Governor Cuomo Launches Grant Program for Projects to Support Cleaner, Greener Communities in Finger Lakes

$30 Million in First Round of Grants to Implement Projects for Smart Growth, Improved Energy Efficiency, Green Jobs and Greenhouse Gas Reduction

June 27, 2013

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced $30 million in the first round of funding for the implementation of regional sustainability plans, including the plan recently endorsed by the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council. The plans were developed under the governor’s $100 million Cleaner, Greener Communities program, a major statewide initiative to invest in planning and sustainability and sustainability.

“This first round of funding will put each region’s sustainability plans to action,” Governor Cuomo said. “Through the Cleaner, Greener Communities program, regions across the state have developed plans from the bottom up, building on their assets and identifying needs, to create green jobs for New Yorkers while investing in projects that improve energy efficiency and reduce pollution. These plans will help accelerate our clean energy economy and improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers.”

The Finger Lakes plan, which outlines the region’s vision, goals and objectives for a sustainable future, identifies a number of regional assets and makes recommendations for building on those assets. It provides a framework of initiatives that leverage the area’s unique character and assets and integrate and advance its natural, built, human and social and financial capital, which serve as the foundations of its environment, economic and society.

A consortium of dozens of municipal leaders and organizations completed the plan, which estimates that the Finger Lakes can meet its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction targets of 35 percent by 2050.

Finger Lakes plan statistics:

  • New York State’s top agricultural region, including five of the top 10 counties in agricultural sales.
  • Approximately 15 percent of the region’s trips are made by walking, bicycling, carpooling and transit and the region has made great strides in advancing clean fuel technology.
  • By leveraging alternative and renewable energy sources, less than 20 percent of the region’s energy generation results in direct GHG emissions.
  • Complex biomass research and development focusing on waste-to-energy is taking place at regional institutions and private companies. The intent is to improve resiliency and reduce the need to import energy while also addressing the region’s waste, particularly organic waste.

Finger Lakes plan highlights:

  • Energy recommendation: Develop, produce and employ alternative energy including identifying funding for and implementation of projects that use food waste to produce energy. This strategy supports energy self-reliance and reduces the need to import 4.8 million megawatt hours (MWh) of electricity. It also addresses the organic waste generation inherent in being the state’s top agricultural region and a home to a cluster of food processors.
  • Material Management recommendation: Reduce the amount of solid waste generated in the region through the development of innovative approaches to: 1) reduce packaging, 2) incorporate sustainable materials in packaging, and 3) develop reusable packaging. This strategy is directly aligned with the Finger Lakes REDC Regional Strategy to Strengthen Academic and Industry Partnerships. It also leverages the region’s research and development assets, particularly Rochester Institute of Technology’s Center for Packaging Innovation.
  • Water Management recommendation: Improve and protect the water environment with respect to quality, quantity and availability through promotion of regional standardization of regulations and management. This strategy will include the continued provision of training and technical resources to support local government in the implementation of land use regulations to protect water resources and mitigate flooding. The region’s approach to water management will maximize the social, economic and ecological potential of water resources toward equitable sharing of benefits.

The complete Finger Lakes sustainability plan is available at opens in new window - close new window to return to this page..

In accordance with Cleaner, Greener Communities program objectives, the plan addresses the following subject areas: energy, transportation, land use and livable communities, waste management, water management, economic development and agriculture/forestry. In addition, each regional planning consortium conducted GHG emissions study that calculated current GHG emissions and projected GHG reductions that would result from implementing the sustainability plan.

“Through Governor Cuomo’s Cleaner, Greener Communities program, the Finger Lakes will significantly improve the economic development and environmental well-being of its communities. By integrating sustainable growth strategies with regional economic development, this program can create more jobs, greater opportunity and a better quality of life for the region’s residents,” said Francis J. Murray Jr., President and CEO, NYSERDA.

A wide range of stakeholders participated in development of the Finger Lakes sustainability plan, including approximately 170 participants in public meetings. Close to 500 people made up six stakeholder groups, and there were 1,300 unique website visitors, 2,347 total website views and more than 100 strategy capture forms submitted through the website.

The coalition is comprised of the counties of Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Wayne, Wyoming and Yates; the City of Rochester and other local governments; the Genesee/Finger Lakes Regional Planning Council; and the Genesee Transportation Council. Monroe County led the planning process for the region.

Joel Seligman, President of University of Rochester and Finger Lakes REDC Co-Chair, said, “Governor Cuomo’s Cleaner, Greener Communities program has enabled the Finger Lakes region to develop a strong platform for sustainable and smart growth initiatives based on a common vision, goals and strategies. The Finger Lakes Regional Sustainability is closely aligned with the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council strategic plan and builds on existing sustainability efforts, ensuring its success in making the region a healthy, safe and affordable place to live. I look forward to launching the plans for improving the long-term sustainability of our communities and natural resources.”

Danny Wegman, CEO of Wegmans Food Markets and Finger Lakes REDC Co-Chair, said, “The Finger Lakes Regional Sustainability Plan guides integrated, sustainable solutions to improve our quality of life. Governor Cuomo established the Cleaner, Greener New York Program to empower regions to create more sustainable communities by funding smart development practices—and that is exactly what we are doing. The result will be a healthy, safe and affordable place to live, work and play for all residents for current and future generations.”

Rochester Mayor Thomas S. Richards said, “I want to thank Gov. Cuomo, NYSERDA and all our partners in the region who worked so diligently to develop the Finger Lakes Regional Sustainability Plan. The strategies included in this document will play an important role in helping us invest in Rochester’s transformation. As we move forward to implement the plan, we can look forward to a cleaner environment, greater energy efficiency, renewable energy and more jobs in the Rochester region.”

Richard Perrin, Genesee Transportation Council, said, “The Finger Lakes Regional Sustainability Plan provides a shared vision for advancing policies and projects that will ensure our community continues to thrive economically, environmentally and equitably.”

David Zorn, Genesee/Finger Lakes Regional Planning Council, said, “The development of the Finger Lakes Regional Sustainability Plan provided an excellent opportunity for an entire region to come together and assess, analyze, learn and plan for the future of the Genesee-Finger Lakes Region.”

County Executive Maggie Brooks said, “Monroe County is dedicated to upholding the standards set by the Cleaner, Greener Communities program as we continue to develop strong, collaborative solutions for sustainability. In coordination with NYSERDA, our area will benefit tremendously from this state-of-the-art plan put in place to protect our environment and enhance economic development.”

The Regional Economic Development Council initiative (REDC) is a key component of Governor Cuomo’s efforts to spur economic development and job creation across New York State. In 2011, Governor Cuomo established 10 REDCs to develop long-term strategic plans for economic growth for their regions. The Councils are public-private partnerships composed of local experts and stakeholders from business, academia, local government, and non-governmental organizations. As a result of the first two rounds of competitive awards, the State is supporting more than 1,450 regionally significant economic development and community revitalization projects. For more information on the Regional Councils, please visit regionalcouncils.ny.govLink opens in new window - close new window to return to this page..

Funding for the Cleaner, Greener Communities program is through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. For more information on program, including instructions on submitting grant proposals through the Consolidated Funding Application, please visit

For further information on the Finger Lakes sustainability planning process, please contact David Zorn, Genesee/Finger Lakes Regional Planning Council, 585-454-0190,