The TCCPI Newsletter
Issue #67: November-December 2021
TCCPI is a multisector collaboration seeking to leverage the climate action commitments made by Cornell University, Ithaca College, Tompkins Cortland Community College, Tompkins County, the City of Ithaca, and the Town of Ithaca to mobilize a countywide energy efficiency effort and accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy. Launched in June 2008 and generously supported by the Park Foundation, TCCPI is a project of the Sustainable Markets Foundation.

We are committed to helping Tompkins County achieve a dynamic economy, healthy environment, and resilient community through a focus on energy efficiency and renewable energy. 
Ithaca Launches City-Wide Decarbonization Plan
by Meher Bhatia, Cornell Daily Sun, 11/29/21
The City of Ithaca’s Common Council voted on Nov. 3 to begin decarbonizing all 6,000 of its buildings, becoming the first city in the entire United States to do so.

For Ithaca, decarbonization will mean replacing sources of carbon dioxide emission — like heating, cooking or drying clothes — with electrical alternatives, and hoping to serve as a model for other cities in the process.

“We’re essentially removing sources of carbon dioxide emissions from buildings, but in the next several years, [we hope to remove them] from every part of the [city’s] economy,” said Luis Aguirre-Torres, the City of Ithaca’s director of sustainability.
Ithaca Commons. Photo by Happy Winter Solstice licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Ithaca’s decarbonization project will not only involve being carbon neutral in terms of day-to-day operations but also producing materials necessary for the transition without emitting carbon dioxide, explained Prof. Felix Heisel, architecture.

“We have to ask ourselves what should be done with utilities [like gas that are] not needed anymore. Do they just go to landfill or do we find a secondary use for them and save carbon emissions because of that? It’s a very complicated process,” Heisel said.

To Aguirre-Torres, Ithaca is unique in its approach to decarbonization by incorporating elements of entrepreneurship and considering the economic side of electrification.

“The entrepreneurial experience of raising capital, of implementing large scale projects, is not typical in a local government,” Aguirre-Torres said. “So these types of structures are very rarely considered.”

Aguirre-Torres raised $100 million of private equity from investors to help building owners decarbonize by modifying existing buildings to make them more energy efficient. Currently, the City of Ithaca is working in close collaboration with BlocPower, a climate startup focused on updating aging urban buildings to operate on clean energy.

According to Donnel Baird, chief executive officer of BlocPower, the company is working to assess Ithaca’s existing buildings and provide recommendations to improve overall energy efficiency.

“Finding cities and partners that are willing to commit to total decarbonization is one of our biggest challenges,” Baird said. “[W]e need more local leaders to commit to retrofitting existing building infrastructure to fight the climate crisis in their communities.”

The decarbonization of buildings may be more important now than ever; emissions for the City of Ithaca are estimated to be around 400,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent — with 40 percent coming from buildings, according to Aguirre-Torres.

The city also plans on adding solar energy to its electricity generation, to move away from a reliance on fossil fuels.
Next TCCPI Meeting

Friday, January 28, 2022
9 to 11 am
Due to the current pandemic, the monthly TCCPI meetings have moved online. Contact Peter Bardaglio, the TCCPI coordinator, for further details at
Bitcoin Mining Opponents Seek Denial of Greenidge Air Permit
by Peter Mantius,, 11/21/21
Greenidge Power Plant. Photo courtesy of Seneca Lake Guardian.
Opponents of Greenidge Generation’s Bitcoin mining operation in Dresden urged Gov. Kathy Hochul’s administration today to deny the facility’s application to renew its air emissions permit and to impose a statewide moratorium on proof-of-work cryptocurrency mining.

More than a dozen speakers at concurrent press conferences in Geneva and Albany argued that the rapid growth of Bitcoin mining in New York undermines the chances the state will meet the targets set in its 2019 climate law.
Meanwhile, on the deadline day for comments to the state Department of Environmental Conservation on the Greenidge air permit, hundreds of Finger Lakes businesses signed a letter to the DEC that said sharply increasing air pollution from Greenidge threatens the region’s wine and tourism industries.

“The Greenidge facility has nothing to offer the Finger Lakes but could have devastating effects on our environment and community,” said Kees Stapel, manager at Boundary Breaks Vineyard in Lodi.
Assemblymember Anna Kelles (D-Ithaca) said she intended to reintroduce a bill to impose a three-year moratorium on proof-of-work cryptocurrency and require a two-year environmental study of it negative effects. A previous version of the bill passed the state Senate but stalled in the Assembly.

Proof-of-work — Kelles’ target — is the name given to an energy-intensive method of verifying cryptocurrency transactions that Bitcoin, the world’s leading digital currency, relies on.

