Groundbreaking Regional Sustainability Planning Underway in New York

On June 25, Governor Cuomo announced the awarding of ten regional sustainability planning grants to New York’s ten economic development regions. Administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the Cleaner, Greener Communities program will create comprehensive regional sustainability plans for the first time. Implementing these plans will bring broad and long lasting benefits for the people, economy and environment of New York. Sustainability planning is inherently a regional exercise, since people, money, energy, water, products, vehicles, waste and pollution don’t stay in one place. New York State has not traditionally had structures and funding in place to foster broad regional efforts such as this one, so this is a golden opportunity for regions to come together and create strong, actionable plans to address all the topics below that deeply affect their economies and the quality of life for their residents now and well into the future. The plans, set to be completed by the end of 2012, will:

  • Assess current greenhouse gas emissions and energy use, along with available natural resources and economic assets, liabilities, and opportunities
  • Set sustainability targets for energy supplies, transportation, waste and water management, land use, housing, agriculture, economic development, and open space
  • Develop a sustainability plan outlining the short- and long-term actions [a] region can take to achieve targets and goals
  • Prioritize eligible projects that can apply for Cleaner, Greener Communities implementation funding

Each region was awarded approximately $1 million in funding to complete the plans. As highlighted above, a key component of the plans is to identity priority projects that will be eligible for an anticipated second round of funding of $90 million for implementation in 2013. Implementation funding will be awarded to projects that:

provide the greatest opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions;
save energy and deploy renewable energy;
while improving the economic and environmental health of our communities

NYSERDA has developed a page defining sustainability as part of their Cleaner, Greener program information. It’s a great set of actions focused on efficient use of land, energy and resources more broadly, and includes all the economic benefits of better planning for stronger and healthier (physically and financially) households and communities. It’s worth highlighting:

Defining Sustainability: Improving Our Quality of Life with Smart Growth Practices

Every development decision we make—what land to build on, what street to pave, what energy to use, etc.—affects the economic and environmental health of our region. Sustainable communities adopt smart growth practices to:

  •  Use renewable energy to become more energy independent
  •  Control sprawl to reduce housing and transportation costs
  •  Invest in public transit systems to serve more people and minimize pollution
  •  Build stores, schools, and workplaces near neighborhoods to reduce vehicle miles traveled
  •  Attract businesses to neighborhoods to create jobs, and keep dollars local
  •  Make walking and bicycling easy to foster healthy lifestyles
  •  Reuse developed land to improve economic potential
  •  Adopt clean technologies to grow our 21st century economy
  • Conserve resources to strengthen the natural environment
  • Reduce greenhouse gases to improve and protect our environment 

Visit the NYSERDA site for the summary of the Cleaner Greener program and for information on the regional planning teams