By Jamie Swinnerton
The City of Ithaca was recognized by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) last Wednesday, Jan. 31, as a leader in taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build climate resiliency. Ithaca is now the 17th certified Climate Smart Community in the state of New York. Locally, the Town of Ithaca and Tompkins County have both earned this certification.
One of the many efforts recognized was the City’s commitment to making it easier for local consumers to choose more energy efficient and green options for their transportation by installing local electric vehicle charging stations. In recognition of these efforts, Wednesday’s ceremony was held at the Cayuga Street Garage electric vehicle charging station on the third floor. All of the event’s speakers pledged to keep comments to a minimum in light of it being 21 degrees outside.
“What it really means is that they have not only pledged to be a climate smart community, but they have demonstrated that they have a plan, that they’ve applied that plan, and they’re getting results from that plan,” said DEC Executive Deputy Commissioner Kenneth Lynch about the certification. “They started this program back in 2009 and continued to build, doing many things across this community to achieve that certification.”
This plan, according to a DEC press release, is called an Energy Action Plan. In addition to the plan, Ithaca has earned certification points in nearly all of the 10 Climate Smart Community Pledge Elements, which starts with taking the pledge, and includes decreasing community energy use, supporting the development of a green innovation economy, and commit to an evolving process of climate action, among others.
“The City has done many things, not just what we have here in your charging station, which is a great example of what communities can do,” Lynch said. “They’ve also made the City a walkable place. They have a green building policy project, which demonstrates that you can do things with all your city facilities to reduce climate change.”
According to the DEC release, Ithaca reduced greenhouse gas emissions from government buildings by 20 percent between 2001 and 2010. Over the last six years the city has purchased enough Green-E Certified Renewable Energy Credits to offset 100 percent of the electricity use in municipal facilities.
Lynch presented City of Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick with two street signs highlighting the city’s certification.
“The greatest threat to the health and wellbeing of the people on earth is the changing climate, and the greatest contributor to that changing climate is carbon emissions,” Myrick said, explaining why the City put in the time, effort and money to become a certified Climate Smart Community. “It’s a simple fact. The solutions to it, it turns out, are fairly simple too.”
Myrick thanked all the other city officials and staff who helped make the certification happen, including former Mayor, Carolyn Peterson, and former City Council members.
“I want to thank, in closing, New York State,” Myrick said. “They don’t have to go out of their way to recognize local communities who are leading. They could just pat themselves on the back when they do a good job – which they continue to do – with their own facilities. But by bringing in all the local communities, they’re broadening their impact and recognizing those who are doing work on the front lines.”
Patrick Phillips, Vice President of Allpro Parking, the company that manages the Cayuga Street Garage, spoke to the upgrades that the facility has seen over the last few years, including new LED lights.
“So, here we are today in front of the first EV charging station,” Phillips said, “and I think back to 10 years ago. We were having conversations – a little more than conversations – about EV charging stations. There were questions about was the demand there? And I will tell you that we worked on various projects throughout the state, and the demand is there. We’re seeing heavy use in our installations.”
With growing demand for charging stations, Phillips said Allpro looks forward to more EV charging station projects in the future.
Regional Director for the DEC, Matthew Marko, got in the last word at the event by giving a regional thank you to the City of Ithaca and Mayor Myrick, and an assurance of more cooperation between the city and the DEC on future environmental projects.