Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative
The TCCPI Newsletter

March-April 2014

In This Issue
Featured Article: First LEED Platinum Exisiting Building in Tompkins County
Tompkins County Tackles Local Energy and Climate Future
TCCPI Releases Report on 2013 Member Accomplishments
The Coolest Carpool Challenge
One Last Thing: The Time Is Now
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Featured Article: 
First LEED Platinum Existing Building in Tompkins County

Spring Robin Singing



Welcome to the March-April issue of the TCCPI Newsletter, an electronic update from the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative (TCCPI).
                                                                       Photo by Matt Hintsa is licensed under CC BY 2.0


TCCPI is a multisector collaboration seeking to leverage the climate action commitments made by Cornell University, Ithaca College, Tompkins Cortland Community College, Tompkins County, the City of Ithaca, and the Town of Ithaca to mobilize a countywide energy efficiency effort and accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy. Launched in June 2008 and generously supported by the Park Foundation, TCCPI is a project of 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. 

Tompkins County Tackles Local Energy and Climate Future


The Tompkins County Legislature and the Planning Department have taken a number of significant steps in recent weeks to address the energy and climate challenges that confront the region. The Legislature has called for more specifics on the transition to renewable energy and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions outlined in the Draft New York State Energy Plan. It also has approved a limited tax exemption for buildings in the County that receive LEED certification, a widely recognized standard for green buildings. At the same time, the County Planning Department has begun the process of identifying a consultant to help with the completion of the County's Energy Road Map.


State Energy Plan


The Tompkins County Legislature at its March 4 session approved comments and recommended revisions to the 2014 Draft New York State Energy Plan. The resolution, including a two-page list of specific recommendations, applauded the governor's initiatives on renewable energy and clean technology, and a reaffirmation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050. The vote was 10-4, with Legislators Peter Stein, Mike Sigler, Jim Dennis, and Brian Robison voting no. 


Lawmakers called upon the state to revise the draft plan "to include specific measurable targets to transition to a renewable energy future," identifying a number of actions they maintained must be

EcoVillage at Ithaca residents look over the community's solar array. Photo courtesy of EcoVillage at Ithaca.

undertaken to meet greenhouse gas emission reduction goals. The legislature also urged that the state's projected energy mix contained in the plan should reflect those targets, actions, and greenhouse gas emission reduction goals.


While praising the proposal overall, legislator Peter Stein unsuccessfully sought to delete language that spoke against increasing state reliance on natural gas as part of the plan. That amendment, however, failed by a 6-8 vote.


LEED Tax Exemption


The Tompkins County Legislature, following a public hearing on March 18, approved a new local law that provides an exemption from county property taxes, under certain conditions, for up to ten years for construction of buildings that achieve LEED certification.


The maximum taxable value to be abated under the proposed law would be $100,000, and exemptions over the ten-year period would be in accordance with a sliding scale over the ten-year period, based on the appropriate LEED standard in effect at the time a property's construction or renovation is completed.


Although the Legislature discussed several changes in wording, based on comments made at the public hearing held just prior to the session, approval of the revised measure was unanimous.


Energy Road Map


As the next step in developing the County's energy strategy, the Planning Department has released a request for proposals (RFP) to hire a consulting service to complete the Energy Road Map. The plan will help the county reach its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the community by at least 80 percent from 2008 levels by 2050.


From 2011 to 2013, the department engaged the services of six graduate students at Cornell to research the area's renewable energy potential. Their reports outlined opportunities in solar, wind, biomass and geothermal, as well as summarizing energy supply-and-demand conditions in Tompkins County. These studies provide much of the background information for the Energy Plan.


"We're looking for someone to review the work that the [Cornell], students did and potentially update it with any new information that might be out there, make sure that their methodologies were correct and that their figures are correct," said Katie Borgella, principal planner for the Tompkins County Planning Department, in a recent interview with Tompkins Weekly.


The consultant would then create some future energy scenarios that would be reviewed by the community, according to Borgella. "We'd then come to a decision and create some action steps to try to make that vision a reality here in Tompkins County," she said.


The deadline for RFP submissions is Monday, April 21.

TCCPI Releases Report on 2013 Member Accomplishments

by Peter Bardaglio, TCCPI Coordinator


The Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative (TCCPI) released its fifth annual report on the accomplishments of its members earlier this month. A record-breaking 35 members from the business, local government, higher education, nonprofit, and youth sectors submitted accounts of their efforts in 2013 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote energy efficiency and renewable energy.


