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The Town of Keene - Getting Cleaner and Greener

Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/images/HighPeaksfromNundagoa_ridge_Keene_small.jpgA View of the High Peaks from the Nundagoa Ridge in the Town of Keene

On Tuesday, November 14, the Town of Keene’s Town Board unanimously committed to making the town a cleaner, greener community. It did so by passing three resolutions that kick-started the town’s participation in the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA) Clean Energy Communities program.

The town was urged to participate in this program at the behest of a group of dedicated town residents. In recognizing that their “Local governments affect energy choices in their communities, from government operations to homes, businesses, and community institutions,” several Keene residents became involved.[1]  Known as the Keene Clean Energy Team, these individuals are helping to build a sustainable community where they live.

The Adirondack Park’s vast forests play an integral role in mitigating climate change across the region by capturing and reducing carbon levels all around us. But what is being done at the local level to augment these natural processes? Adirondack communities can help by encouraging their local governments to adopt community-based policies that support diverse sustainability efforts. Perhaps the collaborative efforts between Keene and its Clean Energy Team can serve as a model for other towns to follow.

Clean Energy Communities

Clean Energy Communities (CEC) is a NYSERDA statewide program created to help build a more sustainable New York. Unlike its more recent counterpart that requires a rather daunting list of projects be implemented (known as the Climate Smart Communities program), CEC is focused solely on energy. This narrowed scope of projects helps concentrate municipal efforts, and has a lot of derived benefits, including numerous cost-savings opportunities.

The program sets municipalities on an outlined track towards cleaner and more energy efficient projects. In order to be designated a clean energy community, a municipality must first complete four out of 10 High Impact Action Items. The list of action items includes[2]:

  1. Benchmarking
  2. Clean Energy Upgrades
  3. LED Street Lights
  4. Clean Fleets
  5. Solarize
  6. Unified Solar Permit
  7. Energy Code Enforcement Training
  8. Climate Smart Communities Certification
  9. Community Choice Aggregation
  10. Energize New York Finance

Once a local government completes four of these items and submits the necessary documentation to NYSERDA, it is recognized as a certified CEC. From there, a CEC continues to strive to adopt and implement new energy projects.

Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/images/KeeneValley_Arial_small.jpgArial View of Keene Valley - Town of KeeneKeene Clean Energy Team

The Town of Keene is taking a somewhat altered approach to becoming a CEC through the designation of its Keene Clean Energy Team (Team). In many Adirondack communities, local governments lack the time and resources needed to efficiently complete a program such as this. In recognizing this need, the Team was formed by concerned citizens who wanted to support its town’s transition to cleaner and more efficient forms of energy. The Team is co-chaired by Carolyn Peterson and Dan Mason. Team members include: Jim Bernard, Bunny Goodwin, Amy Nelson, Monique Weston, and Josh Whitney. And I recently joined the Team!

ANCA

The Adirondack North Country Association (ANCA) has played an integral role in on-boarding CECs in the North Country through its Energy Circuit Riders. These knowledgeable individuals are the go-to people aiding in this process, as “they provide capacity and expertise to support informed decision-making.”[3] The Circuit Riders are invaluable components to this process, and should be kept in mind if you’re interested in encouraging your own municipality to become a CEC.

Town Board Meeting

Before heading into the Town’s November Board Meeting, the Team identified five project items they wanted to pursue. Those projects are:

  1. Benchmarking - adopt a policy to report the energy use of buildings.
  2. Unified Solar Permit - streamline the approvals process for solar.
  3. Solarize - undertake a local solarize campaign to increase the number of solar rooftops.
  4. Energy Code Enforcement Training - train compliance officers in energy code best practices.
  5. Clean Fleet Electric Vehicle Charging Station - install electric vehicle charging stations or deploy alternative fuels.

In order to move beyond the preparation into the participation phase, the Team needed the Town Board to pass and approve the following:

  1. Resolution to endorse Clean Energy Team to work with the board.
  2. Resolution to develop energy benchmarks.
  3. Resolution to use the Unified Solar Permit.

Additionally, the Team met with the town supervisor to encourage him to submit a letter to NYSERDA requesting on-site Energy Code Training at no cost to the town.

Team co-chairs Carolyn and Dan provided a brief introduction of the program and then opened up the floor to questions from the Council Members. Because Team members took the time to meet with board members individually prior to the meeting, few questions were asked before the Board vote.

With minimal discussion, the Board unanimously approved all of the resolutions. As one Council Member stated, “anyone who would object to this is crazy.” We agree.

What’s Next?

Onward and upward. With all of their approvals needed to move forward, the Team will now focus their efforts on completing four out of its five chosen High Impact Action Item projects as quickly as possible. It’s no small feat, but knowing their commitment to their community, they need no luck. 

[1] https://www.nyserda.ny.gov/All-Programs/Programs/Clean-Energy-Communities
[2] https://www.nyserda.ny.gov/All-Programs/Programs/Clean-Energy-Communities/Action-Items
[3] https://adirondack.org/energy-circuit-riders


Uploaded Image: /uploads/images/Jackie_Bowen.jpgJackie is the Council's Conservation Fellow. She has a Master’s Degree in Environmental Law and Policy, with a certificate in Land Use Law, from Vermont Law School. During her year and a half program she interned in Washington, D.C. at American Rivers where she worked with the Government Relations team to track legislation, identify federal funding sources and research tribal water rights.

In 2013, Jackie graduated from SUNY Geneseo with a degree in Anthropology. Although she enjoyed learning about the cultural nuances that influence the way people act and interact with one another, her love of this mountainous region never ceased, and, ultimately, drove her back to graduate school to learn how to help protect this unique corner of the world.

As a native of nearby Plattsburgh, Jackie grew up hiking, swimming, cross-country skiing, and camping in the Adirondacks. The ‘Dacks represent restorative and spiritual beauty and the intersectional balance between human and natural life. This is just a sliver of what propelled Jackie to become focused on not only land conservation, but on preserving the ecological integrity and wild character of the beautiful Adirondack Park.

 

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