First locale in Putnam to pass state initiative
By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong
The Philipstown Town Board on June 7 pledged to make Philipstown a “climate-smart community” by cutting pollution-causing emissions and taking other steps to fight global warming. The step makes Philipstown eligible for state funding.
The Cold Spring Village Board considered the state’s Climate Smart Communities Pledge in May 2012 but took no action. The Beacon City Council adopted the pledge in 2009 (see below).
It was the Philipstown board’s second environmental initiative in less than a week. On June 1, it reiterated opposition to a proposal to create oil-barge anchorages on the Hudson River, including one between Beacon and Newburgh.
By a 5-0 vote, the board adopted the Climate Smart Communities Pledge, which is promoted by six state agencies and locally by the Philipstown Garden Club.
In adopting the pledge, a local government promises to:
- Inventory and set goals for reducing emissions of “greenhouse” gases such as carbon dioxide that contribute to global warming.
- Decrease energy consumption in the community.
- Increase reliance on renewable energy.
- Establish waste-management and recycling programs.
- Implement “climate-smart” zoning, land-use and transportation policies.
- Support development of a green economy.
Statewide, about 200 communities have become Climate Smart Communities, and Philipstown is the first in Putnam County.
“Our water is threatened by flammable oil barges and our air and water supplies contaminated by methane and carbon dioxide,” wrote Karen Ertl, the garden club’s conservation chairperson, in a memo to the board. “If we adopt a course” that can “reduce solid pollution, create sustainable resources of energy, and protect our air and water for future generations, we ask: Where is the down side?”
The Town Board did not see one. Its resolution said Philipstown considers climate change “a real and increasing threat to our local and global environments” that will “endanger our infrastructure, economy and livelihoods; harm our farms, orchards” and ecology, including fish and wildlife; spread invasive species; reduce drinking water sources; and undermine public health.
Beacon adopted the voluntary Climate Smart Communities Pledge in 2009, the year the program was established, and by late 2015 had taken action in seven of its 10 sections (see midhudsoncsc.org).
At the time, Beacon had completed 16 of the more than 120 actions suggested by the state, including installing solar panels at City Hall, launching a community-wide yard sale to encourage reuse, transitioning to a paperless system, purchasing Renewable Energy Credits to offset carbon emissions, requiring newly constructed city buildings to be energy efficient, collecting yard and electronic waste and being recognized as a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation.
By making the designation, Philipstown becomes eligible for competitive Climate Smart Community Grants, which in 2017 will provide a total of $9.5 million for 50/50 funding of projects related to flood risk reduction; preparation for extreme weather; reduction of vehicle miles traveled, and food waste, landfill methane leakage, and hydrofluorocarbons emissions from refrigeration and other AC equipment. In addition, $500,000 will be distributed for projects related to certification requirements. Grants also are available for “clean fuel” vehicles.
The board voted six days after President Donald Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal from the international Paris Accord on fighting climate change. “Something has to be done,” Supervisor Richard Shea said at an earlier board meeting a few hours after the president’s announcement. “If we don’t start doing it at the local level, it’s not going to happen.”
Councilor John Van Tassel on June 7 said that while driving down Route 301 to the board meeting, he had again been struck by how beautiful Philipstown is. Joining the state initiative “is a good step in the right direction to keep it that way,” he said.
It “speaks volumes as to who we are as a town,” said Councilor Nancy Montgomery.
By a 4-0 vote (with Councilor Mike Leonard absent), the board on June 1 passed a resolution supporting bills pending in the state Legislature to give New York greater authority over the establishment of anchorages for oil barges on the Hudson. Following industry requests, the U.S. Coast Guard in 2016 proposed the creation of 43 anchorage spots.
This past October, the Town Board approved a measure aimed at federal-level decision-makers opposing the anchorage proposal. The board’s new resolution focuses on state-level activity and “won’t be redundant,” Shea explained. “It’s all for the good, in my mind.”
The legislation the board endorsed would allow state agencies to weigh the environmental impacts of anchorages and “tanker avoidance zones” when new anchorages are designated. The board’s resolution states that enhancing Albany’s role will help “ensure that the needs of the Hudson River and riverfront communities are protected.”
In other business…
At other recent meetings, the Town Board:
- Appointed Dennis Gagnon to the Planning Board. A resident of Philipstown for more than 35 years, Gagnon in 1987 co-founded and became president of Poughkeepsie-based Arris Contracting Co., a general contracting and construction management firm, before selling his interest in 2014 to retire.
- Accepted a $6,690 bid from Highlands Architecture to create plans to install an elevator in Town Hall, which would make the second-floor meeting room in the 150-year-old building accessible to those with physical limitations.
- Announced the retirement of longtime Town Hall employee Mariann Landolfi, clerk in the Building Department/Code Enforcement Office.