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North Country Regional Consortium Receives $1 Million for Cleaner, Greener Communities Regional Sustainability Planning

(June 25, 2012)

North Country Regional Consortium Receives $1 Million for Cleaner, Greener Communities Regional Sustainability Planning

A consortium of North Country counties, towns and organizations has received $1 million from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to create a comprehensive smart growth plan for regional sustainability. This is part of the Cleaner, Greener Communities program, a major environmental initiative announced by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo in his 2011 State of the State address.

The consortium, led by representatives from each of the seven North Country counties — Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, St. Lawrence, Jefferson and Lewis — will develop a smart growth plan that encompasses the North Country Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) area. Essex County is the municipal sponsor for the North Country’s Cleaner Greener Communities initiative.

Clarkson University President Tony Collins, Co-Chair of the North Country Regional Economic Development Council, said, “The North Country is a special place to visit, live, work and study because of its people and their stewardship of the natural environment. Governor Cuomo’s Cleaner, Greener Communities Program supports the North Country Regional Economic Development Council’s goal to create the greenest energy economy in the State. This initiative gives each region the ability to identify projects that will help communities become stronger and more resilient, as well as promote and enhance local business. We have a distinct opportunity to use emerging technologies and encourage innovative entrepreneurs to create new jobs that will sustain our environment under this plan.”

“This initiative is an important part of the implementation of our region’s economic development plan,” states Garry Douglas, President of the North Country Chamber of Commerce and Co-Chair of the North Country Regional Economic Development Council. “The development of renewable energy such as biomass, hydro and wind is a key strategy, and the funding secured from NYSERDA will be the first step toward defining and pursuing a roadmap for converting opportunity into economic progress.”

The development of a comprehensive regional sustainability plan is the first phase of the Cleaner, Greener Communities program and is intended to provide resources that each New York State region can use to develop its own vision, goals and objectives for a sustainable future, identify actions needed to achieve that future and outline metrics to measure success. Only one award was made in each region of the state.

“This funding is an excellent opportunity for the North Country to develop a plan that improves environmental quality by reducing air, water and land pollution and improves quality of life through smart growth and sustainable development,” said Francis J. Murray Jr., President and CEO of NYSERDA. “Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, all New Yorkers will benefit, as the regional plans will examine each region’s available resources and provide a specific vision to reduce carbon emissions and increase energy efficiency and renewable energy.”

“Essex County is honored to serve as municipal sponsor for the North Country’s Cleaner Greener Communities initiative. This commitment by New York State will help our county and the others in the region to plan for and maintain the quality of our region’s environment while building an economy that can sustain us for generations. We look forward to working with the State and with ANCA and E & E to develop a plan for the North Country that offers practical and positive strategies that our communities and businesses can embrace,” said Town of Minerva Supervisor Sue Montgomery Corey, who chairs the Green Committee for the Essex County Board of Supervisors.

Leadership from across the North Country region had this to say about the program:

“Many of our local municipalities have taken an interest in, and some have already implemented small-scale alternative energy projects in an effort to decrease our reliance on fossil fuels and reduce our carbon footprint. This grant funding will provide an incentive for many more rural communities to plan and implement energy conservation projects throughout the Adirondack Park. The combined cost savings from these projects can be diverted to strengthening our local economies and infrastructure investment,” said Garrett Dague, Deputy County Planner for Essex County Office of Community Resources.

“In addition to being well positioned for new opportunities for wind and solar, St. Lawrence County’s natural resources include an abundance of potential biomass products. Bolstering support for clean energy initiatives such as these will keep more of our energy dollars local and help homeowners and businesses that are struggling with high heating costs,” said Keith Zimmerman, Director of the St. Lawrence County Planning Office.

“Home to one of the largest wind farms east of the Mississippi, Lewis County has a strong focus on continuing growth in renewable energy development. The governor’s Cleaner Greener Communities Program will bring together good direction to identify ways to move forward. It will be helpful to work with the other counties in the region to understand how we can improve our carbon footprint, strengthen the infrastructure in our rural communities and make good use of our abundant natural resources,” said Eric Virkler, Director of Economic Development and Planning for Lewis County.

