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Village of Lansing

As municipalities deal with a changing environment, 282 communities have registered as Climate Smart Communities across New York State.  34 of those have become certified for making progress on goals that are aimed at helping the municipalities mitigate such things as extreme weather, flooding, and other impacts of more extreme weather we seem to be experiencing.  The Village of Lansing Trustees debated whether they should join the program by passing a resolution, suggested by the State, that would commit them to formalizing their ongoing discussion about what should be done.  While a number of people spoke in favor of joining the program, Mayor Donald Hartill expressed skepticism that passing the resolution would have any tangible benefit to the Village, and fear that it opened the Village to being dictated to by the State.

"It's a bit prescriptive and without very clear measures of of how well you're doing," Hartill said. "That has my concern, certainly, and it's pretty much a feel-good resolution. usually feel-good resolutions are precisely that.  I tend to be more of a person who likes to see proposed activities which you can then measure against those activities, and not just a laundry list of good feeling things."

Tompkins County and the Town of Ithaca were recognized in 2017 as New York's 12th and 14th local governments to be designated as Certified Climate Smart Communities. Tomkins County had Bronze certification when it joined the program, and just over a year ago achieved Silver certification. Ulysses became the State’s 21st Certified Climate Smart Community by achieving the bronze level, and the City of Ithaca was certified Bronze in 2018. Caroline joined at Bronze level in 2019, and Dryden achieved Bronze level certification in September of this year.

Trustee/Deputy Mayor Ronny Hardaway disagreed, arguing that passing the resolution starts a discussion in the Village, and, with no state-imposed deadlines, could be a valuable tool in obtaining future grants for municipal projects.  He said it would be a 'living document' that could be evaluated and reevaluated .

"The real value of this is that we are made aware of things that we might not have thought about," he said. "They might be easy... they might be difficult... we can evaluate every one of these action steps and say 'we're going to have to pass'. 

The Climate Smart pledge says that the municipality believes climate change endangers its infrastructure, economy, and livelihoods, and provides an opportunity to save money and build innovative, health communities.  It requires municipalities to adopt the New York State Climate Smart Communities pledge, which is comprised of ten goals, and awards points for achieving them:
  1. Build a climate-smart community.
  2. Inventory emissions, set goals, and plan for climate action.
  3. Decrease energy use.
  4. Shift to clean, renewable energy.
  5. Use climate-smart materials management.
  6. Implement climate-smart land use.
  7. Enhance community resilience to climate change.
  8. Support a green innovation economy.
  9. Inform and inspire the public.
  10. Engage in an evolving process of climate action.
Hardaway used an example of replacing Village vehicles with all-electric vehicles.  He said there is no way they can replaced now, but in five years from now, with advances in technology and reductions in price the Village might revisit that goal.

County Legislator Deborah Dawson (Villages of Lansing and Cayuga heights) said that as a citizen of the Village she would be reassured by the Trustees passing the Resolution.  She said that the State is clearly moving toward mandatory measures for municipalities, and becoming a Climate Smart Community now would be a way to get ahead of future mandates, rather than scrambling to implement them when the time comes.

"Adopting this resolution is a commitment to having that long conversation you are talking about," she said. "And being proactive in preparing the Village as best you can."

Planning Board member Tony Ingraffea challenged some of the scientific statements Hartill had made about things like large storage batteries effectively being limited to about 2,000 recharges, and offered to be part of a Village board of concerned citizens and experts in various fields that could advise the Trustees on climate change-related initiatives.

"The kind of batteries, for example, that are currently being installed in the Village and in Tompkins County as trial balloons for exactly what you are concerned about -- what happens when the power goes out?  -- by the end of this year Tompkins County will have 15 megawatt hours of battery storage.  15 megawatt hours is more than sufficient to supply all the electricity for the Town and the Village of Lansing for a couple of days.  That's an experiment, but it's coming. And those batteries can be recharged many, many more than two thousand times."

Planning Board Chair Lisa Schleelein asked what the downside would be to adopting the resolution.

Trustee John O'Neill said the Village is already having the discussion, but Hardaway and others pointed out that the Village gets credits for measures already taken, and with no mandate to act on any of the ten items, but the possibility that certification could be a deciding factor in obtaining municipal grants, the worst case would be that nothing would change, and the best case would be advantages gained when dealing with state climate change directives.

Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) Climate Smart  Planning Specialist Osama Tsuda said that other communities are attracting a good number of community members to participate on Climate Smart committees.  He said CCE is planning multiple community workshops to attract people to participate.

"One thing that Cooperative Extension does is help municipalities get more people involved," he said. "That is a big problem for small municipalities that have sparsely populated areas to get people together to discuss 'what do we do when flooding occurs?  What do we do when we face a future of people who have heat strokes, and what do we do when it comes to water concentration?  What can we do to plan for not having these events have as much of an effect as they used to?' 

Hartill questioned Tsuda about the level of success in attracting participants in other communities and various other details before calling for a vote.  But a discussion of how municipalities may reword the resolution to better fit their communities and a requirement for 10 days public notice in advance led to postponing a vote to the next meeting.

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