Most new cryptocurrencies are trying to perfect other verification systems that require far less energy. That’s a promising trend, Kelles said, because energy-efficient cryptocurrency could help democratize world payment systems.

“But allowing proof-of-work cryptocurrency mining to proliferate and add many hundreds of megawatts of energy consumption is socially, economically and environmentally irresponsible,” she told the Geneva press conference crowd.

Greenidge operates at least 15,000 Bitcoin mining computers that draw 44 megawatts of power from a recently converted coal plant that now burns natural gas. Company officials have told investors they plan to nearly double the energy their Bitcoin mining consumes next year.

Because its source of power is natural gas, the Greenidge plant belches hundreds of tons of greenhouse gases. Its air permit, which expired in September, allows it to emit up to 641,000 tons of CO2-equivalent annually.

When it applied earlier this year to renew that air permit, the company requested the same limit despite its sharply escalating power usage.

The DEC asked the company to explain how it intended to comply with the state’s 2019 Community Leadership and Climate Protection Act, which requires the state to reduce its CO2-e emissions by 40 percent by 2030.

Greenidge responded in a letter written by David Murtha of the consulting firm ERM. In that Aug. 2, 2021 letter, Murtha acknowledged that Greenidge’s combined CO2-e emissions from the plant itself and leaks from the natural gas wells and pipelines that supply it totaled more than 1 million tons per year — far above its requested limit.

Weeks later, DEC Commissioner Tweeted that Greenidge had not shown compliance with the CLCPA. Instead of ruling on the permit renewal application, the DEC extended the deadline for public comments until today. The DEC’s final decision on the permit application is pending.

Opponents claim to have submitted more than 5,000 comments calling for the Hochul Administration to deny the permit renewal.

While Greenidge has drawn the most public attention, numerous other companies are trying to break into the lucrative game of proof-of-work Bitcoin mining in New York.
Finger Lakes Land Trust Will Acquire 470-Acre Bell Station Parcel
Finger Lakes Land Trust Press Release, 12/2/21
The Finger Lakes Land Trust (FLLT) is under contract to purchase a 470-acre property with 3,400 feet of pristine Cayuga Lake shoreline from New York State Electric & Gas. The property, known as Bell Station, is the largest privately owned parcel of shoreline remaining in the Finger Lakes.

Located on the eastern shore of Cayuga Lake, the Bell Station property was originally acquired by NYSEG for a nuclear power plant that was never built. Bell Station features wooded hillsides overlooking the lake, extensive fields, and several small streams with cascading waterfalls. The property is recognized as a priority project in New York State’s Open Space Plan.
Aerial view of Bell Station. Photo by Bill Hecht.
Acquisition of the site for conservation will greatly enhance public access to the east side of Cayuga Lake, which is 90% privately owned. Permanent conservation will also prevent residential development on the steep hillsides bordering the lake, helping to safeguard the lake’s water quality and prevent future harmful algal blooms.

For all these reasons, the Finger Lakes Land Trust has been pursuing the conservation of the Bell Station property for a number of years. Its interest is shared by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Governor Kathy Hochul, and the DEC designated the FLLT as its agent to pursue acquisition of the land. The project almost unraveled earlier this year when NYSEG proposed an online auction to sell Bell Station to the highest bidder, emphasizing the potential for shoreline development. Thanks to the efforts of Governor Hochul, public pressure, and other support, NYSEG willingly agreed to cancel the auction and enter into a purchase agreement with the FLLT.

“We are particularly grateful to Governor Hochul and the strong leadership of DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos, Senator Pamela Helming, and Assemblymember Anna Kelles for pulling together a coalition of support to make this agreement happen," said Finger Lakes Land Trust Executive Director Andy Zepp. "This is a tremendous win for the Finger Lakes and all residents of New York State.”

The FLLT is now under contract to purchase the Bell Station property and is working together with the DEC, the Town of Lansing, Tompkins County, and other key stakeholders to acquire the land and create a public conservation area on the lakeshore portion of the property. The conservation area will be transferred to the state and managed by the DEC as a wildlife management area open for recreational uses including hiking, cross country skiing, wildlife watching, hunting, and fishing. The organization is also planning to utilize the easternmost portion of the property for solar energy production in partnership with the Town of Lansing.

The Finger Lakes Land Trust needs to quickly raise $500,000 to complete the purchase and is seeking broad support from the community. The project is additionally supported by a generous low-interest loan from the Park Foundation.

