grant proposal to the USDA Farm to School program in January 2023. If awarded this summer, this USDA funding would enable New Roots to expand food production, local food procurement, and agricultural education opportunities for students by investing in school garden infrastructure and deepening our collaboration with long-standing community partners such as EcoVillage at Ithaca, West Haven Farm, and Tompkins Cortland Community College.
Roots of Success
Last spring, New Roots juniors and seniors piloted the green workforce development program adopted by the City of Ithaca, Roots of Success, thanks to sponsorship by the Park Foundation. The goal of the pilot is to establish Roots of Success as a required course in the school’s four-year College and Career Success Seminar sequence. Students participating in Roots of Success will receive Environmental Literacy certification from the U.S. Department of Labor, a credential we anticipate regional employers will be looking for when hiring employees at all levels, and Tompkins Cortland Community College credits. New Roots is a member of a new regional green workforce development consortium which, along with partners such as Tompkins Cortland Community College (TC3), will open up pathways for young people to bring their unique gifts and passions to the growing green economy in our region. The Roots of Success curriculum will also provide the guiding framework for the recently funded New Roots Sustainable Workforce Development Program for Youth (EarthForce), detailed below.
Green Workforce Development at New Roots: EarthForce
In December of 2022, New Roots was honored to receive a $160,000 grant from the Tompkins County Community Recovery Fund grant program for a Sustainable Workforce Development Program for Youth project. New Roots was one of 54 total awardees chosen out of a competitive pool of over 200 applicants in Tompkins County. The grant program was established by the county to help local organizations recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and to enhance community resilience, with funded projects spanning areas such as childcare, education, health and mental health care, and housing and homelessness services, among others.
The Sustainable Workforce Development Program for Youth project, now called “EarthForce,” aims to engage low-income Tompkins County youth ages 12-18 in developing the workforce knowledge and skills necessary to obtain high-quality employment in the growing green economy, focusing on the following priorities outlined in the Tompkins County Comprehensive Plan: 1) preparation for the economic, environmental, and social impacts of climate change; 2) preserving existing wetlands and restoring wetland functions; 3) reducing the adverse impacts to native species and ecosystems caused by invasive organisms and climate change; and 4) promoting parks, community facilities, recreational activities, and networks that support regular social interaction and physical activity.
Programming will be offered through after-school workshops, field experiences, and courses offered in partnership with local after-school providers for youth ages 12-15. In addition, we will offer a work-based learning and internship program for high school credit for youth ages 15-18. The program will build on existing New Roots programming such as the Youth Entrepreneurship Market (YEM), the Youth Ecological Restoration Corps (created in partnership with leaders of the Gayo’goho:no Nation and funded by the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Park Foundation), Roots of Success, the Farm to School lunch program, and other service-learning projects in local parks and natural areas. The program is currently in the planning and development stages with an expected launch on Earth Day 2023. Besides celebrating the launch of EarthForce on this date, Friday, April 21 will be devoted to Earth Day of Service, an annual tradition of awareness raising and service learning at New Roots. Earth Day of Service will provide students with a wide range of ecological service activity choices from urban gardening, planting native trees, clearing invasive species from Six Mile Creek, restoring ecosystems that support migratory birds, and more.
Paleontological Research Institution, Museum of the Earth, and Cayuga Nature Center
Sustainable Finger Lakes/ Finger Lakes Climate Fund
In 2022, the Finger Lakes Climate Fund (FLCF) awarded home energy upgrade grants to 7 families; 4 in Tompkins County, 2 in Tioga County, and 1 in Cortland County. Through these awards, the amount of CO2 kept out of the atmosphere over the lifetime of the installations is 797 tons. The FLCF grants were made possible by 177 carbon offset donors who contributed a total of $27,975 to the Fund. The Finger Lakes Climate Fund has provided gap funding for home energy upgrades to 82 families since its inception in 2010.
As the pandemic began to recede, the Finger Lakes Climate Fund re-affirmed old relationships and developed new ones with businesses, organizations, and individual offset partners. Meetings with Cornell University in August led to a partnership with their newly launched Air Travel Pilot Program, which guides University departments to offset their essential travel with the FLCF. Businesses such as Carol Bushberg Real Estate, Discover Cayuga Lake, and Sungineer Solar showed their commitment to the climate by offsetting their emissions as part of the Finger Lakes Enterprises for Climate Action (FLECA) campaign. The New York Library Association promoted offsetting with the FLCF to the attendees of their annual conference in Saratoga Springs. The Tikkun v’Or congregation formed a Climate Justice Initiative in December which now encourages their synagogue members to offset their travel with the FLCF.
