“You manage what you measure,” according to one business axiom, meaning that solving a problem requires understanding how bad a problem it is. Local officials committed a couple of years ago to measuring the greenhouse gas impacts of government operations and after measuring these over several years, they now can say with confidence that the impact is definitely growing in New Paltz.
These greenhouse gas inventories — one each for village and town facilities and programs — are undertaken by the members of the Climate-Smart Communities team. This, the first update to the baseline data, was largely completed by high school student Conor Warren, working as an intern for the team. For the sake of comparison, the amounts of two greenhouse gases — methane and nitrous oxide —are converted into an amount of carbon dioxide that would have the equivalent impact. The inventory includes direct creation of these gases, such as by running an engine, as well as indirect impacts that result from electricity being generated elsewhere and then used in a municipal building, for example.
The trend through 2019 continues year-over-year increases that can be traced back as far as 2013. From a 2016-17 average of 655 CO2-equivalent tons for the village and town governments, it nearly reached 860 tons in 2019. The presentation given by Warren included data for both governments, but the village portion was not discussed at the February 18 town council meeting. Of the remainder, big increases have been seen from the courthouse and the trailers housing town hall functions. Gasoline and diesel also went up.
Projects are in process that will lessen these impacts. Once the new justice center is open on North Putt Corners Road, problems with the old court will cease to exist. With that building issue resolved, town officials have spoken about renovating the old court and police space to rid themselves of those trailers. The number of hybrid vehicles in the police fleet continues to grow.
Samrat Pathania, Warren’s teacher in Wallkill, urged “drastic reductions” in CO2-equivalents, saying that “we can no longer say that even flat [growth] is okay.”