Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative
The TCCPI Newsletter

October-November 2013

In This Issue
Featured Article: Southern Tier Group Seeks to Expand Wood-Pellet Heating
Five Years of Climate Protection in Tompkins County
Who Let the Heat Out?
One Last Thing: Off the Climtate Cliff?
Quick Links

Our Supporters
Featured Article: 
Southern Tier Group
Seeks to Expand Wood-Pellet Heating




Welcome to the October-November 2013 issue of the TCCPI Newsletter, an electronic update from the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative (TCCPI).
Photo Credit: Wrexie Bardaglio

TCCPI is a multisector collaboration seeking to leverage the climate action commitments made by Cornell University, Ithaca College, Tompkins Cortland Community College, Tompkins County, the City of Ithaca, and the Town of Ithaca to mobilize a countywide energy efficiency effort and accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy. Launched in June 2008 and generously supported by the Park Foundation, TCCPI is a project of Second Nature, the lead supporting organization of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC).


We are committed to helping Tompkins County achieve a dynamic economy, healthy environment, and resilient community through a focus on energy efficiency and renewable energy. 

Five Years of Climate Protection in Tompkins County

by Dominic Frongillo, Founding Member of the TCCPI Steering Committee


As the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative (TCCPI) celebrates its fifth anniversary,

it is an opportune moment to reflect on the progress made and challenges ahead. In the past five years, the county as a whole has moved forward in three major areas of climate protection: public awareness, mobilization of existing organizations, and new collaborative ventures.


The community's understanding of climate disruption, its projected impacts, available solutions, and the need for action has advanced significantly since 2008. Higher temperatures, rising food prices, and unprecedented weather events like Superstorm Sandy have fueled the sense of growing urgency. In addition, the expansion of fracking operations in neighboring states has demonstrated the costs of our dirty energy economy and the need to accelerate our transition to a clean energy world.


Existing organizations and institutions have taken major steps forward on the climate protection front. In each of TCCPI's five sectors -- education, local government, nonprofit, business, and youth -- organizations have leveraged their climate commitments,

Dominic at ICLEI
Dominic Frongillo speaking at the 2012 ICLEI World Congress.

implemented action plans, and developed effective leadership.


Higher education, in particular, has continued to play a key role in the community. Cornell University, Ithaca College, and Tompkins Cortland Community College have each made substantial efforts in institutionalizing their climate commitments and integrating climate action into operations. Cornell has phased out coal and brought online a more efficient combined heat and power (CHP) plant. Ithaca College has made significant headway on installing and upgrading sub-meters on campus. All three have carried out extensive energy efficiency upgrades, transportation advances, waste stream reductions, and local food sourcing, and several new LEED-certified buildings have been constructed.


Local governments have emerged as key drivers for climate action. Tompkins County and the  Town of Ithaca have committed to cutting emissions 80% by 2050, and the City of Ithaca is considering a similar target. All three, plus the Town of Caroline, have adopted  Climate Smart Communities pledges. 


Tompkins County itself has been leading the charge, having adopted its 2020 Energy Strategy, incorporated climate adaptation and resiliency into its hazard mitigation planning process, achieved a waste diversion ratio of 60%, introduced single-stream recycling, established a Zimride ride sharing service, and completed the first green airport master plan in the nation. TCAT, the county's transit system, has upgraded its buses, broken ridership records year after year, and gained recognition for being the best transit system of its size in North America.


Many municipalities in the county have undertaken energy efficiency and performance contracting improvements to government buildings with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds. The Town and City of Ithaca have both made substantial progress with hiring sustainability staff, energy and sustainability planning, and installing upgrades to the waste water treatment plant. Several other towns and villages have also made notable efforts, and eight of the county's nine towns have adopted bans or moratoria on fracking. 


As with education and local government, the nonprofit sector has deepened its role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions over the last several years. Cayuga Medical Center achieved LEED Silver for its new wing, and is seeking LEED certification for its new laboratory and surgical 

Cornell students go "into the Streets" in October 2011 to raise community awareness about energy efficiency.

center. Numerous outreach and education efforts have been launched, including Cornell Cooperative Extension's "Lighten UpTompkins" campaign, which reached 17,000 households, and other work by the Tompkins Energy Corps. Ithaca Carshare has been growing rapidly, and now has 1,300 members and 21 vehicles. Sustainable Tompkins's Finger Lakes Climate Fund has made numerous grants to help families complete energy efficient retrofits in their homes, and the Museum of the Earth and Cayuga Nature Center have expanded their climate change education programs and exhibits. Many if not most of these activities in the nonprofit sector have benefited enormously from the generous support of the Park Foundation, which has demonstrated an unstinting commitment to addressing climate change and promoting a clean energy future.