A previous winner of the Cornell University Partner in Sustainability Award, the TCCPI coalition continues to grow in scope and diversity as represented by the following snapshot of the 2013 TCCPI member accomplishments detailed in the annual report.


Cornell University campus in spring. Photo by [bmw] is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
  • Alternatives Federal Credit Union: Installed a new photovoltaic system on its roof through a leasing arrangement.
  • ASI Energy: Focused efforts on Combined Heat and Power (CHP) initiatives in 2013; completed many "Initial Facility Assessments" for CHP and CCHP, applied for several New York State grants, gave presentations informing private corporations, graduate students, and public officials about the benefits of CHP, and began new CHP projects in New York and New Jersey.
  • Black Oak Wind Farm: Completed its Draft Environmental Impact Statement and public review; received a 10-year NYSERDA contract for its renewable energy credits worth $16.3 million; and completed a second equity investment round.  
  • Cayuga Medical Center: Constructed a new surgical services suite designed to achieve LEED certification.
  • Cayuga Nature Center: Opened a new, permanent exhibit on Our Changing Climate that focuses on the impact of climate change on our local animals and plants, agriculture, and communities.
  • City of Ithaca: Approved its Energy Action Plan, installed solar PV on main Fire Station and Youth Bureau building, and purchased renewable energy credits to offset 100% of City's electrical energy usage.
  • Climate Justice Youth Network: Organized a Youth Power Summit held in April, consisting of 20 panels and wokrshops as well as three keynote speeches, that attracted 150 students from area high schools and colleges; and persuaded the City of Ithaca to divest from fossil fuels and received national media coverage of the action.  
  • Cornell Cooperative Extension Tompkins County: Collaborated with our partners at Broome County CCE and PPEF to generate the highest number of residential retrofits of any region in New York in the Green Jobs Green NY program and led a successful effort to secure funding for the development of a regional bulk wood pellet distribution system across the Southern Tier. 
  • Cornell University: Contracted with Distributed Sun, LLC to successfully seek funding from NYSERDA to construct a 2MW solar farm on Cornell property in the Town of Lansing and launched the Think Big Live Green sustainability engagement campaign as a pilot in the College of Engineering.
  • Downtown Ithaca Alliance: Led effort to implement a new downtown zoning package to create additional opportunity for dense development in downtown as well as the effort to rebuild the Ithaca Commons, resulting in a state-of-the-art pedestrian mall that will serve as a symbol of the walkable city.
  • EcoVillage at Ithaca: Completed eleven homes, with the rest under construction, for the 40-unit TREE neighborhood, which is building to rigorous Passive House standards. All TREE homes have achieved LEED Platinum as well.
  • Finger Lakes Land Trust: Created a handicapped accessible boardwalk and associated trail linking Hammond Hill and Yellow Barn State Forests in the Town of Dryden; and completed five more land protection projects within the Necklace, including acquisition of a new 196-acre nature preserve in the Town of Newfield and partnership with the Finger Lakes Trail Conference and the Cayuga Trails Club to establish the Bock-Harvey Forest Preserve in the Town of Enfield.
  • Get Your Greenback Tompkins: Community Educator/Organizers, recruited and trained by GYGB, engaged over 400 households from under-served communities around GYGB-related steps. As a result, there are new composters, new clients at local Farmers' Markets, and new implementers of energy-efficient practices at home. 
  • HOLT Architects: Completed LEED certification on new Laboratory at Cayuga Medical Center; LEED Gold for Educational Opportunity Center for University of Buffalo; LEED certifiable offices for Tompkins County Office for the Aging (COFA); LEED Platinum for Housing INHS Breckinridge Place apartment building; LEED Silver New Science Building for SUNY Broome Community College; and LEED Silver certifiable SUCF/Alfred University Health & Wellness Center.
    Ithaca Commons before renovations began in 2013. Photo by James Willamor is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
  • Ithaca Carshare: Expanded their membership to 1,450 members and their fleet to 25 vehicles, including the addition of 9 Toyota Prius C hybrids, which raised their fleetwide fuel economy by 23% over prior years. 
  • Ithaca College: The new Athletics and Events Center received LEED Gold certification for its energy and environmental design, and the Hill Center and the Ford Hall section of the Whalen Center for Music underwent substantive energy efficient retrofits.
  • Ithaca-Tompkins County Transportation Council: Continued implementation of the Coordinated Human Services-Public Transportation Plan, resulting in increased resources and services for low income, disabled, and senior populations in the Tompkins County.
