Ulster County’s Sustainable Green Fleet policy is running so far ahead of schedule that the county is considering a local law amending its goals to reflect this.
“We’d set a policy a while back on the green fleet that was to ensure that a minimum of 5 percent of the overall county fleet by 2020 were green vehicles,” said Deputy County Executive Marc Rider. “We’ve kind of far and away exceeded that.”
The Ulster County Sustainable Green Fleet Policy was adopted by the County Legislature in August 2015 and approved by then-County Executive Michael Hein.
“Ulster County recognizes that energy use associated with the operation of its motor vehicle fleets exacerbates local air quality problems and results in greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change,” reads the introduction to Local Law #9 of 2015. “While the operation and maintenance of the County vehicle fleet is essential to the ability to provide a wide range of services to the public, the fleet represents a significant environmental and financial cost to Ulster County.”
The introduction goes on to explain that in 2012, the County’s baseline year for Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Inventory, the fleet consumed 201,000 gallons of gasoline and over 306,000 gallons of diesel fuel. The fleet was also responsible for the emission of approximately 4,899 metric tons of CO2 equivalent or approximately 35% of the County’s total GHG emissions in 2012.
In 2014, the County’s energy costs totaled $4,178,670, including $1,734,637 relating to vehicle energy costs.
On Wednesday, August 10, County Executive Pat Ryan held a public hearing on an amendment to the law to reflect a deeper commitment to further greening the County fleet.
Rider explained that the County currently has a total of 469 vehicles in its fleet. Of those, there are four hybrid transit buses, three battery-only electric buses, 14 hybrid passenger vehicles, 32 plug-in hybrid passenger vehicles, and four electric battery passenger vehicles. The trend, particularly with the new Sustainable Green Fleet Policy goals, is to further shift to an environmentally and economically-friendly fleet.
“That public hearing was the last step in it being a local law,” Rider said. “We believe the county executive will sign shortly and this will be a local law within the next month or so. It’s a big step up in our commitment to greening our fleet and, and going towards the entire Green New Deal.”
The idea behind Ulster County’s Green New Deal emerged before the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. In an introduction to the effort on the Ulster County website, Ryan outlined the urgency of addressing climate change at the county level.
“We have urgent and immediate work to do to stabilize our climate, transition to clean energy and protect and regenerate our natural resources,” Ryan said. “And we have equally urgent work to undo generations of economic and environmental injustice and create opportunity for everyone. A Green New Deal connects these twin urgencies, generating prosperity by committing to do the work at scale. Laid out over a nearly 20-year time horizon, with a suite of immediate actions, intermediate targets, and aggressive but achievable long-term goals, this package of policies and investments represents the right level of ambition and determination to tackle the challenges before us.”