Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative
The TCCPI Newsletter

May-June 2014

In This Issue
Featured Article: NY Appellate Court Upholds Local Ban on Fracking
Solar Tompkins Off to Blazing Start as Residents Enroll in Program
Cornell's Johnson School Launches Revolving Green Fund
Get Your GreenBack Tompkins Reaches Goal of 42,000 "Steps"
One Last Thing: A Turning Point in the Climate Protection Fight?
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Featured Article: 
NY High Court Upholds Local Fracking Bans



Welcome to the May-June issue of the TCCPI Newsletter, an electronic update from the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative (TCCPI).
Photo by 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. 

Solar Tompkins Off to Blazing Start as Residents Enroll in Program

By Peter Bardaglio, TCCPI Coordinator 


Over 500 households have now enrolled in the Solar Tompkins Program, according to Melissa Kemp, program director. With enrollment in the countywide initiative open through July, the initiative aims to double the amount of solar-panel electricity generated in the county.


Solar systems will springing up throughout the region thanks to the success of Solar Tompkins. Photo courtesy of Solar Tompkins.

In her presentation at the June TCCPI meeting last Friday, Kemp noted that Tompkins County ranks 7th in New York in total solar installations per capita, so clearly there is room for improvement.


Putting the effort in an international context, Kemp observed that Germany currently has about three times the amount of installed solar in the United States, but has only 33 percent of the solar resource and 25 percent of the population.


In order to stimulate the growth of solar adoption in the County, Solar Tompkins is selling photovoltaic (PV) solar panel arrays at around 20 percent below market rate, Kemp said. A typical residential 7,000-watt system could cost $6,216 through the program, once all of the tax credits and rebates are taken into account, according to Kemp.


The program looks to reduce the cost of acquiring customers for the three solar installation companies selected to participate: Astrum Solar, Renovus Energy, and Taitem Engineering/ETM Solar Works. The savings that installation companies see are passed onto customers, Kemp said.


Astrum Solar and Renovus Energy are contracted to install about 1 megawatt each of the solar panels, roughly 260 to 360 homes. Taitem/ETM Solar Works is contracted to install 360 kilowatts of solar panels, about 45 to 60 homes.


Tompkins residents and business owners can enroll in the program through July 31 and enrollees have until October 1 to decide if they want solar panels installed. After enrolling in Solar Tompkins, people should get a free energy audit of their home through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, Kemp pointed out.


Tompkins County facilitated a $80,000 grant that the Park Foundation awarded to Solar Tompkins. Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County and Sustainable Tompkins also support Solar Tompkins.


The schedule for upcoming community meetings for those interested in learning more about the program can be found here. In addition, Solar Tompkins will be hosting brown bag lunches during the month of July in conjunction with various organizations across Tompkins County; that schedule can be found here.

Cornell's Johnson School Launches Revolving Green Fund 


The Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management's Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise at Cornell announced the launch of a green revolving fund (GRF) last month to enhance energy conservation efforts in campus buildings. The GRF becomes part of a program that will help students gain experience leveraging technology and investment to combat climate change.


View of Ho Plaza and Sage Hall at Cornell University in June. Photo by sach1tb is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

The launch of GRF stems from work by Energy Corps, a campuswide student organization established in 2012 dedicated to improving energy efficiency at Cornell. The fund will provide low-interest loans to colleges and departments across campus for investments in energy efficiency technology upgrades that yield significant financial returns.


"Energy Corps has done an amazing job catalyzing support for a GRF here at Cornell," said Mark Milstein, director of the center and Johnson clinical professor of management. "By launching this program, we have the opportunity to provide students a unique educational opportunity that will have tremendous impact on campus and around the world."


To date, Energy Corps has completed numerous projects across campus with estimated savings of more than $200,000 over the next seven years.


"Without the encouragement and support of a university dedicated to student learning and environmental sustainability, the GRF would simply not be happening," said Jacob Reisch '15, founder of Energy Corps. "We are excited to help launch a fund that offers educational and leadership opportunities to students, saves the university hundreds of thousands of dollars and helps the university achieve its 2050 carbon neutrality goal."


John Alexander '74, MBA '76, gave the first gift of $100,000 to establish the GRF. "I love that this is valuable to students and the university," said Alexander. "It exemplifies an approach to an important business opportunity that is sustainable - it won't run out of money by its very design as a revolving fund."


Milstein and KyuJung Whang, vice president for facilities services, said establishing the GRF and embedding it into academic programs at the university will have the potential for the biggest impact across campus.


A pilot course launched this spring will be expanded in the fall. The course not only allows students to manage the GRF, including the identification, evaluation and execution of specific energy efficiency projects across campus, but it also provides students the opportunity to develop key management, leadership and critical-thinking skills that will be valuable throughout their lives. 