The business sector has also stepped up, with Alternatives Federal Credit Union expanding its energy efficiency loan programs, local energy efficiency companies such as Snug Planet outpacing the rest of the state in the number of homes retrofitted, and new efforts to engage landlords in energy efficiency improvements. Downtown Ithaca Alliance has become a crucial voice in the call for clustering major new development in Ithaca's downtown area and renovating the city's pedestrian mall with new energy efficient utilities. HOLT Architects has signed the American Institute of Architects' AIA 2030 Commitment and provided critical leadership to the Upstate New York U.S. Green Buildings Council, and Travis Hyde Properties has completed NYSEG's Small Business Energy Efficiency Program for its entire portfolio, replacing over 2,300 lighting fixtures and purchasing all Energy Star appliances for its residential apartments.


At the same time, young people have joined together to build a vibrant student movement. In 2009 and 2011, young people in Tompkins County mobilized coordinated delegations to Power Shift in Washington D.C., and 300 young people called on local municipal leaders to follow the County's lead and cut climate pollution 80% by 2050. In their respective institutions, students provided key leadership on issues involving fracking, sustainability course requirements, and endowment divestment from fossil fuels. In 2013, students from Lehman Alternative Community School received statewide recognition for winning Yoko Ono's Artists Against Fracking award for its original video and song, "You've Been Fracked," and Ithaca was one of 15 cities to host a youth-led Summer of Solutions program to build partnerships for climate justice.     


Besides growing public awareness and increased efforts by existing organizations over the past 

The Aurora Pocket Neighborhood, with its affordable, highly energy efficient residences, was completed in Spring 2013

five years, several new climate initiatives have emerged in Tompkins County involving significant collaboration among TCCPI's five sectors: the EPA Climate Showcase Communities grant with EcoVillage at Ithaca, the Aurora Pocket Neighborhood, and Tompkins County Planning Department, which is sharing lessons in building more sustainable communities and improving zoning and building codes; Black Oak Wind Farm, which has raised over $1.2 million in start-up capital among over 80 local investors for an 11.6 MW project in Enfield; the Energize Ithaca downtown heating and efficiency project; the Get Your Green Back Tompkins energy saving campaign; Building Bridges, which is addressing economic and social inequities and environmental sustainability in the community; the new downtown Sustainability Center and its accompanying internship program; and Solarize Tompkins SE, which is bringing affordable solar to homes in Caroline, Danby, and Dryden and is now expanding into a countywide program.


Despite our successes, it is clear we also face major challenges. Most important, neither the federal government nor New York State has enacted comprehensive climate protection legislation. Furthermore, financing and capital flows are problematic issues in every sector. Federal stimulus funding provided some needed capital for climate protection efforts but was insufficient and temporary. Many initiatives are also experiencing difficulties working with outdated physical, institutional, and economic infrastructures, including establishing an effective working relationship with the region's investor-owned utilities. 


Looking ahead, in the next five years, Tompkins County needs to address these issues and be proactive in three areas: preparation and resiliency, multi-sector collaboration, and policy advocacy.


First, we must prepare for accelerating climate destabilization. A concerted effort must be mounted to communicate the reality of climate disruption to every level of leadership and the  

general public. The county must get ready for increasingly likely worst-case scenarios, as  

Flash flooding caused extensive damage in Tompkins County in August 2013.

summer months become drier, flooding becomes more frequent, infrastructure and economies are disrupted, and in-migration begins from inundated coastal areas. Coordinated action is needed to build the resilience required to meet all these challenges.


Second, we must strengthen our multi-sector collaborations. Some of our biggest advances have been made by joining together across organizational boundaries. We must create more linkages and connections, in particular, among campus and community; among energy, food, transportation, and waste initiatives; and among community, institutional, business, and political actors.


