- Adopted Columbia County’s first Climate Action Plan for Government Operations, setting the town on a path to reach CLCPA targets and operate at net zero by 2050. The plan can be viewed at https://www.austerlitzny.com/media/2901
- Completed a NYSERDA clean heating and cooling campaign earning the town $5,000 in grant funds
- Completed a energy study of the town highway garage earning the town $10,000 in grant funds
- Built the Austerlitz Town hall with new all-electric air source heat pumps and installed LED bulbs in all interior light fixtures, installed LEDs in highway street lights
- Installed solar panels on Town garage in 2020.
- Installed electric car charging station in Town Hall parking lot.
- Planted 25 seedlings along the stream in the Austerlitz town park (behind Austerlitz Fire House) with DEC’s Buffer in a Bag program.
- Became a certified NYSERDA Clean Energy Community (CEC) (2019).
- Completed a municipal buildings energy benchmarking analysis
- Made compost bins available to residents
- Launched a solarize Austerlitz campaign
- Partnered with New Lebanon, and Chatham in several Repair Cafes to offer residents the opportunity to fix items in their household which would otherwise end up in a landfill
- Leading in the Capital Region in the Clean Energy Communities program with 3000 points
The town of Austerlitz encompasses a rich and varied landscape that inspired writers Edna St. Vincent Millay and Mary Oliver, and continues to engender reverence for nature amongst its current residents. The Town Board of Austerlitz, in its stewardship of its incredible natural resources, has a history of valuing sustainability and climate consciousness in its policy-making. In 2017, the Town Board of Austerlitz voted unanimously to take the pledge and become a NYS Climate Smart Community (CSC Action PE1). In 2019 Austerlitz became a certified NYSERDA Clean Energy Community and in April 2020, the Climate Committee was formed.
The Austerlitz Climate Committee, which focuses on the DEC Climate Smart Communities program and also NYSERDA Clean Energy Communities, includes Jere Wrightsman, Chair, who serves on the Austerlitz Town Board, Chris Schober, also a town board member, Tim Stalker, who is on the Columbia County Planning Board, and Cara Humphrey, Austerlitz’s representative on the Columbia County Environmental Management Council since March 2019 and Vice President of Sales at Neighborhood Sun (a community solar company) and Paige Ruane, Co-Founder of Partners for Climate Action and Co-Director of the Local Champions program. The committee continues to grow and now includes residents Jennifer Thompson, Jonathan Miller, Jeff O’Donnell, and James Oates.
In 2021, the town received a generous grant from a resident to hire a Climate Smart Coordinator (CSC Action PE1). DeeAnn Veeder, an Austerlitz community member, was the first to serve in this capacity. DeeAnn, under the direction of Haley Balcanoff, Tara Donaldio, and Jill Henck of the Capital District Regional Planning Commission (CDRPC), led Austerlitz in an important first step in its CSC journey, the greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory measuring the emissions of municipal operations (CSC Action PE2). In June 2021 the town submitted this accounting, analysis, and report of the GHG emissions resulting from the day-to-day government operations in Austerlitz. The town also completed a municipal buildings energy benchmarking analysis (CSC Action PE3).
DeeAnn also helped helped to build a website and social media presence (CSC Action PE9) for the Climate Committee. She led a composting educational campaign and as part of this, receptacles for compost collection were made available to the public free of charge- – residents can still come by the town hall during business hours to pick one up!
As a natural next step, building upon the greenhouse gas inventory of government operations for Austerlitz,the town took the initiative to reduce GHG emissions in government facilities (CSC Action PE12). Previous to this, the town hall was renovated (thanks to the generosity of a town resident) to include heat pumps (an alternative system to oil and gas heating), which utilize electricity, reduce dependence on fossil fuels and are more cost efficient. (CSC Action PE4).
To reduce grid-purchased electricity, the town installed an array of solar panels on the Austerlitz town garage. To improve energy efficiency, LED bulbs were installed in all interior light fixtures within town hall (CSC Action PE3) as well in highway street lights (CSC Action PE3). These actions alone have resulted in a 7.8% overall reduction in greenhouse gas emissions for the town.
Believing these benefits should be accessible to all its residents, the town also adopted a Unified Solar Permit, which simplifies the solar permit process for homeowners. In 2021, the town also created a hazard mitigation plan (in participation with Columbia County) to increase safety for residents. Austerlitz installed an electric car charging station in the town hall parking lot where all residents with electric cars are welcome to come and plug in! Additionally the committee spearheaded a Solarize Austerlitz campaign in which residents are able to opt to switch to solar power for their homes with an Austerlitz Town Board-vetted, locally-operated solar array and receive a 10% credit on their monthly electric bill. The response to Austerlitz in conjunction with the county-wide Solarize campaign has been so overwhelming that it is currently on pause for new subscribers – stay tuned!
Flood mitigation and ecosystem resiliency were among the first priorities for Austerlitz in its CSC journey. In 2021 the Climate Committee worked with residents to plant 25 tree seedlings along the stream in the Austerlitz town park (behind Austerlitz Fire House) with DEC’s Buffer in a Bag program. These trees will prevent flooding and erosion. The committee also conducted planning to right size town culverts, identifying high priority road stream crossing replacement projects. The purpose is to allow for crucial species migration, improve community flood resiliency and road conditions.
All of these actions have resulted in the recognition of Austerlitz as a Bronze Certified Climate Smart Community. Austerlitz is also leading amongst Capital Region municipalities in NYSERDA’s Clean Energy Communities program with 3000 points on the regional leaderboard. Check out the town’s scorecard HERE! NYSERDA also published a profile on Austerlitz as a featured community in its publication.
In 2022, Austerlitz hired the Rev. Kathryn Beilke to serve as Coordinator for the Climate Smart Community Task Force. Rev. Beilke has been a longtime environmental advocate and is currently working on assembling a Climate Action Plan for Government Operations within the town of Austerlitz (CSC Action PE2), as well as a public education campaign on waste (including movie nights and community gatherings), and increasing opportunities for residents to sustainably dispose of un-commonly recycled items.
The Climate Committee is also pursuing the execution of a Natural Resources Inventory, has begin a Comprehensive Planning process (which will include further climate considerations with input from town residents) and is forming community partnerships. We would love to grow our committee to include any residents with special skills and passions to enrich our work! Come and join us!