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Plattsburgh restarts a climate task force waylaid by pandemic

Plattsburgh Climate Task Force coordinator Rachelle Armstrong
Pat Bradley
Plattsburgh Climate Task Force coordinator Rachelle Armstrong

The city of Plattsburgh has reestablished its Climate Task Force.

The group, consisting of city council members and residents from each ward, is tasked with finding ways for the city to meet the state’s Climate Smart and Clean Energy Community goals. The Climate Task Force was first formed in 2019 to assess ways the city could reduce carbon emissions and put in place environmentally sustainable policies.

Task Force coordinator Rachelle Armstrong says the pandemic sidelined efforts.

“Once 2020 hit with all of its various complications it was kind of like in limbo," Armstrong said. "And so because there had been no activity a resolution was passed to reform the task force and appoint a coordinator in April.”

The renewed Task Force met for the second time last week to review guidelines to meet state goals and organize subcommittees.

Armstrong picked up an extensive chart of state guidelines the Task Force must follow as it works to attain state certification as a Climate Smart and Clean Energy Community.

“There are very clear guidelines for the Climate Smart Community and we’re also working on Clean Energy Community through NYSERDA," Armstrong explained. "There’s a really clear framework for both. There are ten action items for the Clean Energy Communities and 130 actions that a municipality can take for this program and to be certified bronze you have to earn 120 points. So it’s a really wonderful system because you have clear guidelines. You have support. All with the aim of mitigating climate change and adapting to it.”

Collection of organic matter in city buildings is being considered as an initial project. “Compost for Good” is a regional start-up company affiliated with the non-profit Adirondack Action, collecting organic waste from SUNY Plattsburgh and local schools. Co-founder Jennifer Perry says organic waste diversion, or composting, is something that can move the city toward its Climate Smart goals.

"What we’re talking about here is organics management," Perry said. "So composting is just one way to process organics. Of all of the communities that we work with this is something that I think the city of Plattsburgh would do very well because you’re big. Organic waste program for government buildings – super simple. Waste reduction education campaigns – you may already have points for that. Compost bins for residents. So those are the kinds of Smart Communities elements.”

Task Force member Curt Gervich, a SUNY Plattsburgh Associate Professor of Environmental Science, suggested that efforts must ensure actions to fulfill the goals are done locally.

“Every time the city bids the work out for external consultants we don’t get a chance to build that local capacity," Gerich said. "And so I am wondering if we could make a recommendation to the council that when the city is looking for grant funds to do work on climate action planning that in the grants that the city writes to bring that money in from the state that local partnerships are written into those proposals to keep that money local. I think that makes our work better and I think it makes the city’s chances of actually implementing our action plans better.”

Two city councilors are members of the Climate Task Force and act as liaisons.

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