The Finger Lakes community learned more about the Finger Lakes Climate Fund through our presentations (GreenStar Board, TCCPI, Kendal at Ithaca, Watershed Internship Program), a radio interview (WHCU), news articles (East Hill Notes in Tompkins Weekly), tabling events (GreenStar Food Co+op, Southside Community Center Energy Fair, Ithaca Festival), two FLCF off-setter newsletters, and partner profiles on our website and social media.
Because of our success at delivering extra incentives for heat pumps to lower-income families in 2019-2021 in our partnership with HeatSmart Tompkins, we were asked to apply to the competitive Innovative Market Strategies Program at NYSERDA to expand our work in clean energy and equity. We chose to develop a pilot project to tackle two longstanding barriers in the transition to heat pumps: the smaller cost savings of switching from relatively cheap natural gas, and the ‘split incentive’ problem for making energy improvements in rental housing. We secured $862,560 in performance-based funding to support switching from fossil gas heating to air source heat pumps in 100 lower-income rental units in the City and Town of Ithaca. The Clean Energy & Equity Pilot (CEEP) will offer extra incentives for heat pumps, electric panel upgrades, and heat pump water heaters.
In 2022 we also applied for and received grant awards from Rotary Club of Ithaca Community Grant ($996), GreenStar Partners for Change ($ amount TBD), and Tompkins Community Recovery Fund Grant ($532,127). The County pilot project will offer incentives to 50 lower-income mobile homeowners for heat pumps and electric panel upgrades.
Staff transitions in 2022 led to the hiring of Holly Hutchinson in April 2022 to fill the FLCF Coordinator position formerly held by Marisa Lansing. Milena Bimpong was hired in June 2022 as the Clean Energy Intern, and she transitioned to Tenant Engagement Coordinator for the LMI Rental Project in October.
highlight of 2022 was taking the first steps to make Electrify Ithaca happen. Taitem continues to work with BlocPower to implement Ithaca’s electrification and decarbonization initiative. Taitem’s Energy + Sustainability staff completed decarbonization feasibility studies for two multifamily complexes in the city. They are finalizing design and construction standards for building electrification retrofits that will set out best practices for building owners and contractors.
Related to Electrify Ithaca, Taitem is leading a team of community and technical experts to complete a feasibility study for a geothermal district in Ithaca’s Southside. This project is funded by NYSERDA.
Taitem’s Design Department continues its work on new, high-performance buildings and building retrofits. We recently completed design for Ithaca’s first PHIUS-certified Passive House residence, which is in construction. Ithaca Asteri on Green Street is now in construction, and features heat pumps for heating and cooling and domestic hot water as well as an all-electric commercial kitchen with the capacity to
serve 800 banquet guests. Ironworks, at the corner of West State/MLK and North Plain Streets, is now occupied and was selected to be part of the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA) BuildingEnergy Pro Tour series happening in October 2023.
Taitem continues to provide statewide services for NYSERDA, Housing and Community Renewal, and others as New York ramps up its electrification efforts. A local HCR project now in construction is the new IHA Northside neighborhood. Farther afield, Taitem is leading a pilot electrification program for New York City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, which will install heat pumps for heating and cooling and for domestic hot water in affordable housing throughout the city. Also in NYC, Taitem was the energy consultant and contributed to the design of a RetrofitNY project at a large NYC Housing Authority building in Queens. A notable upstate project is completion of a feasibility study and design for a district geothermal project at a derelict industrial site near Syracuse. Urban Villages is an adaptive re-use projects that will leverage existing abandoned infrastructure to create a neighborhood with residential, commercial, and recreational spaces.
At the national level, Taitem is excited to be an integral part of one of seven projects chosen by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Buildings Construction initiative to demonstrate innovative technologies and practices. Working with Syracuse University, Taitem is the energy consultant and design engineer and will provide complete integrated energy and design services, along with post-construction services such as commissioning and measurement & verification, for a deep energy retrofit of on-campus townhouses.
Thrive EVI Education Center
Tier Energy Network
The Tier Energy Network (TEN) is an industry-led collaboration of business, non-profits, government, and education to support the development of an industry cluster in clean energy technology in the Southern Tier. Our primary activities include:
The Executive Committee provides a broad skill set in the energy industry:
Jeff Smith: President of TEN, retired utility executive, member of many regional organizations.
