County gets smart about the climate

Kudos to Dutchess County for setting the gold standard for all municipalities to follow. How? The county has become, under the leadership of County Executive Marcus Molinaro, a New York State Certified Climate Smart Community, reaching the bronze level of certification from the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). In today’s climate-challenged world, such a designation means something. It’s a way to help us work toward a world in which we don’t see rapidly rising oceans or out-of-control wildfires, climbing global temperatures or a melting Arctic.

Here, being a Climate Smart Community means that Dutchess County will be thinking green. It will work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, for one, and encourage other cities, towns and villages to do the same.

To reach the bronze level, Dutchess County had to complete certain initiatives to implement climate smart policies and projects. And that’s exactly what some of our municipalities in the Harlem Valley have been doing. The town of North East, the village of Millerton, the town of Pine Plains and the town of Amenia have all followed suit, pursuing their Climate Smart Community status. And there are others, similarly, pursuing the same.

What’s the point of it all, other than receiving a gold star for work well done? Well, for one thing, being a Climate Smart Community helps when pursuing those highly coveted and sometimes scarce grant dollars. And that, for our area, is hugely important.

Backed by the program, towns and villages that participate can pursue certain projects that benefit residents in the long run. Dutchess County, for one, entered a power purchase agreement with Tesla Energy Operations to install a photovoltaic array system on county land to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels. It was a forward-thinking move that we very much appreciate, and we commend Molinaro for leading the way. 

In fact, the county received its certification in a short 10-month time span, less than it usually takes. That’s incentive for smaller communities to shoot for the same goal — all with support from the DEC.

As town supervisors from around the region agree, joining the Climate Smart Community program just makes good sense. It’s a way to help save the environment while also saving money.

Some towns, like Pine Plains, have installed electric vehicle (EV) charging stations to meet the Climate Smart Community checklist. Others, like Amenia, are working with groups like the Housatonic Valley Association (HVA), to create a sustainable approach to future development.

It all takes time and effort. But the rewards far exceed bragging rights. They mean that we are creating greener, cleaner, safer places to live and work. And that in doing so, we are giving ourselves improved odds at garnering support (largely financial support) to pursue projects integral to our communities’ welfare. It’s really a win-win.

Let’s hope this is but the first step in the long journey toward truly  becoming climate smart — and that Dutchess County continues to inspire the people and places around it to do the same.