--Cornell Chronicle, 5/13/14

Next TCCPI Meeting:

Friday, July 25, 2014

9 to 11 am

Borg Warner Room

Tompkins County Public Library
101 East Green Street

Ithaca, NY 14850

Get Your GreenBack Tompkins Reachs Goal of 42,000 "Steps"
By Karim Beers, Get Your GreenBack Campaign Coordinator

Get Your Greenback Tompkins, the campaign to show Tompkins County residents how to shrink their carbon footprint and reduce their spending, has reached its goal! More than 42,000 energy- and money-saving, and job-creating "steps"--one step for every household in Tompkins County--have been registered on the campaign website.


Cornell students gather on the steps of the Town of Ithaca Town Hall for the kickoff of the October 2012 "Into the Streets" event. Photo courtesy of GYGB.

Each month, GYGB has offered a theme for the community to consider that cycles through each of four sectors that create the majority of our community's energy use and greenhouse gas emissions: transportation, heating and electricity, waste reduction and food production. The campaign has sought to spotlight existing resources in the community to help people achieve their steps towards sustainability. Both households and businesses have taken steps to do something good for the planet and their pocketbooks.


What steps did community members take during the two years since the campaign was launched? They insulated homes, carpooled to work, went hunting and fishing, shopped secondhand, and installed solar panels on homes and community buildings. Get Your GreenBack teams went door-to-door distributing reusable bags and energy efficient light bulbs; they hosted a secondhand shopping treasure hunt, and shared tips full of simple ideas to save money and energy at the same time.


The steps taken represent over $9 million in savings, 152 local green jobs sustained or created, and a reduction of 13,000 tons in our greenhouse gas emissions. That's a 1 percent reduction in our community's carbon footprint, the equivalent of what over 1,100 homes would use in energy in a year.

Over 80 members of the GYGB coalition, including TCCPI, joined together to help mobilize the campaign. Ranging from local businesses to local municipalities and non-profits, GYGB has provided an outstanding example of how collaboration and coordination can enhance the collective impact of efforts to improve the quality of life for everyone, including the most disadvantaged members of our community.




Take a step to save money and energy.








One Last Thing: A Turning Point in the Climate Protection Fight?

The news about accelerating climate change continues to be grim. The most recent National Climate Assessment, issued in early May, underscored the extensive damage that climate change is already inflicting on various regions in the United States. John Holdren, the White House science advisor, called the report "the loudest and clearest alarm bell to date signalling the need to take urgent action to combat the threats to Americans from climate change."  


The news is not all bad, however. Three recent events since the report's release raise the possibility that this time the alarm might actually be registering. 


The U.S Environmental Protection Agency unveiled on June 2 its long-awaited plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. The EPA's proposed Clean Power Plan would, if approved, direct states to develop a range of programs to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 30 percent from 2005 emissions levels by 2030.

The Dave Johnson coal-fired power plant in Wyoming will be among many such power plants affected by the EPA's proposed carbon regulations. Photo by Greg Goebel is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

The new rules mark the first time any U.S. president has moved to regulate carbon pollution from power plants, the largest single source of carbon dioxide emissions. Although arguably establishing goals that are too little and a deadline too late to prevent runaway climate change, the Obama administration sent a clear signal that it was finally willing to expend some significant political capital on the fight for climate protection.


Providing further hope that the proposed carbon regulations might mark a turning point, the U.S. Supreme Court on June 23 largely upheld the authority of the EPA to implement the proposed regulations, making it much more likely that the agency could fend off challenges from industry and conservative opponents.


The very next day a bipartisan group of senior political and business leaders, including three former secretaries of the Treasury, endorsed putting a price on carbon, warning that enormous deposits of oil and coal will have to be left in the ground to avoid reaching dangerous levels of global warming. In their report, "Risky Business," the group outlined the economic impact of climate change, highlighting how climate change was becoming a serious financial issue for corporations.


In a New York Times op-ed launching the campaign for a carbon tax, former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson contended that "we're staring down a climate bubble that poses enormous risks to both our environment and economy." Paulson, who served in the administration of George W. Bush, compared the mounting climate crisis to the financial crisis of 2008 and the collapse of the economy that followed.


Maybe, just maybe, the dam of political stalemate is beginning to break and the U.S. will finally adopt a coherent and effective climate and energy policy. You can be sure, however, that witout systematic and sustained pressure from the grass roots the necessary changes will never take place. That means that it's up to us. But it's certainly nice to see some of our political and business leaders finally lining up on our side. 


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.