Climate Mitigation: Government Operations

The Ulster County Department of the Environment coordinates environmental policy and resource planning within County government. The Department utilizes a unique pooled resources model to draw on other departments to bring the right expertise of bear on different issues. Key areas of involvement include; natural resource planning, natural resource inventory data management and creation, stormwater regulation compliance, support of county energy efficiency & green building infrastructure initiatives, and involvement in watershed planning issues.

Carbon Neutral Government Operations Strategy

Ulster County’s Carbon Footprint Reduction Program was developed by the Ulster County Department of the Environment in order to reduce the environmental footprint associated with municipal government operations. The implementation of this program has successfully reduced energy usage and cost, improved operational efficiency and helped to mitigate climate change by offsetting carbon emissions where emissions are not presently avoidable. Ulster County is the first and only county in the State of New York to achieve carbon neutrality for municipal government operations. The County's Carbon Footprint Reduction Program was awarded the 2015 Achievement Award from the National Association of Counties (NACo) for County Resiliency and Sustainability. 

 The Carbon Neutral Government Operations Strategy is a component of the 2019 Government Operations Climate Action Plan.

The elements in the strategy denote a basic progression which is essential in making sound decisions. However, in an often-complicated decision-making environment, the County has chosen to make it explicit rather than an implicit framework in order to:

1) Underscore the importance of reducing energy use.

2) Demonstrate that any decision has been made within this greater context .

3) Keep focus on the operational tasks required to reduce the use of offsets to achieve carbon neutral operations.

Although more municipalities are sourcing their electricity from renewables, which is a significant achievement, purchasing renewable energy only offsets the electricity generation. It does not offset emissions associated with burning fuels for building heating or vehicle operation. The energy consumption and associated emissions from those operations can be significant.

In 2018 Ulster County, electricity consumption contributed only 16% to our total emissions footprint; 84% of emissions resulted from the use of other fossil fuels. We are currently unaware of another New York municipality that offsets their emissions beyond those associated with electricity. The results of the Carbon Neutral Operations Strategy are unique and have been recognized at the state and national level by the National Association of Counties, US Environmental Protection Agency, as well as the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.

By design, the backbone of the strategy is a replicable method for examining energy use and carbon emissions at a municipal or organizational level. It also provides a prescriptive approach to reducing carbon emissions. The intent is that that by explicitly including this framework into decision-making and communication, we not only ensure our best action, but enhance the organizational understanding of these concepts and their importance. It is important to note that although Ulster County achieves a carbon neutral government operation through the purchase of offsets, we are simultaneously committed to achieving actual reductions in energy use and emissions to meet our goals.

Annual Reports