County comments on state climate plan

·3 min read

Jun. 26—The public comment period on a document assembled by the state Climate Action Council, known as a draft scoping plan, is coming to an end on July 1. The plan dictates how goals of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act — the state law mandating abandonment of fossil fuel energy sources and reduce emissions below 85% of 1990 levels by 2050 — will be achieved.

Niagara County's formal comment on the plan has been drafted by environmental coordinator Dawn Timm, who finds that the plan would have impacts on daily life in Niagara County that are disproportionate to the effects on other New Yorkers.

Timm suggested in an interview that the effects of CLCPA implementation will be harder on Niagara County residents in part because it's a largely rural county.

"For someone living in a single-person home who can walk to work, this plan is not a bad one," she said. "But for the family that lives in Wilson where the mother works at Starpoint and the father works in Buffalo — and the kids need to get places — we can't afford everything this draft scoping plan is asking for."

Timm's draft comments, which are being reviewed and approved by the county legislature before they're sent to the Climate Action Council, hone in on six "sectors" — transportation, buildings, industry, electricity, agriculture and waste.

Of transportation, Timm noted: To meet decreased-emission timelines, zero-emission vehicles will be pushed on the public by the state imposing a fee on "carbon intensive vehicles"; other strategies are to discourage driving by possible means including a per-mile fee system that would "impose fees on higher mileage."

About buildings: "By the end of this decade, the expectation is that two million homes will become electrified with electric heat pumps, starting with Disadvantaged Communities first, followed by 250,000 homes each year after 2030. As of today, it is estimated a heat pump will cost single family home owners two to three times the rate to install when compared to furnace/air conditioning replacement."

On Industry, Timm is critical of the plan to: "create an incentive-based strategy for mitigating direct emissions from certain industrial activities." While these activities are in Niagara County, including production of food, paper, bulk chemicals, glass, cement, etc. Timm said it "remains to be seen the impact the draft scoping plan strategies would have on Niagara County's ability to continue to conduct and attract industrial activity."

Agriculture and Forestry: This is an area of real concern for the county, Timm wrote. The ability for a farmer to farm will be impeded by these plans assembled by the state. These include having a zero-emissions "farm fleet" as well restrictions to herding animals.

Waste: Here Timm criticizes the state on not moving forward with plans to force packaging and printed paper producers to change designs to reduce waste.

Regarding electricity from renewable sources, Timm suggests a lot is being asked of Niagara County to meet CLCPA's timetables, and with little to no representation.

"Niagara County, by proximity and land use, should not tolerate a disproportionate cost to meet the state's aggressive renewable energy goals without the option of local governments weighing in on the siting of these projects," she wrote. "Our farmers should not be told how to raise their cattle or manage their crops, our shores should not sprout wind turbines and our fields should not produce electricity rather than a local food source without community."

Timm notes under agriculture concerns, that land is being taken out of commission to house solar arrays and under Waste, the uncertainty of solar panels being recycled.

In both sections, the history of events such as the Love Canal are invoked to explain Niagara County's reluctance to move forward with such projects.

Public Information Officer Kevin Schuler said the county's formal comment will be released for public scrutiny before it's sent to the Climate Action Council on July 1.