Comprehensive Economic Development Planning

(#313) — Recently, the Sullivan County Legislature appointed a Steering Committee to work with its consultants on a Comprehensive Economic Development Plan. The Steering Committee meets every week through the end of September.  Four task forces composed of its membership also meet weekly. The task forces focus on three leading economic sectors of the Sullivan economy: 1) tourism; 2) agriculture; and 3) health care.  The 4th task force focuses on economic drivers that cut across the 3 economic sectors. What follows are some comments that should be considered by the Steering Committee.

The Sullivan energy sector should be added as a 4th component of the economic plan.  The aggregate size of energy consumption for space condition, HVAC or heating, ventilation, and air conditioning of all buildings in the county, powering commercial and manufacturing machines, and  fuel energy consumed by cars, trucks, buses is estimated to be as high as $400,000,000/y.  Almost all of this energy is based on fossil fuels which pollute the environment, have limited inventory for the future, and a large percentage are trucked in which is very inefficient and environmentally unfriendly. Renewable energy production is estimated at $8,000,000, which produces a small fraction of county energy on an annual basis.

Energy efficiency may be 3 or 4 times renewable energy production to date.  Both have enormous opportunity for growth.  Such growth requires a commitment within the Economic Development Plan to fund a full-time Office of Sustainable Energy.

The energy sector of Sullivan currently emits 198,762 metric tons of CO2 equivalent green house gas emissions.  This figure will rise very significantly if casino gambling is developed with its in-house high intensity of energy use as well as the huge increase in transportation fuel pollution produced by more vehicular traffic.  Of course, this will add millions of dollars to the local health care sector as residents suffer increased illness and death from environmental pollution, public safety and infrastructure costs.  Another direction is possible.

The Comprehensive Economic Development Plan should focus on the new NYS economic development strategies, including the recently published Mid-Hudson Sustainability Plan, which specifically mentions Sullivan County-based major projects such as Energy Districts, which use energy efficiency and renewable energy technology to provide 100% of their energy on a fossil fuel, pollution free energy basis.  Smart metered, micro grids are another large-scale opportunity for several areas in Sullivan County that are singled out in this study.

Funding is available.  In fact, funding is available only on the basis of being most efficient in reducing green house gas emissions and job creation.  Renewable energy generates at least 40% more jobs than conventional energy and has almost no green house gas emissions. Current businesses, schools, and towns should be applying for the new sources of funding.  Casinos should be required to be at least 80% reliant on renewable energy technology.  The construction of a new jail can be paid for entirely over 20 years by savings from energy efficiency and renewable energy materials and technology.

Next week, some suggestions for an adequate County Government Planning Department and a mandate for all County Departments to follow the Economic Development Plan that emerges in the weeks ahead.

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