Panels similar to those to be installed on Bard Campus.
Panels similar to those to be installed on Bard Campus.

Red Hook gets energized with an action plan

It proposes cutting greenhouse gas emissions 20% in 8 years

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Could you reduce your greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by the year 2020?

That’s the challenge put forth by the new Energy and Climate Action Plan unveiled by the Conservation Advisory Committee (CAC) at the Red Hook Town Board meeting Aug. 14.

The plan, called ECAP, outlines Red Hook-specific strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, including switching to more fuel-efficient cars and planning a more walkable community.

The biggest emissions culprits are residential energy use and transportation, the plan says. It suggests ways that individuals can make smarter energy choices in these areas as well as ways that the town can create policies to reduce energy use.

For example, residents are encouraged to consider choosing a fuel-efficient vehicle when they replace a car, while another goal is for town planners to look for more ways to create a more walk-able, bike-able municipality.

These actions “will lead to a more resilient Red Hook as we face a changing regional climate, since there are lots of solutions in the plan that have economic and social benefits,” CAC chair Laurie Husted said.

The ECAP has two main objectives: to create a more sustainable way of life for residents and to help local municipalities adapt to the realities of climate change. The plan describes the scientific evidence for climate change and illustrates specific effects on the Hudson Valley. One striking graphic shows how Red Hook’s climate might change by approximately 2070 under low emissions and high emissions scenarios. The Hudson Valley, the plan predicts, would “experience average temperatures more like those of eastern North Carolina between 1961 and 1990. Under a higher-emissions scenario, Red Hook’s average temperatures would be more like those of South Carolina and Georgia during those three decades.”

Residents can become involved by reading the plan — it’s posted on the CAC page on the town’s website: www.redhook.org — and taking action to reduce their own energy use.

“One thing we hope Red Hook residents will do is join the 30,000 other New Yorkers who have had energy audits performed on their homes,” Husted said. “Once homeowners know where they are wasting energy, they can proceed to getting the actual improvements installed because now we can finance the fixes on our electric bills. There are many local contractors who can do this work, so everybody wins.”

At the town board meeting, Town Supervisor Sue Crane applauded the hard work the CAC and the consultants: “We thank you very much for raising this important issue to the level of public recognition …. We’re being recognized throughout the county for it.”

Red Hook is already a New York State Climate Smart community, a distinction held by only two other towns in Dutchess County, including Rhinebeck. Completing an ECAP positions Red Hook as a leader in regional sustainability planning and will strengthen future grant applications for local sustainability projects, officials said.

The project was funded by a grant from New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and was crafted by two separate consultants who began working with the CAC last year.

First, local greenhouse gas emissions data from 2005 were collected and analyzed, which allowed the team to establish a baseline for emissions in each sector covered by the plan: residential energy use, transportation, land & water, and solid waste. Understanding this baseline helped the ECAP team set a goal for reasonable emissions reductions by 2020 and will allow the CAC to monitor the town’s progress.

The CAC hopes the Town Board and both the Red Hook and Tivoli Village Boards will formally adopt the ECAP by the end of the year as a show of commitment to its ambitious goals.

Subcommittees are currently being formed to create action plans for each area covered by the plan: energy, transportation, land and water use, and solid waste. Anyone interested in serving on or consulting with a subcommittee should contact Laurie Husted at lauriehusted@gmail.com.

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