“Franklin County is looking forward to contributing to a plan that supports energy independence for the region. This plan keeps our energy dollars local and facilitates access to capital, at the same time making our communities more resilient and maintaining our unique characteristics. The project’s economic development goals make this process more comprehensive than just an environmental plan, which is another great asset,” said Tom Leitz, Franklin County Manager.

“What’s attractive about this project is the emphasis on economic development along with the environmental benefits,” agrees Rodney Brown, Deputy County Administrator and Planning Director for Clinton County. “There are many business opportunities to explore in Clinton County and throughout the region, particularly related to alternative transportation and clean technology manufacturing. We can train new workers and create new supply chains around these fields.”

“Like most of the Adirondack Park, Hamilton County’s population is broadly dispersed, isolated from urban centers and subject to long winters. Issues surrounding energy will be critical to Hamilton County’s growth in the future,” said Ann Melious, Director of Planning, Tourism and Community Development for Hamilton County.

Jefferson County’s Director of Planning Don Canfield said, “We are enthusiastic about participating in the development of the Plan which will enable applications for project implementation funds for important economic and community development initiatives. As home to Fort Drum which generates over $2 billion a year of economic output in our region, we are excited about the recent proposal to convert the base's former coal fired generating facility to biomass fuel. We hope to submit more of these innovative project ideas into the final Plan.”

Once the plan is developed, additional funding will be available from the Cleaner, Greener Communities program on a competitive basis to implement projects that support the goals of the plans. Projects must create opportunities for achieving carbon reductions, energy efficiency savings and/or renewable energy deployment while enhancing job creation, economic investment and development consistent with the region’s sustainability and REDC strategic plan.

“By harnessing the North Country’s green energy awareness, skills, and supplies, we now know we can achieve complete energy independence, excluding transportation. The Cleaner, Greener Communities Program is providing us with the basis to provide: more jobs, lower cost energy, and a major step change in overall CO2 levels. The recent North Country Clean Energy Conference that took place June 21-22 was a significant event to communicate this program to the practitioners, educators and users to enable energy independence for our entire region,” said ANCA Board member Dan Mason, the Director of the North Country Clean Energy Conference.

The Adirondack North Country Association (ANCA) and Ecology and Environment, Inc. (E&E) will provide consulting support to the coalition by organizing stakeholder engagements processes and technical expertise required to undertake a greenhouse gas inventory, develop sustainability indicators and identify projects to be in included in the Plan that will assist the region in meeting both its target for GHG reductions and economic growth and will provide required reporting to the state over the eight month project timeframe.

“People across the North Country have been working on these issues for nearly 10 years, volunteering time and resources to understand and develop plans for improving our energy economy and building more sustainable communities,” said ANCA Executive Director Kate Fish. “It is deeply exciting to now be able to bring these efforts together under a single planning effort that will consolidate all the work that has been done, and support innovative projects that make jobs, reduce our energy costs, and create more resilient and self-reliant economies. ANCA is honored to be a partner in this visionary project for the region and the State.”

“Ecology and Environment, Inc. (E & E) is excited to continue its support of sustainability planning in the North Country with its involvement in the Cleaner, Greener Communities Program,” said Chris Rohner, Project Manager for E & E. “E & E has experience working with partners in the Adirondack Park on a GHG inventory project and looks forward to expanding on those successes to the entire North Country region. Along with developing a new GHG inventory, we will work to develop a regionally significant, comprehensive sustainability plan and implementation strategy that will provide the region with a roadmap for reducing emissions, improving community energy independence, creating economic opportunity and reducing costs to homeowners and businesses.” E & E is a New York State business headquartered in Lancaster, NY, with additional offices in Albany and New York City.

For further information on the North Country sustainability growth planning process, please contact Kate Fish, Adirondack North Country Association, 518-891-6200 or