Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative
The TCCPI Newsletter

November-December 2015

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 Cornell Scientists Highlight Impact of Soil Carbon on Climate


Welcome to the November-December 2015 issue of the TCCPI Newsletter, an electronic update from the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative (TCCPI).
Photo by mattjlc 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 the Sustainable Markets Foundation.


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 Legislature Hears Pleas for Climate Action
by Andrew Casler, Ithaca Journal

Calls to strengthen greenhouse gas emission reduction goals locally and stop a proposed natural gas pipeline on West Dryden Road resonated at the Tompkins County Legislature meeting on December 15. About 75 people rallied ahead of the meeting for more local action against climate change. Then the activists gathered inside the county meeting chambers, where they offered public comments to lawmakers.

The rally came just a few days after a historic international climate deal was reached in Paris. At the rally in Ithaca, many people in the crowd wore red armbands or red clothing, symbolizing solidarity with "red line" protesters at COP 21, who called attention to red lines they didn't want negotiators to cross.

Under the Paris agreement, 195 nations agreed to limit global warming to "well below" 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, through 2100 compared to pre-industrial levels. The agreement also promises to help put poor countries on a pathway to develop their economies in an environmentally friendly way.

Bob Howarth, Cornell David R. Atkinson Professor of Ecology and Environmental Biology, spoke at the rally and during the County Legislature meeting.
Cornell professor Bob Howarth was part of the university's delegation at the Paris climate talks, and he attended the Tuesday night rally in Ithaca. Howarth said people in Paris, who attended a meeting about hydraulic fracturing, all knew about Tompkins County and the work that had occurred locally to ban fracking in New York.

"If the United States is going to meet our targets, the leadership is going to come, quite frankly, from New York and California, and our shale gas friends from around the world know that means Tompkins County," Howarth said. "We need to step up to the challenge and do it."

At the legislature meeting, about 30 speakers from the public addressed the legislature over the course of an hour. Joe Wilson, of Dryden, called on Tompkins County lawmakers to take action against climate change by stopping a proposed natural gas pipeline on West Dryden Road.

"Right now, everybody on the legislature is either silent or supportive of the West Dryden pipeline installation, and the burning of the natural gas that will come from it," Wilson said. "That means, by simple logic, that everybody who is silent or not opposing the West Dryden pipeline is supportive of global warming."

Kay Wagner, of Dryden, also asked the lawmakers to stop all build out of natural gas pipelines. She urged lawmakers to strengthen the Tompkins County Energy Roadmap, which looks to reduce the community's greenhouse emissions by 80 percent before 2050. "The county should aim for an 80 percent reduction by 2030 ... and 100 percent by 2040," she said.

Ten of the 14 legislators responded to the speaker's concerns over the course of a half-hour. A majority of lawmakers said they agreed with the speakers' points.

Legislator Anna Kelles, D-Ithaca, said Tompkins County should stop building out fossil fuel infrastructure. "I hope that we do continue to look for alternative forms of energy production and not continue to produce infrastructure for natural gas consumption," Kelles said.

Legislator Carol Chock, D-Ithaca, observed that the Tompkins County Energy Roadmap is "more of a feasibility study than a map of action steps," adding that "people should be patient with us as we work that out."

"Buried in the document," she said, "I think you will see that we were partly asking the question, 'Is it achievable to achieve the renewable energy goals that we had set in the past and need to set moving forward?'"
Cuomo Orders Department of Public Service to Enact New Clean Energy Standard

Governor Andrew Cuomo kicked off December by directing the State Department of Public Service to design and enact a new Clean Energy Standard mandating that 50 percent of all electricity consumed in New York by 2030 result from clean and renewable energy sources. The Governor's announcement was made as New York and world leaders convened on climate change at COP 21 in Paris.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Photo courtesy of Press Office.
"Climate change is one of the defining issues of our time, and we must act now," said Governor Cuomo. "As discussions continue in Paris, we are taking real, enforceable actions in New York to lay the foundation for a thriving clean energy economy. With one of the most aggressive renewable energy goals of any state in the nation, we are leading by example to ensure the possibility of a bright future for generations to come."

New York has sought to modernize its energy system through the Reforming the Energy Vision (REV). REV has laid the groundwork for the state and the private sector to aggressively add renewables. The goal of the Clean Energy Standard is to provide a cost-effective, efficient, and enforceable mandate to meet the goal of ensuring clean, resilient, and affordable energy for all New York residents.

