Sullivan County’s Climate Smart Towns Lead the Way

Carol Roig highlights some energy-savvy local initiatives.

Presentation at Homestead

Stephen Stuart describes solar options at a workshop at the Homestead School in Lumberland, one of six Climate Smart Communities in Sullivan County.

The reality of climate change provides the impetus for much of SASD’s work. It lends urgency to the quest to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, speed our transition to renewable energy, and adopt a more sustainable way of living. New York State’s Climate Smart Communities Program has provided a blueprint for tackling these challenges with the help of dedicated citizen committees and expert assistance.

In 2014 the Sullivan County Legislature adopted a comprehensive Climate Action Plan, the result of two years’ work led by SASD with an advisory board of community leaders and key County personnel. The Plan sets specific goals for GHG reduction through energy efficiency measures and renewable energy installations at County facilities. It also includes strategies and policy recommendations for adapting to climate change and managing its impacts on public health and safety. You can take a look at the Sullivan County Climate Action Plan through the County’s Division of Planning and Environmental Management at

The towns of Bethel, Cochecton, Delaware, Highland, Lumberland and Tusten have also joined the Climate Smart Communities Program and are in the process of developing their own plans and projects. The Bethel Green Committee has completed its GHG inventory for municipal operations and recently secured an energy assessment of key town facilities. Based upon the results, the town will proceed with cost effective energy improvements. The Town of Tusten has contracted to install 165 kW of solar energy generation at their town garage, which will be built at no cost to the town under a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) that will guarantee a favorable electricity rate. The Town of Delaware’s Energy Committee is working with their Town Board to explore solar energy potential at town facilities. The Town of Lumberland recently completed an energy assessment of their town hall, which revealed a number of ways the town can save money on energy bills by improving insulation and air sealing in this historic building.

As we work with these citizen committees, we are deeply impressed by their dedication and willingness to learn about a whole range of topics, from energy use and building science to recycling, waste reduction, emergency management, and new developments in transportation technology and land use policy. It’s a crash course in sustainability from the ground up, and the reward is lower energy bills, more efficient operations and healthier communities that are better prepared for the impacts of climate change.

We’d love to get more towns and villages involved. In addition to energy efficiency for town operations, the program provides resources and educational materials to help town residents and business owners save money and increase the comfort of their buildings. If you would like to work with your town board to join the Climate Smart Communities program or serve on your town’s energy committee, get in touch with us at 845-701-9126.

The Climate Smart Communities Program is jointly sponsored by six New York State Agencies: the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), Department of State, Department of Environmental Conservation, Department of Health, Department of Transportation, and Public Service Commission. Sullivan County has benefitted from the help of the program’s Mid-Hudson Regional Coordinators, VHB Engineering, whose expert team has provided ongoing assistance and developed a range of educational materials and resources.

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