Finally, we must advocate for appropriate state and federal policy. To move successfully to a clean energy economy, we need a national-scale mobilization larger than that which occurred during the Second World War. State and national leadership is urgently needed, and Tompkins County leaders need to be more assertive in pushing for comprehensive state and federal solutions. One key opportunity is the draft New York State climate action plan, which is still awaiting action by Governor Cuomo. The need for a state action plan has received renewed attention in light of the recent report by Stanford and Cornell researchers, which lays out an ambitious plan to achieve 100% renewable energy for New York State by 2030.


In summary, Tompkins County has made significant strides in climate protection efforts over the past five years, led by the many institutions, governments, organizations, businesses, and youth groups that are members of TCCPI. Yet, as the latest science and news makes clear, the deepening climate crisis will require even greater leadership now and in the years ahead. 


Dominic Frongillo, former Councilmember and Deputy Town Supervisor in Caroline, New York, is a founding member of the TCCPI steering committee.  He is currently the international business development coordinator for Thomas Daily, a sustainability-focused urban development market information leader, based in Freiburg, Germany.

Next TCCPI Meeting:

Friday, October 25, 2013

9 to 11 am

Borg Warner Room

Tompkins County Public Library
101 East Green Street

Ithaca, NY 14850

Who Let the Heat Out?
By Karim Beers, Campaign Coordinator for Get Your GreenBack Tompkins
You know that hot air rises, right? Heat can escape through your attic and roof if there are cracks or insufficient insulation; this, in turn, draws cold air into your basement through cracks and leaks. 
Home energy audits can identify where heat is escaping.
Have you had a whole home energy upgrade? If not, the time is right. You probably know neighbors who have sealed and insulated their home, reducing their energy bills, making their homes more comfortable and safe. 
Here is a link to a short video with some people you might know who have done it. You can too. It's easy: 
  1. Get a no-cost energy assessment. Find the application form and a list of local contractorsat or stop by the offices of Cooperative Extension at 615 Willow Ave. 
  2. Get the report. The contractor you choose will provide you with an analysis of your home and point out the areas where you can make your home safer, more comfortable, and cut down on energy use. They can also share with you available financial incentives.
  3. Upgrade your home. Craft your work plan according to your budget, your priorities and the incentives available to you. 
Energy upgrades are simple. They can keep the heat in and save you money. They support local jobs; 12 new energy upgrades produce one living wage job. They reduce our county's energy use and carbon emissions -- heating and electricity represents over 40% of energy use and CO2 emissions in Tompkins County. 

Want to stop heating your backyard? Visit to learn more!




Take a step to save money and energy.








One Last Thing: Off the Climate Cliff?
Right on the heels of the latest report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a startling paper appeared last week in the journal Nature. It was the proverbial train coming down the track, driving home the message that dramatic, life altering global warming is just a few stops away. 
According to the study, the new normal for millions of people in a few decades will be hotter than the warmest years between 1860 and 2005 if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise.
"Go back in your life to think about the hottest, most traumatic event you have experienced," lead scientist Camilo Mora told the New York Times. "What we're saying is that very soon, that event is going to become the norm."
The final scene from the 1991 movie "Thelma and Louise."
Analyzing data from 39 different climate models out of 12 countries, the team of scientists from Hawaii and Japan sought to predict the timing of a move to the new climate regime rather than examine the climate at a fixed date such as 2030 or 2050, as most previous studies have done. The paper concludes that the tropics will undergo this extreme shift first, as early as 2029, and by 2047 more than half of the planet will experience average temperatures hotter than anything recorded between 1860 and 2005.

Coming in the midst of the confrontation between President Obama and Congress over the federal budget and debt ceiling, it's hard not to draw a comparison. In politics, when playing "chicken," the first rule of game theory is throw the steering wheel out the window. It's one thing for Republicans and Democrats to pursue this tactic, however, and another thing for the human race to try to pull this stunt on nature.

Even in the most intractable situations, political parties can negotiate with each other and come to some reasonable resolution, but as Bill McKibben has pointed out numerous times, you can't negotiate with the laws of physics and chemistry. Go ahead and throw the steering wheel out the window; it's not going to change the outcome one whit. When it comes to climate change, better to acknowledge that reality than drive the car off the cliff.

Peter Bardaglio
TCCPI Coordinator
Upgrade Upstate

Visit to get a no-cost or reduced-cost energy assessment. Learn which rebates, tax credits, and loans you qualify for to help pay for work. Check out how-to videos for low-cost/no-cost improvements and testimonial videos of Tompkins County residents who have made upgrades. Upgrade Upstate is a program of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County.