"Today's announcement codifies New York's commitment to powering statewide economic development with clean, affordable energy," said Richard Kauffman, Chair of Energy and Finance for New York State. "The creation of a Clean Energy Standard is good public policy for the environment and our economy."

Audrey Zibelman, Chair of the Public Service Commission, also strongly supported the Governor's move, saying that she was "thrilled to see Governor Cuomo's commitment to turn the State's clean energy goals into an enforceable mandate. This mandate provides certainty and demonstrated commitment to development of renewable energy, which, in turn, will support the growing clean energy job sector."

The regulatory process to develop the Clean Energy Standard will include the opportunity for full and complete public and stakeholder participation. State law requires that the Public Service Commission takes all reasonable steps to meet New York's goals set forth in the State Energy Plan. The Governor's directive sets forth a time frame by which the Commission should act. The new standard, which will be developed by the Department of Public Service to complement the Governor's Reforming the Energy Vision plan, is expected to be presented to the Public Service Commission by June 2016.
Next TCCPI Meeting:
Friday, January 29, 2015
9 to 11 am
Tompkins County Public Library
Borg Warner Room
101 East Green Street
Ithaca, NY 14850
 Commercial Energy Efficiency Collaborative Workshop Series

The Tompkins County Commercial Energy Efficiency Collaborative will be holding its second round of a workshop series on commercial energy efficiency this spring. Led by energy professionals from Taitem Engineering and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County, participants receive a comprehensive energy audit of their building and support reaching their energy savings goals. The series helps participants learn about and implement cost-effective measures, including:
Taitem Engineering Chairman Ian Shapiro leads energy efficiency workshop. Photo courtesy of Taitem Engineering.
  • air sealing and insulation
  • equipment upgrades
  • LED and other efficient lighting
  • solar energy, wood pellets, and other renewables
When, Where and How Much?
The 6-session workshop series will run from Spring thru Fall 2016. Dates TBA. Location is the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce, 904 East Shore Dr., Ithaca.

The energy audit and building analysis for businesses or non-profits with 10 or fewer employees (full-time-equivalent) is FREE; larger organizations may be eligible for a subsidized energy audit.

The workshop fee is sliding scale $50 - $200 per organization and includes teaching and coaching to lead and support you step-by-step through money-saving energy improvements in your building.

Sign up or request more info about TC-CEEC here. You can also contact Sara Culotta at [email protected] dot com. 607.277.1118 x124. Space is limited to a maximum of 20 participants.
Tompkins County Commercial Energy Efficiency Collaborative is a collaboration of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County, Get Your GreenBack Tompkins, Taitem Engineering, and the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce.




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One Last Thing: Hope and Despair as 2015 Draws to a Close 

Things can feel pretty bleak on a gray, rainy afternoon in late December as one considers the impact our greenhouse gas emissions will have on the planet for the generations ahead. It's important to keep in mind, however, that we are making progress. 

Although it certainly has its flaws, including the lack of any legally binding commitments, the climate agreement reached in Paris earlier this month by nearly 200 countries is historic, marking the most significant progress yet made in the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

After years of obstructionism, the U.S. actually played a positive role in the Paris talks. In the run up to COP 21, President Obama set the tone for the negotiations by exercising his executive authority to reject the Keystone XL pipeline and announcing the Clean Power Plan, a crucial step to reduce carbon pollution from power plants. 

At the same time, China is moving forward decisively to reduce emissions from coal and renewable energy has become an economically viable alternative to fossil fuels. Government investigations into Exxon's cover up of its own climate research have clearly put the oil industry on the defensive and the divestment movement gathers increasing momentum.

Closer to home, as the talks in Paris got underway, Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a directive that 50 percent of electricity generated in our state come from renewable technologies by 2030. This mandate sends a strong signal that New York needs to accelerate its transition to renewable energy.

In the last 10 years, New York's renewable energy has increased from about 19 percent to 25 percent of total electricity use. The state's renewable portfolio standard, which expires today, helped make this possible. Now the challenge is clear: we need double the share of renewable energy to 50 percent in the next 15 years.

There is little doubt that we will eventually achieve a low- or zero-carbon world. The explosion of a global grassroots movement for climate justice, which made itself heard throughout COP 21, will ensure that we get there. The two big questions, at this point, are: 1) how quickly can we carry out this transition; and 2) what will it take to deal with climate instability that is already baked in? The year ahead will, no doubt, provide important clues to both.

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.