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For Release: Thursday, March 4, 2021

DEC Announces Three New Certified Climate Smart Communities: Towns of New Lebanon and Philipstown, Village of Irvington

Actions Support Nation-Leading Goals of Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act

Certified Municipalities Are Models for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Building Local Climate Resilience

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced the latest round of communities to achieve certification as part of New York State's Climate Smart Communities program, which supports municipal efforts to meet the economic, social, and environmental challenges posed by climate change. By taking meaningful steps to mitigate and adapt to climate change, three local governments successfully met criteria to be recognized as leaders during the first quarter round of review. The three communities-the towns of New Lebanon and Philipstown and the village of Irvington-all achieved bronze-level certification.

"New York State remains committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing clean energy sources, and building more resilient communities," said Commissioner Seggos. "These newly certified Climate Smart Communities are models for municipalities across the state in terms of local climate leadership, meaningful actions to reduce pollution, and efforts to protect community assets from flooding and severe weather driven by climate change."

The Climate Smart Communities program is jointly sponsored by seven state agencies: DEC, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), New York Power Authority, Department of State, Department of Health, Department of Transportation, and Department of Public Service. Started in 2009, the program provides guidance and technical support to local governments to take locally driven climate action. The first step to becoming climate smart is to register by pledging to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change. To date, 322 local governments have adopted the Climate Smart Communities pledge; these communities represent more than 9.2 million New Yorkers.

The certification program was launched in 2014 to document and celebrate the accomplishments of leading communities. There are now 65 certified Climate Smart Communities in New York State. To be certified, communities must show that they have an active task force that includes residents and municipal representatives. In addition, certified communities can earn points by taking actions such as installing electric vehicle charging stations and putting solar panels on municipal buildings. Most certified communities also complete greenhouse gas inventories that calculate emissions at the local level and help local leaders identify how best to help New York State meet the aggressive greenhouse gas limits laid out in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA). Online certification reports (leaves DEC's website) describe the specific actions that each certified community took to achieve certification.

New York's newest certified Climate Smart Communities are:

Capital District - Town of New Lebanon

The town of New Lebanon, Columbia County, completed 22 actions to achieve bronze-level certification, including a natural resources inventory and a climate vulnerability assessment focused on seasonal drought. The New Lebanon Climate Smart Communities task force set up a "Free Store" at the Town Hall where residents can donate and receive clothing and other small items at no cost. The task force also created a local bicycle recycling program. Since June 2020, the program has refurbished 40 donated bikes and repaired 20 more for members of the community.

Mid-Hudson - Village of Irvington and Town of Philipstown

The village of Irvington completed 17 actions to achieve bronze-level certification, including a flood mitigation plan covering all local waterbodies and an energy audit of the historic village hall building. Irvington, as part of the Sustainable Westchester consortium, also implemented a community choice aggregation program in 2016 to reduce energy costs and prioritize purchase of renewable power for its residents.

The town of Philipstown, Putnam County, completed 16 actions to achieve certification, including a government operations greenhouse gas inventory and a community choice aggregation program. Philipstown also established an open space conservation overlay district that helps to conserve natural areas within the town.

All three of the newly awarded communities also participate in NYSERDA's Clean Energy Communities program (leaves DEC's website) that assists local governments to implement clean energy actions, save energy costs, and improve the environment and the towns of New Lebanon and Philipstown are designated as Clean Energy Communities.

Doreen M. Harris, Acting President and CEO, NYSERDA, said, "Climate Smart Communities are helping the State combat climate change by reducing harmful emissions across the state resulting in healthier, more resilient places to live and work for all New Yorkers. Congratulations to the towns of New Lebanon and Philipstown and the village of Irvington on their designations and for leading by example as they partner with us to achieve our nation-leading clean energy and climate goals."

Climate Smart Communities Funding Programs

Two of the communities certified today received funding through DEC's Climate Smart Communities Grant program. Established in 2016, this 50/50 matching grant program supports municipalities in completing certification actions and implementing projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build resilience to extreme weather.

Philipstown received two DEC grants for a set of actions that helped the town achieve certification: community greenhouse gas inventory; municipal fleet inventory; complete streets policy; heat emergency plan; and a natural resources inventory. The town's community greenhouse gas inventory is one of New York State's most comprehensive and innovative reports completed by a local jurisdiction. In the report, Philipstown moved beyond traditional approaches by including considerations for forests and land use along with household consumption patterns. For more information, visit ICLEI's website. In addition, the village of Irvington received a $299,317 DEC grant to reduce local flood risk through a culvert right-sizing project.

All three of the communities certified today have in prior years received awards under DEC's Municipal Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program. Both New Lebanon and Philipstown received grants to install electric-vehicle charging stations for public use. The village of Irvington received a $5,000 rebate on the purchase of an electric vehicle for its municipal fleet.

Since 2016, DEC has awarded more than $39 million in Climate Smart Communities grants and over $4.8 million in ZEV rebates and grants for ZEV infrastructure projects. For more information, visit DEC's website.

New York State's Nation-Leading Climate Plan

Governor Cuomo's nation-leading climate agenda is the most aggressive climate and clean energy initiative in the nation, calling for an orderly and just transition to clean energy that creates jobs and continues fostering a green economy as New York State recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. Enshrined into law through the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, New York is on a path to achieving its mandated goal of a zero-emission electricity sector by 2040, including 70 percent renewable energy generation by 2030, and to reach economy wide carbon neutrality. It builds on New York's unprecedented ramp-up of clean energy including over $4 billion invested in 91 large-scale renewable projects across the state, supporting more than 150,000 jobs in New York's clean energy sector in 2019, a commitment to develop 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind by 2035, and 1,800 percent growth in the distributed solar sector since 2011. Under Governor Cuomo's leadership, New York will build on this progress and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent from 1990 levels by 2050, while ensuring that at least 35 percent with a goal of 40 percent of the benefits of clean energy investments benefit disadvantaged communities and advancing progress towards the state's 2025 energy efficiency target of reducing on-site energy consumption by 185 trillion BTUs of end-use energy savings.

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