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Tompkins Co. Moves Closer To Greenhouse Goals, But Has Room For Improvement

Tompkins Greenhouse Emissions - web

ENDWELL, NY (WSKG) - A new report shows Tompkins County is making progress in its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but it still needs to improve to meet its goals.

On Tuesday, the inventory of energy usage and gas emissions was presented to the county legislature, one of about five similar reports delivered since 2001.

In 2019, Tompkins County officials set a goal of reducing the net carbon emissions of its operations to zero. While the report to the county legislature this week showed that the steps being taken are working, it could still take years and technological advances to reach the goal of net zero emissions.

"This information helps us make informed decisions on how can we reduce emissions and how can we reduce the amount of energy that we use,” Darby Kiley, an assistant planner in the county Department of Planning and Environmental Sustainability, told the legislature Tuesday.

Using traditional methods of accounting for greenhouse gas emissions, Tompkins County has reduced the levels of gasses like CO2 and Methane it puts into the atmosphere by 51 percent from 2008 to 2019. In recent years, those figures have actually increased slightly. Between 2014 and 2019, the report indicates levels of emissions rose about 3 percent.

The report attributes this largely to a new biodiesel fuel that the county highway department had to switch to in order to operate its machinery.

Kylie said the highway department remains the largest emitter, followed by the sheriff’s department and airport. The vehicle fleet as a whole constituted 58 percent of emissions in 2019 according to the report, consuming over 180,000 gallons of gasoline. That area remains one of the most difficult to reduce until more electric heavy equipment like snow plows become available.

"I think the county is taking relative steps of stepping through and getting electric vehicles added to the fleet and replacing out [old ones] where they can,” Kylie said. “I think that will be a gradual change.”

She added the county can continue to take steps to address other areas to reduce energy usage and emissions such as increasing the efficiency of buildings and increasing access and supply of renewable energy resources.

Vaughn Golden has been reporting across New York since 2016. Working as a freelancer while studying journalism and economics at Ithaca College, Vaughn has reported for a number of outlets including the Albany Times Union, New York Post, and NPR among others. Prior to coming to WSKG full-time, Vaughn was a reporter for the Watertown Daily Times. Vaughn now covers government and politics for WSKG.