Pictured Above: Just because downtown Riverhead is full of cars doesn’t mean it can’t be a Climate Smart Community.
Riverhead Town has pledged to become a Climate Smart Community, joining other East End towns that have pledged and then been accepted into the New York State Climate Smart Communities program.
The Riverhead Town Board voted 4-0 on July 16 to take the pledge, which would help the town receive free technical assistance, grants, and rebates for electric vehicles to assist in implementing plans to address climate change.
East Hampton was the first East End town to be designated a Climate Smart Community in 2016, followed by Southampton Town in 2017. Greenport Village and Suffolk County have also taken the pledge to become Climate Smart Communities.
While Southold Town is not a climate smart community, it has been designated a Clean Energy Community by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority for its leadership in reducing energy use, cutting costs and driving clean energy locally.
Municipalities that take the Climate Smart Community pledge agree to inventory their emissions and set goals for emissions reduction, decrease energy use, support a green innovation economy, shift to renewable energy, use climate-smart materials management, implement climate-smart land use, enhance community resilience to climate change and inform and inspire the public.
The pledge was proposed by Town Councilwoman Catherine Kent, who serves as the liaison to the town’s environmental advisory committee, which advocated for the town to get involved with the program.
“This is a New York State program that helps us reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to a changing climate,” she told the town board at its July 11 work session. “There’s a grant coming up due on July 25, which is the reason I wanted to get it in quickly.”
Town Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said she was skeptical of the proposal and wondered if it would have an effect on applications to the town’s land use boards, but she would be away at the July 16 meeting, so the other board members could vote on it without her.
Ms. Giglio took issue with the first paragraph of the pledge resolution, which states that “the town believes that climate change poses a real and increasing threat to our local and global environments and that it is primarily due to the burning of fossil fuels and other anthropogenic effects and we believe that climate change is going to endanger our communities and harm our farms orchards and fisheries.”
“I don’t know that I agree with all of it,” she said, adding that she would like to talk to members of the Long Island Farm Bureau to see if climate change is affecting their farms and orchards.
“I think everyone is in agreement there’s climate change,” countered Ms. Kent.
“As a pledge, I think it’s ok, if it’s not a firm commitment,” said Councilman Tim Hubbard.
Deputy Town Attorney Anne Marie Prudenti told the board the language in the resolution is taken directly from a model Climate Smart Community pledge provided by New York State.
“Step one of this Climate Smart initiative is to adopt a resolution in the format posted online with the State of New York,” she said. “After we adopt that, then begins process of selecting what projects that you want to do. I don’t believe every municipality could undertake all those items. It’s about which ones you want to do and how you go about doing it.”
“On a budgetary level, decreasing energy use is good for our community,” said Town Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith.
“Without debating this whole thing with global warming, this obviously opens us up to opportunities,” said Councilman Jim Wooten, adding that it would be foolish not to take advantage of those opportunities.