Brian Pugh: For a Green 2017

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To the Editor:

As a community at the confluence of two rivers, climate change is of special importance to our Village. In addition, our county has consistently received an F rating from the American Lung Association due to air pollution.

Therefore, like many Croton residents, I am alarmed by the President-elect’s rejection of the scientific consensus on climate change and has announced his intention to appointment an array of fossil fuel executives and pollution apologists to his cabinet. But losing the executive branch as an ally in the battle against global warming might be just the challenge we need to a popular, grassroots mobilization against climate change.

Here are a few proposals on how our community can act in environmentally and economically prudent steps to fight climate change:

First, participate in the 100% renewable option for the Sustainable Westchester Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) program. Last year, Sustainable Westchester succeeded in securing 100% renewable electricity for consumers in over a dozen Westchester communities at less than that average 2015 Con Edison price. Since then, the success of this CCA program led the NYS Public Service Commission to use it as a model and approve CCA statewide and the US EPA has honored Sustainable Westchester as New York Environmental Champion. According to the latest data (12/28/2016), the 100% renewable option for CCA continues to consistently beat the Con Edison price. Currently, Dr. Mayor Greg Schmidt is scheduled to meet with Sustainable Westchester this Friday–I hope that this will lead to Croton joining the CCA program sooner rather than later.

Second, support divesting public pension funds from the fossil fuel industry. As a public employer, our Village contributes to the NYS pension fund, but the fund is controlled at the state level. Recently, the Croton Climate Initiative requested that the Village Board of Trustees adopts a resolution calling on the NYS legislature to adopt a bill to limit investments of public pension funds in fossil fuels (A.8011-A/S.58973). I support such a resolution. It does not make any sense to invest in businesses that are working at cross-purposes with public policy and the public interest. Already, investors controlling more than $5 trillion in assets have committed to dropping some or all fossil fuel stocks from their portfolios, according to the New York Times. Do we, as taxpayers, want to be the ones left holding the bag if and when fossil fuels become a stranded asset?

Third, facilitate the adoption of electric and low-emissions vehicles. New incentives are available to help New York vehicle fleet owners, including local governments like Croton, to transition their fleets into cleaner, more efficient and cost effective alternative fuel vehicles–with the state picking up a share of the cost. Since a large share of our local air pollution comes from vehicle emissions, improvements here are a triple play: environmentally, economically and as a public health matter.

This list is far from comprehensive. So, as always, I welcome your suggestions on how we can work together to improve our community:bpugh@crotononhudson-ny.gov

Sincerely,

Brian Pugh

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