Governor Cuomo Launches Grant Program for Projects to Support Cleaner, Greener Communities in North Country

$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 endorsed by the North Country 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 smart growth planning 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 plan, completed by a consortium of dozens of municipal leaders and organizations, 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 to enhance the quality of rural communities, sustainable management of its natural resources while growing the innovative local economy to attract entrepreneurs and provide an exceptional quality of life.

North Country plan statistics:

  • The North Country has more than 4 million acres of timberland and almost 600,000 acres of crop land.
  • The region covers 24 percent of the state’s land area, yet contributes to only three percent of statewide greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The region already generates 94 percent of its electricity through renewable sources.
  • Due to its expansive land area and reliance on automotive travel, the North Country’s transportation sector contributes to 40 percent of the region’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, presenting one of the biggest challenges to the region. However the region is already making progress; over 18 percent of commuters reported traveling to work by carpool, public transit, biking, or walking.

North Country plan highlights:

The North Country Sustainability Plan, “Our Economy,” builds on the North Country’s Regional Economic Development Vision and Strategies, detailing a roadmap to achieve the greenest and most self-reliant energy economy in the State and embracing the creation of strong local economies that will attract investment based on abundant natural and community assets.

  • Renewable energy recommendation: Exponentially increase the use of biomass as a thermal heating fuel. With more New York State manufactured high-efficiency, low-emissions biomass heating systems available, transitioning homes, businesses, and institutional buildings from heating with imported oil to heating with biomass will generate stable, local jobs in the forestry, processing, manufacturing and distribution industries and keep energy dollars in the local economy.
  • Transportation efficiency recommendation. Improve road and freight infrastructure and promote regional collaboration. Transportation strategies in the Plan call for inter-county collaboration to expand public transit routes; expanding broadband installations to promote telecommuting and e-commerce opportunities and reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMTs); creating more affordable transportation options for residents; improving aging transportation infrastructure; and developing intermodal sites for freight shipping with an emphasis on rail for freight.
  • Working lands recommendation. Protect excellent water quality and grow agriculture and forest industries. The North Country’s working lands and waters, including forests, agricultural lands and access to some of the best recreation assets in the Northeast, are a driver of the region’s economy, quality of life and community development. The growth in demand for locally produced and value added food products is already attracting young farmers, driving growth, and expanding eco-, agri- and cultural tourism experiences. In addition, growth of the renewable energy market through locally grown and produced biomass grows the forestry industry.
  • Vibrant downtowns recommendation. Revitalize existing main streets and build resilient communities. Most North Country towns and villages were founded on what we would now call Smart Growth principles – concentrating development in walkable downtown areas that offer local amenities and constructing solid, long-lasting buildings. These communities retain historical value with unique architecture and cultural sites and are already embarking on revitalization efforts which reduce emissions by adopting higher energy-efficiency standards and reducing dependence on cars.

The complete North Country Sustainability Plan is available at opens in new window - close new window to return to this page..

In accordance with the 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 a greenhouse gas (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 North Country 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 North Country plan, including 13 consortium members from the seven counties, 200 professionals who were active in working groups and 200 stakeholders who attended public meetings in person and via webinar.

The North Country consortium was led by representatives from each of the seven North Country counties — Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, St. Lawrence, Jefferson and Lewis. Essex County served as municipal sponsor of the plan.

Anthony G. Collins, President of Clarkson University and Co-Chair of the North Country REDC, said, “The North Country aims to be a leader in New York State's Clean Energy economy. The Cleaner, Greener Communities Plan identifies areas to expand our efforts and supports the NCREDC’s vision to create the greenest and most self-reliant energy economy in the State. While wind and hydropower are well established in the region, this plan shows us ample room for growth in all renewables, including thermal heating energy for households and buildings, and for the generation of utility-scale energy with biomass. By encouraging broad public review and usage of this plan, we will be able to generate new opportunities and identify future priority projects for the region.”

Garry Douglas, President of the North Country Chamber of Commerce and Co-Chair of the North Country REDC, said, “This plan is partly about doing many things in not just a cleaner, greener way, but in more efficient and cost-effective ways. At the same time, it points the way to some real economic opportunities for the North Country related to renewable energy development, for example, and identifies some of the strategies and ingredients that are required, including greener transportation options like rail. This plan now stands alongside the general Regional Economic Development Plan as a tool for devising well-conceived strategies, programs and projects, and we thank the hundreds of people across the region who took part in developing it."

Garrett Dague, Deputy County Planner, Essex County said, “On behalf of Essex County, the lead entity on this project, I thank the hundreds of people across the region who participated in a truly grassroots process. Stakeholders were a blend of local governments, community leaders, large and small business owners and nonprofits, who collaborated on a regional plan that demonstrates how activities can be coordinated to achieve reductions in energy use and emissions, increased renewable energy production and community 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 North Country sustainability planning process, please contact Kate Fish, Adirondack North Country Association, 518-891-6200 or