Rick Mancini: Director of Wholesale Market Services for Customized Energy Solutions, retired from NYSEG with experience in electric supply and the NY energy markets
Cliff Olin: Chief Development Officer at C4V, Founder and Managing Director of Olin Capital Advisors
Dennis Lockhart: Principal of CIMSEE Consulting. Has developed lean manufacturing projects for Fortune 500 companies around the world
Sean Sullivan: Director of Smart Grids Innovation at Avangrid
Robert Lofthouse: Chair of Engineering Science Department at SUNY Broome
Diane Stefani: Broome County Environmental Management Chair, retired Human Resource Executive for Lockheed Martin Aerospace and Defense Business
Luis Aguirre-Torres: Senior Advisor to Re-Wiring America
Sara Culotta: Market Lead – Energy & Sustainability – Siemens Smart Infrastructure
Adam Flint: Co-founder and steering committee member of Energy Democracy Alliance, Director of Clean Energy Programs for Network for a Sustainable Tomorrow (NEST)
Kelly Sullivan: Senior Project Developer for Bergmann PC
Southern Tier Update
Clean energy continued to take a major step forward in the Southern Tier in 2022. The award of $113 million of State and Federal Funding for the Binghamton University led New Energy NY caps significant development by our clean energy industry and entrepreneurs. We now forecast 10,000 to 20,000 new clean energy jobs over the next ten years. The development of the largest chip plant outside of Syracuse combines with clean energy developments to raise the attraction of central upstate NY. Greater levels of organic growth are being experienced in our region.
The Ithaca Green New Deal continued to attract international interest. The plan has been presented to major international organizations including Rotary International, the United Nations, and the World Economic Forum. The project will accelerate the need for clean energy service providers. The major sources of clean energy jobs for the decade include:
The clean energy jobs forecast of 10,000 to 20,000 over the next decade does not include:
TEN Goals for 2023 include:
Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative
Tompkins County Environmental Management Council
A quick look forward before the retrospective: 2023 looks to be an engaging and collaborative year for the EMC. Tompkins County will host the New York State Association of Conservation Commissions (NYSACC) annual conference with the EMC as lead organizers. This will engage the EMC with local CACs, organizations, non-profits, and community members.
The Environmental Management Council (EMC) continued our information sharing and knowledge growth opportunities in 2022 through the following presentations:
A highlight for the EMC in 2022 was our hybrid Fall Outreach event: Flooding in Tompkins County? - Are you Ready? Let’s talk about it.
This remote and in-person event was specifically focused on reaching members of the public who were not already engaged with environmental groups. We had 26 attendants remotely and that many in person at TCPL. Many of those attending were new faces. Our panel of presenters included:
Following the presentations and Q&A, all participants moved into small group discussions. Many participants were particularly concerned with the National Flood Insurance Program and the updated FEMA maps. This information was shared with the Planning Department for future collaboration on outreach efforts. A recording of this informative presentation is available online at https://youtu.be/wgllGr0pKQQ.
In 2022, the EMC continued our connection to the New York State Association of Conservation Commissions (which also now recognizes EMCs). Members attended the virtual NYSACC Conference on the Environment held in October. Longtime EMC member, Stephen Nicholson, has joined the NYSACC Board of Directors and is providing a link to the statewide agency.
EMC members each serve on at least one committee. Each committee is tasked with specific goals for the year.
Education and Outreach (E&O) Committee
The E&O committee continued to develop the Green Scene newsletter, migrating to Mailchimp for signup and distribution ease. This bi-weekly newsletter compiles environmental events, news, activities, and notable items into one easily accessible email. In addition, we provide coverage of the DEC environmental notices bulletin and wastewater discharge alerts related to Tompkins County. The Green Scene is a valuable resource for anyone looking to stay in the know about events or news in the vast Tompkins County environmental scene. You can checkout past issues and subscribe here: bit.ly/GreenSceneArchive
The E&O Committee also made a connection with the neighboring Broome County EMC. E&O chair Cait Darfler gave a presentation to the Broome EMC about the Tompkins County EMC and our challenges and successes.
