October 20, 2011

Ithaca Pledges to Reduce Greenhouse Gas

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The Town of Ithaca pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the region by 30 percent before 2020 at a town board meeting Monday night. Officials said the pledge will help the town achieve its goal — established when it signed onto the Climate Smart Communities initiative in 2009 — of lowering its emissions output by 80 percent before 2050.

“The reason for signing the Climate Smart Communities agreement was to indicate that we were intending to start to map our carbon footprint and come up with a plan to reduce that footprint. … That was merely an ethical commitment,” Town Supervisor Herb Engman said.

After Monday’s meeting, the town, a horseshoe-shaped municipality that borders the City of Ithaca, has a clear means of achieving this goal, Engman said.

The 10-year Government Energy Action Plan, approved unanimously by the town board on Monday, establishes several intermediate, low cost objectives, such as monitoring the temperature of town buildings and using more efficient light bulbs.

“In the same way that Cornell is trying to reduce emissions on campus, this is the town’s first step towards becoming a more sustainable government,” said Katie Stoner, sustainability planner for the Town of Ithaca.

The incremental steps taken in the Government Energy Action Plan are derived from the Government Operations Greenhouse Gas Inventory, a summary of energy expenditures in the town’s operations, according to a press release from town officials.

To tackle its greatest energy inefficiencies, the press release stated, the town will have to take the more costly steps of revamping its water and wastewater treatment systems and its vehicle fleet, which together account for 88 percent of town emissions.

Addressing these sources of energy inefficiency will require large investments in town infrastructure, Stoner said, adding that the town has “not committed to doing major capital projects.”

Although these projects will be costly, they will reduce costs in the long run, she said.

“This effort is about more than just saving energy; it is also going to save money,” Stoner said.

Engman, however, emphasized the plan’s role in committing the town to a greener, more sustainable future.

“The Energy Action Plan is what we are going to do to reduce our dependence on carbon fuels and to do our part to reduce the carbon footprint of the community,” Engman said. “The county and the city had already done their plans. We are following their commitments.”

Original Author: Rebekah Foster