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For Release: Wednesday, September 26, 2018

DEC Announces Two New Certified Climate Smart Communities

Towns of Tusten and Bethel Achieve Bronze Certification for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Energy Use

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced today that two Sullivan County towns, Tusten and Bethel, have earned designation as New York's 19th and 20th State-Certified Climate Smart Communities, respectively.

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 these communities for their 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. The towns of Bethel and Tusten are demonstrating what is possible with committed leadership and serve as examples to the rest of the state."

At an event in Narrowsburg, DEC Regional Director Kelly Turturro congratulated Bethel Town Supervisor Daniel Sturm and Tusten Town Supervisor and Energy Committee member Carol Ropke Wingert for their municipalities' achievements. Turturro presented each with street signs declaring the town of Bethel and the town of Tusten Certified Climate Smart Communities.

The town of Bethel has undertaken several initiatives to encourage the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy and lower its greenhouse gas emissions. It has incentivized renewable energy projects by adopting a solar law that encourages both residential and commercial solar installations throughout the town. In addition, working with the federal EPA and graduate engineering students of Cornell University, the town secured a report assessing the feasibility of installing a commercial solar installation on its capped landfill. This community solar project, scheduled to be completed next year, will supply town government operations, residents and businesses with renewable energy at a sizable discount. Besides transitioning to renewable energy for its municipal operations, the Town has worked to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by revising its zoning code to establish a Forest Conservation District, conducting extensive energy audits of its buildings, adopting a vehicle fleet policy, purchasing its first fully electric vehicle and installing an EV recharging station in its public parking.

"We are thrilled to have achieved this important milestone," Bethel Town Supervisor Daniel Sturm said. "Our Bronze Certification recognizes the significant projects that our town has undertaken to conserve energy, move to renewable energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and otherwise make Bethel a more environmentally sustainable community. And it will also favorably position the Town to secure grants in the future to undertake additional projects."

Tusten's climate smart actions began with installing a solar array to supply power for all town buildings and facilities with no cost to the taxpayers. This spring, the town is replacing all of its streetlights with energy efficient LED lights. In addition, the town has educated residents about environmental dangers of plastic bags and plastic straws, and provided free tote bags made of recycled material to each household in the town. In addition, the town of Tusten spoke to every restaurant in town about replacing plastic straws with paper, metal, or pasta straws and is now almost entirely plastic straw free. The town has also labeled every trash receptacle with Tusten Recycles stickers, and all electronic waste, paper, plastic, glass and cans is recycling in its government offices and facilities. As a result of these efforts, Tusten has reduced its carbon footprint and is now "carbon neutral." The town pledged to be a "Climate Smart Community," to reach energy efficient goals throughout town.

Town of Tusten Supervisor and Energy Committee member Carol Ropke Wingert said, "In 2012 I realized that I had a unique opportunity to reduce our town's carbon footprint. It was then that I appointed the Town of Tusten's Energy Committee and soon thereafter our town board voted to adopt the Climate Smart Community Pledge. With Brandi Merolla leading the way as Chair, our committee has worked tirelessly toward the goal of being declared a Certified Climate Smart Community. A greater reward than this recognition though is in the knowledge that we are making a significant impact on reducing our communities' carbon footprint, thus making a difference for generations to come. We are very proud of this accomplishment and thank all who have been involved with these goals."

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, and the departments of State, Transportation, Public Service, and Health. There are 241 Registered Climate Smart Communities, representing 7.5 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.

The Climate Smart Communities Certification program, announced in 2014, recognizes demonstrated accomplishments in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and adaptation to a changing climate. In addition to the towns of Bethel and Tusten, DEC has designated 18 Certified Climate Smart Communities; visit the Climate Smart Communities website to learn more and view their certification reports (link leaves DEC's website). In 2016, 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.

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.

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.

To learn more, visit the DEC website and refer to the Climate Smart Communities Guide to Local Action webpage.

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