NEW YORK, NY — The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced today that Ulster County and the Town of Mamaroneck have earned designation as New York State’s eighth and ninth Certified Climate Smart Communities, respectively. DEC awarded Ulster County with bronze-level certification at the County’s “Sustainable Parking Lot Party” in Kingston on September 17. Only two other communities in the state have achieved this level of certification. Mamaroneck’s certification was announced today.
DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “Across the state, New York communities are already experiencing the effects of climate change, ranging from extreme storms like Sandy and Irene to rising sea levels. Thanks to efforts like Climate Smart Communities, New York is out in front, building resiliency to our changing climate county by county, town by town, and village by village, helping local governments, business owners, and residents reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change. I applaud Ulster County and the Town of Mamaroneck’s commitment to reducing energy use in government operations. These communities are models for others to follow, with committed teams who bridge the gap between traditional government silos and achieve an exceptional level of integration of climate concerns into daily decision making. Ulster County and Mamaroneck are demonstrating what is possible with committed leadership.”
Under Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, New York State is leading the nation in the transition away from fossil fuels to clean energy through innovative strategies including the Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) strategy and the Clean Energy Standard, a mandate to generate 50 percent of the state’s energy from renewable sources. These efforts are developing new economic opportunities and will reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2030 and by 80 percent by 2050.
In addition to reducing energy use, Ulster County is purchasing renewable energy credits to offset the greenhouse gas emissions associated with its electricity use. Ulster County is also taking a comprehensive approach to reducing energy use and emissions associated with transportation. Initiatives include a vehicle-efficiency policy, adding advanced vehicles to its fleet, supporting low-emission public transit, and installing nine charging stations for electric vehicles in the community.
At an event at Mamaroneck’s Hommocks Conservation Area, DEC Acting Regional Director Kelly Turturro congratulated Mamaroneck Supervisor Nancy Seligson and presented her with street signs declaring Mamaroneck a Certified Climate Smart Community.
The Town of Mamaroneck achieved certification points under each of the 10 Climate Smart Communities pledge elements. Mamaroneck is reducing greenhouse gas emissions by using software to closely track emissions from municipal operations, upgrading lighting in municipal buildings, and has converted 100 percent of its streetlights to LED technology. In addition, the town’s land-use policies protect local trees, wetlands, and waterways. Mamaroneck also advanced creative solutions to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, including running the town’s sanitation trucks on vegetable oil recovered from local restaurants. Since 2008, these innovative trucks have displaced fossil fuels, saved taxpayer dollars through reduced fuel costs, and kept resources cycling at the local level.
The Climate Smart Communities program, launched in 2009, provides guidance and technical support to communities to take locally driven climate action. The program is jointly sponsored by DEC, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, Department of State, Public Service Commission, and the departments of Transportation and Health. There are 188 registered Climate Smart Communities, representing 6.6 million New Yorkers, who have pledged to be Climate Smart Communities and are taking advantage of State agency support to mitigate emissions and adapt to climate change. New York is also implementing the groundbreaking Community Risk and Resiliency Act and is protecting vital resources in the State through climate mitigation and adaptation actions.
“Climate Smart Communities certification is powerful action that local governments can take,” said John B. Rhodes, President and CEO, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), “and one of the steps to earning the Clean Energy Community designation to become eligible for NYSERDA support for additional clean energy projects.”
“I applaud Ulster County and the Town of Mamaroneck on highlighting the importance of climate change and congratulate them on achieving the status of Climate Smart Communities,” said New York Secretary of State Rossana Rosado. “Through the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program and the state’s Coastal Management Program, the Department of State has appreciated the opportunity to work with both to incorporate resilience and sea level rise into forward-thinking waterfront planning and development projects.”
The Climate Smart Communities Certification program, announced in 2014, recognizes demonstrated accomplishments in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and energy use, and adaptation to changing climatic conditions. In addition to the Town of Mamaroneck and Ulster County, DEC has designated seven Certified Climate Smart Communities: City of Albany, Town of Cortlandt, Town of East Hampton, Village of Dobbs Ferry (bronze), City of Kingston (bronze), Orange County, and City of Watervliet. In August, Governor Cuomo announced the Clean Energy Communities initiative, which complements the Climate Smart Communities program to recognize and reward local governments for their clean energy and climate leadership.
Ulster County Executive Michael Hein said, “Ulster County is proud to be the most environmentally friendly County in the State of New York, having purchased 100% of our electricity from renewable resources and being the only municipality to be net carbon-neutral. We have enormous respect for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation for their stewardship and protection of our pristine environment that is one of our greatest attractions for visitors and residents alike.”
The Ulster County Legislature formally adopted the Climate Smart Community Pledge in August 2011. Eight local governments in Ulster County also currently participate in the program, including the City of Kingston, which has also achieved bronze-level certification.
Mamaroneck Town Supervisor, Nancy Seligson, said, “I’m proud to say that the Town of Mamaroneck has been a leader in environmental initiatives for many years. In 2014 the Town entered into an Energy Performance Contract renovating the ice rink, Town Center, and Fire House that included reducing energy use and costs. We’re lucky to live in a state where reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions is a priority.”
New York has long been a national leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions as a partner in the nation’s first carbon dioxide trading program for power plants, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a model for the federal Clean Power Plan, as well as ongoing energy initiatives such as NY Green Bank, NY-Sun, Charge NY, NY Prize, and BuildSmart NY.