  • Local First Ithaca: Increased membership to over 200 local businesses, organizations & non-profits, published the third issue of the annual "Guide to Being Local," and opened dialogue on the issue of Local Procurement with representatives of Cornell University, Ithaca College and local government.     
  • Museum of the Earth: Opened two new major permanent exhibits on glaciers and coral reefs as part of the Museum's Our Dynamic Climate project and produced a temporary exhibit on the carbon cycle. 
  • New Earth Living: Completed construction of the Aurora Pocket Neighborhood, resulting in 60% fewer GHG emissions on three new high performing homes when compared to a typical home in the Fall Creek neighborhood.
  • Park Foundation: Working towards LEED Platinum Commercial Interiors certification for its new office space at Seneca Way. The Foundation has also committed to carbon divestment/climate solutions investment as part of its multi-pronged investment. In the process of designing its new office with LEED Platinum standards.
  • Renovus Energy: Received the NYSERDA "Excellence in Quality" solar thermal award for consistently averaging nearly perfect quality assurance scores -- the highest in the state; and awarded the Solarize Tompkins SE thermal program contract and completed installation of 98% of the systems. 
  • Sciencenter: Created an online Climate Change Toolkit, a suite of climate change education resources for formal and informal educators at schools, museums and other venues and developed additional "Sustainability Corner" exhibits on waste reduction, energy conservation, water conservation, composting, and consumer behavior.
  • Snug Planet: Co-sponsored (with Halco Energy and Ironwood Builders) a symposium on "The Low Energy-Use Home," insulated 23 ultra-high performance homes at the EcoVillage at Ithaca TREE neighborhood, completed 44 retrofits under the NYSERDA "Home Performance with Energy Star" program, and with support from the Finger Lakes Climate Fund and volunteers, insulated Second Wind Cottages in Newfield, which provides housing for homeless men. 
  • Sustainable Tompkins: Under the leadership of Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, a coalition of Cortland and Tompkins County nonprofits, colleges, businesses, youth groups, and local governments produced and hosted a major regional conference in April on making our communities more climate friendly and climate resilient. Approximately a thousand people attended the events over the four days of the conference, which Sustainable Tompkins coordinated.  
  • Taitem Engineering: Taitem Engineering is providing program management for the Energy Efficiency Innovation Collaborative (EE-INC), spearheaded by the New York Power Authority, and is a subject matter expert on the design and implementation of emerging technologies.
  • Tompkins Cortland Community College: Began design of a farm for its new sustainable farming program to maximize energy efficiency, be organic and sustainable with a commitment to geothermal and renewable energy sources. The intent is to have a working farm that is completely off the grid.
  • The Sciencecenter in Ithaca. Photo courtesy of Tripadvisor.
  • Tompkins County Planning Dept: Led development of the Cleaner Greener Southern Tier Regional Sustainability Plan that was approved by NSYERDA and the Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council. The plan includes a region-wide greenhouse gas emissions inventory and actions to further the Plan's vision. Also began work on an update of the County Comprehensive Plan and creation of an Energy Road Map for the County.
  • Tompkins County Solid Waste: Signed a three-year contract with Cayuga Composting to process commercial and residential food scraps and yard waste. Cayuga Compost submitted a permit modification application to the DEC to increase tonnage capacity from 2000 to 5000 tons. 
  • Town of Caroline: Energy Independent Caroline was awarded a grant from the Park Foundation for $37,000 for the Solarize Tompkins SE program. The Town of Caroline agreed to be the fiscal sponsor and oversaw the funds and dispersed the grant money to Solarize Tompkins SE. 
  • Town of Dryden: Installed solar panels on Town Hall and on Department of Public Works Barn, purchased hybrid car for Planning Department, and provided bicycles for staff transportation and fitness.
  • Town of Ithaca: Made significant progress on Community Energy Action Plan, performed waste assessments at Town Hall and the DPW office building, and reduced paper use and costs with revised internal policies and practices.
  • Travis Hyde Properties: Installed 19.3 kW photovoltaic system on the roof of the Clinton House and completed design phase for CHP installation in Center Ithaca.
  • Weaver Wind Energy: Installed 4 Beta Unit Turbines in the spring, carried out extensive testing of the Beta unit turbines, and began designing our certification unit turbines.    

