DEC and NYSERDA Recognize Sullivan County as a Model for Actions to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Build Climate Resiliency

Sullivan County Designated as Certified Climate Smart Community and Clean Energy Community

August 08, 2017

The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) today recognized Sullivan County as a model municipality for its actions to strengthen resiliency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In recognition of this achievement, DEC designated Sullivan County as the 15th Certified Climate Smart Community in New York. In addition, NYSERDA recently designated the county as a Clean Energy Community. These achievements support Governor Andrew M. Cuomo's aggressive goals to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030 and reduce emissions 80 percent by 2050.

DEC Regional Director Kelly Turturro congratulated Luis Alvarez, Chair of the Sullivan County Legislature, and presented him with two street signs highlighting the county’s certification at an event today in Monticello, New York. Also at the event, Bradford Tito, NYSERDA Program Manager, Communities & Local Governments, recognized Sullivan County's designation as a Clean Energy Community.

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “I applaud Sullivan County for its commitment to climate action, particularly how the county has engaged both its employees and community residents to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The county has expanded its reliance on clean, renewable power and worked hard to preserve the area’s rural character and agricultural economy. I congratulate Chairman Alvarez and county staff on achieving these designations, and I hope others are inspired by their example.”

Alicia Barton, President and CEO, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, said, “By taking a holistic approach, Sullivan County has made tremendous strides in supporting Governor Cuomo’s energy goals and fight climate change. I congratulate the County on being designated a Clean Energy Community and named a Certified Climate Smart Community and commend everyone involved for making New York’s environment cleaner and healthier.”

Certified Climate Smart Community

Launched in 2014, the Climate Smart Communities Certification Program recognizes local governments that have taken action to reduce emissions and protect their communities from a changing climate. More information is available here.

Sullivan County stepped forward as a leader in the fight against climate change by producing a climate action plan in 2014 that focuses on government operations. The plan was the culmination of a multi-step, collaborative process to become more environmentally responsible that began in 2005. A key partner in the process was the Sullivan County Climate Action Planning Advisory Board, which included of a range of community stakeholders, including small business owners, town board members, a local attorney with environmental expertise, an organic farmer, and an Episcopal priest.

As part of its climate action plan, Sullivan County set a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from government operations by 50 percent by 2020 from 2011 levels.

Sullivan County has been moving toward this goal by switching to solar energy to power county facilities. The county owns two solar electric arrays, a 15-kilowatt solar array in Bethel and a 50-kilowatt solar array in Liberty. Early this year, through a power purchase agreement, Sullivan County also began drawing solar power from a two- megawatt array that is owned and operated by third party but located on county property.

The county has incentivized the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions outside of its own operations by establishing the Sullivan County Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Reimbursement Program. The program offers up to $5,000 to municipalities and public libraries located in Sullivan County for the installation of electric vehicle charging stations for public use.

Sullivan County also earned points under the Climate Smart Communities Certification Program for its support of farmland protection and promotion of farmers’ markets. For example, the county not only created its own agriculture and farmland protection plan, it also provided planning support to several local municipalities, enabling them to pass right-to-farm laws and create farmland protection plans of their own. One recent initiative to promote farmers’ markets is Sullivan County’s “Spend Ten” campaign, which rewards shoppers with a gift when they spend ten dollars at one of the county’s seven farmers’ markets.

Sullivan County illustrates the positive impact of investing time and resources on sustainability and preserving the county’s rural character. In 2012, the Sullivan County legislature established a standing committee on agriculture and sustainability policy to increase attention to this crucial economic sector. In addition, the Office of Sustainable Energy was staffed on January 1, 2017 and now, only seven months later, Sullivan County has become a Certified Climate Smart Community.

Clean Energy Community

NYSERDA's Clean Energy Communities initiative recognizes municipalities that complete four of 10 high-impact clean energy actions, one of which is earning the Climate Smart Communities Certification designation. More information is available here.

In addition to being designated as a Certified Climate Smart Community, Sullivan County completed the following clean energy actions:

  • Partnered with a local non-profit to run a community-based solarize campaign to provide public education and outreach to reduce solar project cost through joint purchasing
  • Established an Energize NY Finance Program that enables long-term, affordable Property Assessed Clean Energy Financing for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects at commercial buildings and not-for-profits
  • Approved an energy benchmarking policy to track and report energy use in county buildings

“I’m thrilled to say that what was a major goal for the Sullivan County Legislature has now become a major achievement,” said Sullivan County Legislature Chairman Luis Alvarez. “This certification shows how far we’ve come – and how far we intend to go in being an inspiring example for other counties and communities. We will continue to promote responsible stewardship of our resources, and the good news is, we can save taxpayers money at the same time.”

“Sullivan County’s initiatives are setting a local standard for responsible, sustainable and cost-effective solutions to energy and climate issues,” said District 4 Legislator Catherine Owens, who chairs the Sullivan County Legislature’s Agriculture and Sustainability Policy Committee. “We’ve recently inaugurated a new solar array which is powering our Adult Care Center and Social Services complex, we’re embarking on an energy-efficient retrofit of our Government Center’s heating, ventilation and lighting systems, and we’re working with all our municipalities to constantly find ways to save both money and the climate. This year, we created an Office of Sustainability and named Heather Brown the Sustainability Coordinator. I am grateful to her and colleagues Carol Roig and Stephen Stuart for spreading the message across Sullivan County that we need not accept climate change or expensive energy as inevitable. I’m very, very proud to be a part of such a wonderful effort, one now recognized statewide!”

“Becoming one of the first Certified Climate Smart Communities in New York State demonstrates Sullivan County’s commitment to being a leader in environmentally conscious innovation,” said Sullivan County Manager Josh Potosek. “We’ve been a leader ever since we instituted mandatory recycling 25 years ago, and we have involved every County division in this effort. I thank them all for helping us achieve this milestone.”

This announcement complements Governor Cuomo's leadership in establishing the U.S. Climate Alliance with California Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr., and Washington State Governor Jay Inslee. The three states formed the alliance in response to the federal government’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Accord. The alliance is convening U.S. states committed to achieving the U.S. goal of reducing emissions 26- 28 percent from 2005 levels and meeting or exceeding the targets of the federal Clean Power Plan. Announced by New York, California and Washington State, the alliance now includes 14 members. With input from all participants, the U.S. Climate Alliance will also act as a forum to sustain and strengthen existing climate programs, promote the sharing of information and best practices, and implement new programs to reduce carbon emissions from all sectors of the economy.

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