Unique Natural Areas (UNA) Committee
The UNA Committee met monthly by Zoom and for an in-person field trip on July 18. The field trip was led by Robert Wesley to Durfee Hill Oak Woods, UNA # 173, in hopes of finding the rare grass Poa sylvestris (Woodland Bluegrass). Unfortunately, the Woodland Bluegrass was not seen during this trip.
Tompkins County Water Resources Council
The Tompkins County Water Resources Council (WRC) advises the Tompkins County Legislature on matters related to water resources management and planning. The Council is also charged with identifying problems, proposing priorities, and promoting the coordination of activities in the management and protection of the County's water resources. The WRC provides a public forum for local communities and stakeholder groups to address and discuss their concerns regarding water resources. It is the intent of the group to coordinate the water resources-related efforts of local governments, public and private institutions, and agencies and organizations throughout Tompkins County.
2022 Meeting Presentations
Meetings often include presentations by guest speakers, as well as by WRC members. The following talks were given in 2022:
2022 WRC Committees
Every January, as part of its annual organizational meeting, the WRC reviews existing and forms new committees to help focus its efforts for the year and accomplish actions of the Water Quality Strategy. The following committees met in 2022:
The WRC chairperson and executive committee act on behalf of the Council to provide letters of comment and advocacy to local, state, and federal agencies. Letters are drafted by WRC members or committees and approved by the WRC as a whole. When a timely response is needed and deadlines for comment do not fall conveniently within the WRC’s normal meeting schedule, the executive committee will approve and submit letters on behalf of the WRC.
In 2022, the WRC chairperson and executive committee delivered several letters.
In January, the year started off with a bang, with comments provided on the proposed changes to the Draft 2020-2022 Clean Water Act Section 303(d) List of Impaired Waters. The changes included the de-listing of the southern end of Cayuga Lake as impaired by sediment, which was of particular concern as it relates to the Draft Total Maximum Daily Load for Total Phosphorus in Cayuga Lake (dTMDL). In June 2021, the WRC provided detailed sediment comments/questions to the dTMDL, which had not yet received a response, and concerns were raised as to how the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will address sediment related phosphorus loading to Cayuga Lake in the absence of a listed impairment or Nine Element Plan recognizing the role of sediment. The WRC’s draft 303(d) list comment letter addressed these questions, as well as new impairment listings: Lower Fall Creek and Upper Cayuga Inlet for pH and Lower Fall Creek for iron.
In March, proposed changes to NYS DEC Draft SPDES General Permit for Stormwater Discharges from Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems necessitated a letter of comment by the Water Resources Council in light of the previously mentioned proposed changes to the 2020/2022 draft 303(d) list.
In April, a letter of support was provided for the Town of Lansing’s Consolidated Funding Application to the NYS DEC’s Water Quality Improvement Project Program to fund the Salmon Creek stream realignment project. This project would help to reduce sediment going into Cayuga Lake, as well as work to provide streambank stabilization and protect the roadway from storm damage.
In November, a comment letter was sent to the NYS DEC for the Draft New York Great Lakes Action Agenda 2030 (GLAA), expressing the importance of the inclusion of the Finger Lakes when considering the Great Lakes Watershed. The inclusion of partners such as Soil and Water Conservation Districts, the Cayuga Lake Monitoring Partnership, and environmental non-governmental organizations in these actions will provide increased participation and benefit, as well as inclusion of metrics outlined in watershed management plans.
In December, the WRC provided comments to the New York State Department of Health on the proposed regulations for PFAS6 maximum contaminant levels and regulations on additional emergent contaminants, expressing our full support for the recognition of the potential dangers of the class of chemicals referred to as “forever chemicals.” The letter included 20 points of interest for their consideration.
Cayuga Lake Monitoring Partnership Committee
Members of the Monitoring Partnership Committee remained steadily engaged and active throughout 2022. Here are a few highlights from their work over the year:
Membership & Nominating Committee
The Membership & Nominating Committee recommends prospective members to fill vacancies on the Council, which is composed of 21 voting members, non-voting ex officio members from relevant federal or state agencies, and associate members with committee-level voting rights. The committee assisted in adding several new members to the Council, especially with the valuable input and recruitment efforts of County planner Darby Kiley. The committee also presented the 2023 slate of officers to the Council for nomination.
Municipal Training Committee
In October, this WRC committee hosted a “Streams 101 for Highway Professionals” training workshop on the fundamentals of stream processes as they relate to building and maintaining roads. Held at the Tompkins County Public Works Building, the all-day training was led by instructors Mike Lovegreen, retired from the Upper Susquehanna Coalition, and Tom Mallory and Angel Hinickle from the Tompkins County Soil & Water Conservation District.
