Clean, Green Southern Tier Plan Unveiled

Regional plan proposes 5 and 20 year priorities to advance sustainability ...

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In June,the Cleaner Greener Southern Tier Plan was awarded $1 million by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to develop a regional sustainability plan.Meetings were held in Corning,Binghamton and Ithaca to update residents on the plan’s numerous action items and to get feedback on short-and long-term priorities.

The Oct.11 meeting in Ithaca brought about 50 participants to the Tompkins County Public Library for a detailed presentation and lively discussion.The Tompkins County Planning Department,the consulting firm ICF International and local agencies,residents,businesses and institutions from Broome,Chemung, Chenango ,Delaware,Schuyler, Steuben,Tioga and Tompkins counties have developed the plan.

Leslie Schill of the planning department opened the evening with an over-view of the plan’s purpose.“It’s an eight-county regional sustainability plan,”she explained,“and tonight wraps up a week of public outreach across the Southern Tier.We’ve been presenting our findings and a draft action strategy for everyone to think about how we want to roll this out over the next five years,specifically,and the next 20 years as well,”she said.

Harrison Rue,principal for ICF International,noted that the 20-year implementation plan contains some 160 action items,whereas the short-term,five-year plan has about 60 actions spanning 18 goals.“The goal of these meetings is to get help identifying the top 20 or so action items to include as priorities in the full regional sustainability plan.“

Goals in the plan are broad,such as reducing building energy use,and developing local renewable energy sources.Detailed action items are more specific,such as developing a regional energy road map,analyzing specific technologies and identifying the potential of major renewables and efficiency strategies.Direct and indirect impacts of each action are listed,and examples of potential projects are noted.

Potential projects include:City and Town of Ithaca Emerson Power Transmission brownfield redevelopment;biomass-fueled heating for Cayuga Medical Center;wood pellet manufacturing facilities;school bus conversion to biodiesel;and city fleets transitioning to hybrid or electric vehicles.

“In addition to the public workshops,”said Rue,“we’ve met with technical focus groups,folks in transportation,local energy,food,etc.They are all part of our advisory group.So we got lots of great technical edits.When you’re doing a large regional plan,it’s hard to focus on details,so we’ve asked local folks to read through the chapters and make sure what we have come up with would work here,or is working already and we didn’t know about it.We’ve been getting great input,so the next draft is going to be a lot better,”Rue said.

He hopes that local developers and entrepreneurs will pick up projects.“Say someone is thinking of building a LEED-certified building,and we think if you added X and Y technology to it you could get LEED Silver status,so maybe we can connect them with a NYSERDA grant,”Rue said.

An audience member questioned how projects would be paid for,concerned that taxes would be used and that inefficient government agencies would be in charge.Rue responded that none of the projects is mandatory,and that many projects would pay for themselves overtime with savings.To which another audience member expressed hope that the projects were things that were not just wanted but were needed,since projects aren’t “revenue neutral.

The issue of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas was intentionally left out of the plan,since New York has yet to act on the issue.When audience members brought up the pros and cons of gas as a transition fuel,the conversation took on a heated edge.“We look at gas as a transition fuel,”Rue said.“Most combined heat-and-power plants depend on it now,but the goal would be to move to renewable resources.”

”Local resident Becca Harber pushed for small,effective projects completed quickly.“I didn’t see th eplan showing any emphasis on the easiest,most affordable things that could be done quickly,that could get people excited about actions for beneficial change,”she said.“Energy conservation needs to be number one. Get that going,save some money,and then do the other things.

”Harber also wants bicycle regulations in place that would encourage more people to bike.“I’m scared to death of riding in the roads,as are many people.Make it so you have to stop and walk ifyou come to a pedestrian;stuff like that would make everyone safer.”

”Jeff Piestrak,who works at Mann Library of Cornell,is focused on facilitating community conversations.“This is being driven from an environmental,sustainability push,and really the topics are much more complicated.Part of why I’m here is to think about how we can have conversations that go beyond where we got stuck today.Before we can figure out how we are going to become sustainable,we need to think about how we can create spaces to talk about these things.

”Toby Mandel,a manager at ICF International,worked with sector experts to develop the energy,water,waste management and climate adaptation portions of the plan.“The community turnout has been great.We’ve had good representation from a wide variety of folks in the community.Having people give us feedback on specific examples of where they see that this could be implemented,or where it already is,has been great in strengthening this plan in the process,”he says.

More information on the plan can be found at www.cleanergreen-ersoutherntier.org/10-22.

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