Koutnik Votes No On Climate Pledge, Saying It’s Too Weak

Koutnik Votes ‘No’

On ‘Climate Pledge’

Draft As Too Weak

But SWECC Committee, 4-1, Forwards

Compromise Document To Full Board

The Solid Waste & Environmental Concerns Committee of the county Board of Representatives discusses on a “Climate Smart Community Pledge” resolution. County Reps. Keith McCarty, Meg Kennedy and Gary Koutnik, listen to County Planning Director Karen Sullivan.  At right is county Rep. Danny Lapin (Jennifer Hill/AllOTSEGO.com)

By JENNIFER HILL • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

ONEONTA – Saying the language “was softened,” County board Vice Chair Gary Koutnik, D-Oneonta, today voted against sending a “Climate Smart Community Pledge” resolution, as revised, to the full board for action March 6.

However, his colleagues on the Solid Waste & Environmental Concerns Committee nonetheless agreed to forward the adjusted resolution, 4-1, for the full board’s consideration.

“The language did reduce the  sense of Climate Change being a crisis,” Koutnik said.  “My vote was largely a symbolic one, so it would be in the public record for future generations to see.”

County Planning Director Karen Sullivan wouldn’t provide a copy of the amended resolution, saying it was “not a final draft.”  So it was unclear what verbiage Koutnik was objecting to.

The Climate Smart Community pledge is part of a state effort to incentivize municipalities and counties to become clean-energy communities.  But given Koutnik’s pro-environmental positions in the past and his leadership role, other representatives could join him in voting against the resolution in March.

In January, some county reps raised concern the pledge, as then written,  might limit economic-development options.  Sullivan offered to research how much flexibility was possible in the resolution’s language.

“I was completely in favor the resolution before the meeting today,” Koutnik said.  “But the resolution backs off from science, it backs off the seriousness of the crisis, and it talks about belief instead of facts.”

“There needs to be a record for future generations that it was not unanimously agreed upon,” he concluded before voting no.

If the board adopts the pledge in March, Otsego County will join a growing list of municipalities that have registered as Climate Smart Communities with the state.  The state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) established the program to produce a “network of New York communities engaged in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and improving climate resilience,” according to the DEC website.

The Climate Change Pledge is one component of the state’s Clean Energy Community Program, which enables municipalities and counties in New York to receive state grants up to $250,000.

While Koutnik found the resolution’s language compromised too much on the issue of climate change and how to fight it, “yes” voters thought it important to have the board vote on it.

“It’s a testament we’re making a bipartisan approach, one that will show Otsego County in a positive way,” said Rep. Danny Lapin, D-Oneonta.

In addition to Lapin, Committee Chair Kevin McCarty, R-Springfield, Meg Kennedy, C-Mount Vision, and Michelle Farwell, D-Morris voted to send the resolution to the board.

To join the network and become a registered Climate Smart Community, an entity’s governing body “must adopt a resolution that includes…ten elements of the pledge and submit the resolution” to the state, according to DPEC’s website.

Local communities that have already adopted the pledge are the City of Oneonta, the Village of Cooperstown and the towns of Hartwick, Otsego, Richfield and Roseboom.

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