By Francesca Krempa
Warren County’s efforts to become more climate friendly are paying off.
After pledging to reduce the area’s greenhouse emissions and create a climate-action plan, the county was recently named an official “Certified Bronze Climate Smart Community” by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
“This title serves as representation of the hard work done in Warren County to advance actions that promote our environment, our most valuable resource,” Chris Belden, an assistant county planner who also leads the local climate task force, said in a release.
The Climate Smart Community program, which began in 2009, is a New York State government initiative designed to help local governments reduce their carbon footprints and adopt more clean energy resources. According to the DEC’s website, there are currently 305 municipalities across New York State that have registered with the program, including several communities in Adirondack Park, such as Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake and Lake Placid.
Fifty-one of these municipalities have been certified as official “Climate Smart Communities.” Warren County now joins Saratoga Springs as an Adirondack-area municipality going beyond the pledge to receive this designation.
Since last summer, when the county’s Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to register with the program, Warren County has completed 4 out of 10 climate-oriented actions to move into bronze-status. This includes developing a climate vulnerability assessment and climate adaptation strategies, adopting the New York State Solar Permit to expedite approval on solar energy projects, and establishing a financial project for building energy efficiency.
The County has also restored riparian buffers — or naturally vegetated areas — along Lake George’s West Brook and installed several electric vehicle charging stations at the Warren County Municipal Center.
“The stations are located near the Lake George outlets and along the Warren County bike path, so they can use the stations while they’re shopping at the outlets or while going for a bicycle ride,” said Claudia Braymer, supervisor for the Glen Falls 3rd Ward. She’s hopeful that more people will make the switch to hybrid or electric vehicles.
The award is an environmental milestone for the Lake George region, but the work doesn’t end there.
Certified Bronze communities are given an advantage on funding applications, which can be used to adapt local infrastructure to anticipate extreme weather events and implement practices that reduce energy use. Both Belden and Braymer explained that the local task force has already discussed options for completing an energy audit that assesses greenhouse gas, fleet, and natural resource inventory.
“These projects, which will incorporate public input and approval by the Board of Supervisors, will help define the climate agenda for Warren County,” Belden said.
Once that audit is complete, planning officials will be able to identify areas that need improvement and continue cutting energy usage and costs.
“It puts us on a path of setting and meeting even more goals that will reduce our energy usage, reduce our emissions, and improve our resiliency to the impacts of a changing climate,” Braymer said. She also said the award helps Warren County to unlock state funding, “which is always needed and particularly now given the financial distress caused by the pandemic, for future Climate Smart projects.”
“We have more to do, but this is a great way to help with reducing pollution and protecting the entire Lake George region.”