    Since its beginning in June 2008, TCCPI has helped to generate ideas and supported projects that have moved the county towards a more sustainable and climate resilient future, including the Tompkins Energy Conservation Corps, Get Your Greenback Tompkins, the EPA Climate Showcase Community Project, Energize Ithaca, the Ithaca Youth Power Summit, the Smart Energy Policy Initiative, and the Black Oak Wind Farm. 


    TCCPI members are currently exploring the establishment of a 2030 District in Ithaca, which would be the first small city to do so. Participants in this effort include representatives from Cornell Cooperative Extension Tompkins County, HOLT Architects, Taitem Engineering, the Tompkins County Planning Department, and Travis Hyde Properties.


    Seattle, Los Angeles, Denver, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh have formed these unique public/private partnerships that bring property owners and managers together with local governments, businesses, and community stakeholders to provide a business model for energy efficiency and the curtailment of carbon emissions through collaboration, leveraged financing, and shared resources. Together, as the program's website puts it, 2030 Districts "are developing and implementing creative strategies, best practices, and verification methods for measuring progress towards a common goal."


    For more information on TCCPI, and a complete list of 2013 TCCPI member accomplishments access

    Next TCCPI Meeting:

    Friday, April 25, 2014

    9 to 11 am

    Borg Warner Room

    Tompkins County Public Library
    101 East Green Street

    Ithaca, NY 14850

    April Step of the Month: Love Your Compost!
    By Karim Beers, Campaign Coordinator for Get Your GreenBack Tompkins

    Compost is organic material that can be added to soil to help plants grow. Food scraps and yard waste currently make up 20 to 30 percent of what we throw away, and should be composted instead. Making compost keeps these materials out of landfills where they take up space and release methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

    Composting demonstration at Ithaca Community Gardens. Photo courtesy of Cornell Cooperative Extension Tompkins County.

    Composting is the most practical and convenient way to handle your yard waste. It can be easier and cheaper than bagging and disposing yard waste. It also improves your soil and the plants growing in it. If you have a garden, a lawn, trees, shrubs, or even planter boxes, you have a  use for compost.

    Thousands of people compost in Tompkins county, including home owners and renters, schools, businesses, restaurants, Cornell and Ithaca College! You can do it inside or outside. It is cheap, easy and FUN! 


    You can find more information about how to compost in your area here.

    Don't feel like doing it at home? No worries! Tompkins County Solid Waste has a Food Scraps Recycling Program! It is easy and FREE of charge! For information about how it works and what kind of food is accepted, click here!


    Why Compost?

    • Good for your pocketbook: saves $ on trash tags or disposal fees

    • Good for your garden: compost makes great soil for growing flowers and plants

    • Good for the planet: Food scraps make up 30% of our waste. Composting keeps this from being trucked to a landfill far away

    From apartment to acres, learn how to compost where you live. Come to the Compost Fair on Sunday, April 28th, from 12-4 in conjunction with the 4-H Duck Race

    GYGB Logo



    Take a step to save money and energy.








    One Last Thing: The Time Is Now

    This issue of the TCCPI Newsletter highlights the wide ranging work of the Tompkins County government and other members of the TCCPI coalition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve energy efficiency, and accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy. Clearly, it's an impressive record, one that demonstrates the commitment of our community to meet the central challenge of our time.


    Elsewhere in the United States and around the world similar work is going on in thousands of communities. The crucial question, of course, is will it be enough to stave off runaway climate change? Can we make the changes necessary at the required scale and rate to avoid the 2 degrees Celsius increase scientists say will set off climate catastrophe?

    Open pit coal mine in Western Australia. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Stephen Codrington.

    The latest assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations group that issues periodic summaries of the ongoing research on climate science, underscores the speed at which we are hurtling toward the point of no return. As the Guardian observes, the new study emphasizes five key points:

    1. Climate change is already posing a serious threat to the world's food supply and will only get worse, especially in light of projected population growth.
    2. Potential shortages of food and water will become major drivers of future conflicts, undermining human security in every hemisphere.
    3. Climate change is going to intensify existing inequalities and have a disproportionate impact on poor people in both developed and developing nations.
    4. Our current trajectory puts us on course to raise the average global temperature 4 degrees Celsius, ensuring that no one will escape the effects of climate change.
    5. We face a difficult but not hopeless task and can still prevent the worst effects off climate change from occurring.

    It's a sobering picture: the passenger jet on which we are traveling is in a steep dive, we don't quite know when the craft will begin to come apart because of the stress on its systems and structural integrity, and if we don't pull out of the dive soon, it will surely crash.


    Fortunately, in a follow up report released on Sunday the IPCC finds that the cost of implementing the transformation necessary to avoid the crash would shave only 0.06% off expected annual global economic growth rates of 1.3%-3%. The IPCC analysis does not take into account the environmental and health benefits of cutting greenhouse gas emissions, which could very well offset the costs of a sweeping shift to clean energy. 


    Here's the rub, though: the longer we wait the more it will cost. In short, the time for a massive mobilization is now.

    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.