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For Release: Friday, May 28, 2021

DEC Announces Six New Certified Climate Smart Communities

Local Actions Support Nation-Leading Goals of New York's Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act

Certified 'Climate Smart' 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 locally led efforts to meet the economic, social, and environmental challenges posed by climate change. By taking meaningful steps to mitigate and adapt to climate change, six local governments successfully met the criteria to be recognized as leaders during the second quarter round of review. Five communities achieved bronze-level certification and one (Ulster County) renewed its silver-level certification. New York's newly certified Climate Smart Communities are Westchester and Ulster counties, the cities of Hudson and Schenectady, and the villages of Athens and Sherburne.

"DEC applauds the work of these six communities who are helping address the climate crisis by acting locally and bolstering New York State's climate leadership by doing so," Commissioner Seggos said. "We look forward to working with these Climate Smart Communities and other local leaders who are incorporating clean energy, climate resiliency, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions, among other actions, in plans that benefit local residents and New York State."

Started in 2009, the interagency Climate Smart Communities 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, 332 local governments-representing more than 9.3 million New Yorkers-have adopted the Climate Smart Communities pledge.

The certification program was launched in 2014 to document and celebrate the accomplishments of communities taking climate action. There are now 70 certified Climate Smart Communities in New York State. To be certified, communities must demonstrate an active climate change task force that includes residents and municipal representatives. Most certified communities complete greenhouse gas inventories that calculate emissions at the local level and help local leaders identify how best to help New York State meet its ambitious greenhouse gas reductions.

New York's newest certified Climate Smart Communities:

Capital District - Village of Athens and City of Schenectady

The village of Athens achieved the bronze level, in part by incorporating sustainability elements into its updated comprehensive plan. The village is particularly proud of how its climate change task force is building a stronger sense of community.

To reach the bronze level, the city of Schenectady earned points for installing LED streetlights and a 711 kW solar array. The city also developed a preliminary climate vulnerability assessment and adaptation plan.

Mid-Hudson - City of Hudson, Westchester County, and Ulster County

The city of Hudson's bronze certification is a reflection of its commitment to improving bicycle infrastructure and supporting the Empire State Trail (leaves DEC's website), which goes through the city. In partnership with the local Cornell Cooperative Extension office, Hudson produced a flood guide and a road-stream crossing management plan.

Westchester County earned points through its waste management practices and related outreach programs, which include a household materials recovery center and a residential food scraps recycling initiative. The county's transportation initiatives were also key in its certification, and include a complete streets policy, electric vehicle charging stations, incentives to encourage employees to carpool, and enforcing its anti-idling ordinance.

A long-standing leader in climate action, Ulster County renewed its silver-level certification during this round. Ulster County was one of the first municipalities to be certified after the launch of the Climate Smart Communities certification program in 2014. The county has a comprehensive and sophisticated strategy that includes both climate mitigation and adaption, and a commitment to building the capacity of the municipalities in Ulster County to face the challenge of a changing climate.

Southern Tier - Village of Sherburne

To reach the bronze level, the village of Sherburne focused on its internal operations, developing a greenhouse gas inventory, fleet inventory, and climate action plan to reduce the emissions from its facilities. The village also invested in LED streetlights and a 10 kWa solar array.

For more information, see the online certification reports (leaves DEC's website) that describe all the actions that each certified community took to achieve certification.

All six of the newly awarded communities also participate in NYSERDA's Clean Energy Communities (leaves DEC's website) program, which assists local governments to implement clean energy actions and save on energy costs. Five of the six, the village of Athens, city of Schenectady, city of Hudson, village of Sherburne, and Ulster County, have completed a least four high-impact actions and have been designated as Clean Energy Communities. Westchester County has completed two high-impact actions under the program.

Doreen M. Harris, Acting President and CEO, NYSERDA, said, "Municipal leadership in the fight against climate change creates a more sustainable future that benefits residents and businesses alike and strong community engagement creates a compelling wave of participation that inspires more residents to embrace cleaner, greener energy and transportation options. As part of the State's clean energy and climate plan, our collaborative efforts are spurring long-term change that provides New Yorkers with options to lower their carbon footprint in the heart of where they live and work each day."

DEC Climate Smart Communities Funding Programs

Three of the communities certified today received funding through the DEC Climate Smart Communities Grant program-the city of Schenectady, and Ulster and Westchester counties. 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.

Two of the communities certified today have received awards under DEC's Municipal Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program in prior years. The ZEV program offers grants to install electric-vehicle charging stations for public use and rebates on the purchase (or lease) of electric vehicles for municipal fleets. Under past rounds of the ZEV program, the village of Sherburne has received over $14,000 and Ulster County has received a total of over $125,000 in awards.

For more about these funding programs, 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 achieve 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 investments to ramp-up clean energy including over $21 billion in 91 large-scale renewable projects across the state, $6.8 billion to reduce buildings emissions, $1.8 billion to scale up solar, more than $1 billion for clean transportation initiatives, and over $1.2 billion in NY Green Bank commitments. Combined, these investments are supporting more than 150,000 jobs in New York's clean energy sector in 2019, a 2,100 percent growth in the distributed solar sector since 2011 and a commitment to develop 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind by 2035. 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 are directed to disadvantaged communities, and advance 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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