September 17, 2018

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: On North Campus Residential Expansion energy and climate change impacts

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To the Editor:

It’s critical to look at the energy/climate change issues of Cornell’s proposed North Campus Residential Expansion.  Municipal reviewers need better understanding of three issues. First, eliminating methane emissions is imperative in fighting climate change.  Cornell’s greenhouse gas survey found them to be almost three times as serious as all other emissions combined on campus. Nonetheless, they propose heating this project with natural gas, inherently causing serious upstream methane emissions.

Second, Cornell falsely claims that alternatives to their proposed heating technology will increase natural gas demand even more.  They claim that using power from the electricity grid to run ground-source heat pumps would draw exclusively on natural gas power plants.  In reality all power plants supplying the grid would contribute to that electricity. Interestingly, the winter heating season is exactly when the grid has excess hydropower.

Third, Cornell’s proposed rapid-fire schedule of municipal review will avoid the preparation of an environmental impact statement.  The proposal’s considerable methane emissions alone are sufficient to make a positive declaration of environmental impact. The ensuing EIS would have to thoroughly address the critical points of contention.  That’s the only way the municipalities will get the understanding needed to make valid permitting decisions.


Mitchell Lavine