The training included a three-hour classroom portion that covered the following topics: Streams/Watershed 101: Why Do Streams Look the Way They Do?; Diagnostics: How Do We Evaluate What’s Wrong?; and Corrections: How Do you Deal With What’s Wrong? Participants then visited two sites in the Town of Enfield where stream work has been done. Fourteen people attended the training, with representatives from the towns of Newfield, Ithaca, Lansing, and Danby, as well as the City of Ithaca, Tompkins County, and TC Soil & Water. Committee members also initiated a needs assessment of highway staff in the county to help direct future programming.
Regional Watershed Coordination Committee
The Regional Watershed Coordination Committee was formed in 2022 and included not only members of the WRC but also representatives from other counties in the Cayuga Lake watershed. The committee tentatively decided to work on regional collaboration and outreach around ditches. With the release of the draft Great Lakes Action Agenda, however, the committee used their meeting times to discuss and develop comments that were submitted to the full WRC for its consideration.
Watershed Rules & Regulations Committee
This committee includes representatives from the Tompkins County Health Department and the three surface water public drinking water utilities: Bolton Point, Cornell University, and the City of Ithaca. All three utilities are participating in NYS DEC's Drinking Water Source Protection Program (DWSP2). The committee meetings provide a place to share information as the utilities move through DWSP2 process. Members reviewed the state’s framework document and example protection strategies in detail. They also had an in-depth conversation with Andy Zepp, executive director of the Finger Lakes Land Trust, about opportunities to enhance source protection working collaboratively with the land trust. The City of Ithaca’s DWSP2 Plan was adopted on November 2, 2022. Other topics discussed were EPA’s upcoming fifth Unregulated Monitoring Contaminant Rule (UCMR 5) sampling program and NYS Department of Health’s proposed new PFAS (used generically for ‘forever chemicals’) monitoring requirements. Rassil Sayess from Cornell University’s Water Resources Institute gave a presentation on the NYS DOH proposal. Discussion of Watershed Rules and Regulations (WRR) for Cayuga Lake is on pause while the committee waits for movement on Owasco Lake’s draft WRRs, which were submitted to the state for consideration in December 2020.
Tompkins Food Future
Town of Caroline
Town Planning & Sustainability
The zoning initiative reported on last year continued through 2022 and has culminated in completion of the Final Report of the Zoning Commission to the Caroline Town Board on March 27, 2023. The body of this report is the proposed zoning law. The Town’s Zoning Commission, comprised of former Planning Board members and four appointed volunteers, embraced a process that invited and considered public feedback through 51 commission meetings where comment was invited, six public information sessions, and two public hearings. The Town Board now begins its review of the proposed zoning law. The purposes of our zoning law are articulated in the Town’s Comprehensive Plan. The goal is to guide development in ways that promote sustainable development, encouraging nodal development and local neighborhoods with an appropriate mix of residences, home businesses, and supportive commercial enterprises that protect open space, agricultural lands, and the environment.
Brighten Up Caroline (Clean Energy Communities Program)
We are continuing work to wrap up our NYSERDA-funded Brighten Up Caroline program. LED bulb distribution to residences and a Town LED streetlight conversion are complete. We will now be converting two of our fire halls to LED lighting (Slaterville and Brooktondale Fire Departments) in the next couple of months. We will propose to use any remaining grant funds to support the Finger Lakes Climate Fund’s carbon offset grants to LMI households.
Local Clean Heating & Cooling Campaign
Caroline has partnered with a renowned geothermal engineering firm, Egg Geothermal, and the Speedsville Community Center on a NYSERDA-funded feasibility study for a “Community/District Geothermal” system for the hamlet of Speedsville. That work is now underway, and we look forward to the findings. If determined to be feasible, this would provide Speedsville homes and businesses with the option of economical and energy efficient heating and cooling, and provide a model for other rural communities currently using fuel oil and propane for heating.
Agriculture and Farmland Protection Plan
Caroline was awarded a grant of $25,000 from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets in 2022 to develop a Caroline Agriculture and Farmland Protection Plan. This will be a two-year project aimed at finding ways to strengthen local agriculture and economies.
Town of Dryden
Town of Enfield
Town of Ithaca
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