G’town board bides time on climate change stand

GERMANTOWN—Climate change is affecting glaciers and the pace of efforts to address climate change can feel glacial.

During the public comment period of the April 26 Town Board meeting, resident Ellen Jouret-Epstein spoke to the board about considering what is known as the Cooperstown Resolution. Named for the village that in March 2015 became the first municipality in the state to urge local, state and federal officials to address climate change, the resolution also says that Cooperstown stands ready to help achieve that goal.

In the ensuing year, nine Columbia County towns passed similar resolutions, said Ms. Jouret-Epstein. “This is not just a feel-good resolution,” she added.

The towns’ advocacy caught the attention of Rep. Chris Gibson (R-19), who introduced a similar resolution to the House of Representatives (H-Res 424). Mr. Gibson has been joined by 12 of his GOP House colleagues in the House in support of the measure.

Ms. Jouret-Epstein passed out materials to each board member, including copies of resolutions passed by the Town Boards of Hillsdale (in April 2015) and Livingston (in December 2015). The language of those resolutions was identical:

1) “The Town Board . . . urges the County of Columbia, the State of New York, and the Congress and President of the United States of America to take prompt and effective measures to rapidly address climate change by promoting and encouraging a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels and their associated infrastructure, improvement in the efficiency of energy systems, and the development and installation of renewable energy systems;

“and 2) stands ready to work with any level of government to achieve these goals, that will in the process create safe, sustainable jobs and will provide real, clean energy solutions for generations to come.”

Ms. Jouret-Epstein asked board members to consider the resolution at their May meeting. She agreed that it would help to have county, state and federal support, but she said that “the push has to come from us.”

At the May Town Board meeting Jeremy Smith, a Board of Education member and former councilman, asked if the resolution was being considered. Supervisor Joel Craig said that “drafts” had been distributed, but councilman Matthew Phelan was unable to attend the meeting and “he wants some input.” The matter was postponed.

Ms. Jouret-Epstein attended the June 21 Town Board meeting and brought up the Cooperstown resolution again, asking whether she could answer any questions from the board.

“A lot of what’s in the resolution is in our Comprehensive Plan,” said Deputy Supervisor Brittany DuFresne, who chaired the meeting in Mr. Craig’s absence.

“It’s a simple resolution,” said Ms. Jouret-Epstein. “I don’t understand why we have to wait for the Comprehensive Plan review process to get behind this.”

Mr. Phelan replied that he had not had a chance to discuss the resolution with Mr. Craig, that “we need to know what implications it has on us as a town” and that he wanted to “try to tailor a resolution to fit our town,” since the town would “need to back up” the resolution.

Ms. Jouret-Epstein responded that the Germantown Comprehensive Plan does not make recommendations to county, the state or national governments, saying, “They won’t read our Comprehensive Plan.”

She said that passage of the resolution did not require the town to take any action. “It just expresses support and you will be part of a fraternity of other towns that have signed on to this.”

Reached after the meeting, Mr. Craig said, “I offered to work on a version of the resolution that everyone would be comfortable with, and I hope to do that in the next month.”

The next Town Board meeting is Tuesday, July 26 at 7 p.m.

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