President of Park Foundation Adelaide Park Gomer said, “We are proud to support the preservation of this critical shoreline and help safeguard habitat, ecosystems, water quality, and public access to the beauty of Cayuga Lake and its surrounding wildlife. This is the type of collaboration with trusted leadership from Finger Lakes Land Trust, NYSEG, and New York State that is a win on multiple levels for the community. It also advances our commitment to clean water, clean energy, species protection, and conservation."

Learn more about the FLLT’s efforts to save Bell Station and how the community can help.
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One Last Thing: Next Steps for the NYS Draft Climate Plan
The Climate Action Council, headed up by Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos and New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) President and CEO Doreen M. Harris, has just issued its draft scoping plan. Now it’s our job to review it carefully and respond. Beginning on Jan. 1, the public will have 120 days to offer comments and make sure their voices are heard.
A December 30 wildfire destroyed hundreds of homes in suburban Denver, the latest dramatic sign of climate change. Photo by Tristantech licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.
The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), signed into law in 2019, calls for New York to achieve a 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and 70 percent renewable energy generation by 2030, establish a zero-emission electricity sector by 2040, and create a carbon-neutral economy by 2050. The CLCPA established the Climate Action Council, a 22-member committee charged with determining how to meet these statutory goals. The Council also consulted with a wide range of advisory panels and working groups over the past two years to address issues in areas such as transportation, solid waste, energy generation, workforce development, and climate justice.
The release of the draft scoping plan is the crucial first step in reaching the ambitious but necessary climate goals laid out in the CLCPA. There is certainly plenty of material for New Yorkers to wade through. The body of the report itself is 330 pages, followed by 520 pages of appendices. The Climate Action Council’s seven advisory panels – Transportation, Agriculture and Forestry, Land Use and Local Government, Power Generation, Energy Efficiency and Housing, Energy Intensive and Trade Exposed Industries, and Waste – submitted recommendations for the Climate Action Council to consider in the draft scoping plan, all of which can be found in the appendices.

In addition, the Climate Justice Working Group and Just Transition Working Group played key roles in the development of the draft scoping plan. The Disadvantaged Communities Barriers and Opportunities Report examines why some communities are disproportionately impacted by climate change and air pollution and have unequal access to clean energy, and recommends ways to rectify these problems using a climate justice lens. The Just Transition Working Group Jobs Study explores the consequences of climate change mitigation for the job market as well as actions required to provide adequate training, education, and workforce development.

The release of the draft scoping plan takes place against an increasingly dire climate crisis. The latest manifestation of this crisis is the Colorado wildfire that raced through suburbs between Denver and Boulder on Dec. 30, destroying at least 500 homes and forcing the evacuation of thousands of residents. Needless to say, December wildfires are not a common occurrence in Colorado, but a severe drought combined with high winds to fuel the most destructive blaze in the state’s history. Elsewhere, a new report has found unsettling evidence that the so-called "Doomsday Glacier" in Antarctica could collapse in as little as five years, raising the world's sea level by several feet. The Thwaites glacier already loses 50 billion tons of ice each year and makes up about four percent of the planet's annual sea rise.

The need to take dramatic and immediate climate action, then, is obvious. Although one of the most sweeping plans issued by any state or country, the NYS draft report leaves many specifics to be worked out. The broad outlines of any effective climate plan must include, as this one does, calls for the electrification of buildings, a shift to electric vehicles, the expansion of renewables such as solar and wind power, the development of feasible energy storage strategies, the decommissioning of natural gas, and the implementation of a carbon tax. But still unclear are the details and timing involved with setting these steps in motion, and how to do so in a way that takes into account historic inequities and brings about a just transition.

The draft scoping plan is now in the hands of Gov. Hochul and the state legislature. It remains to be seen to what extent public input will influence the final shape of the plan, but it’s critical that New Yorkers weigh in. The final report will be issued on Jan. 1, 2023 and the DEC will then announce legally binding regulations by Jan. 1, 2024 to ensure that the state achieves the CLCPA’s required targets.

Information about how to participate in the public hearings on the draft scoping plan will be disclosed in early 2022, according to the press release issued by the Climate Action Council. There will be at least six hearings held across the state. In addition, comments can be submitted via the online public comment form, by email at, and by U.S. mail to Attention: Draft Scoping Plan Comments, NYSERDA, 17 Columbia Circle, Albany, NY 12203-6399. Stay tuned!

Peter Bardaglio
TCCPI Coordinator
Be sure to visit the website for TCCPI's latest project, the Ithaca 2030 District, an interdisciplinary public-private collaboration working to create a groundbreaking high-performance building district in Downtown Ithaca.
309 N. Aurora St.,
Ithaca, NY 14850