Community Solar at LIPC

 

By Christina Lau, LIPC Intern –

On June 13th at the Bethany Presbyterian Church, I attended LIPC’s PowerUp Solar Community Meeting aimed to inform leaders from nonprofit organizations and religious institutions on how to adopt solar in their communities and on their rooftops. Being a new volunteer to LIPC, I was not previously exposed to any of the presenters which overwhelmed but also intrigued me. The first two presenters represented the New York Energy Democracy Alliance (EDA) and discussed how our current energy systems are controlled by multinational corporations that lack accountability. They mentioned that National Grid isn’t even an American company which surprised me. The absence of local input regarding our energy alarmed me, which seemed to be the goal of the EDA. They created the foundation of the meeting and showed the audience why we should care about and question our energy sources.

Following the EDA’s presentation, Resonant Energy and the Long Island Progressive Coalition gave a thorough overview of PowerUp Solar Long Island. They highlighted a startling fact that 80% of Long Island rooftops are commercial, nonprofit, or religious. These rooftops could help fight climate change if they did not face disproportionate barriers to entry than regular households because of their tax exempt status.

Before the meeting, I never knew houses of worship and nonprofits could go solar and I was especially unaware of how much space they dominated on Long Island. I was thus eager to learn about the solutions PowerUp Solar provides to assist those who want to partake in the solar movement but are currently financially unable to. While they spoke about the three main solutions (bulk buying, leveraging tax incentives, and low-cost loan options), they also fielded many questions. I was pleased to witness an engaged audience and learned more from their active participation. People were concerned about costs, upkeep, and whether or not PowerUp would stay involved after installation. The presenters responded that they welcome any follow-up, even questions regarding how to get bird poop off a solar panel. They gladly receive engagement because their goal is to build community relationships not just provide easier access to solar.

PowerUp concluded the meeting by sharing stories and details about their three ongoing projects. I believe this asserted a level a trust among the audience because they could easily identify with these local houses of worship. Before this meeting, I had a vague understanding of the work PowerUp was involved in but now I understand why their endeavor is so crucial. During the presentation everyone was asked to decide their top energy choice and most responded with solar or wind. Likewise, those who already had solar on their homes expressed considerable satisfaction. These events combined exemplify the huge potential of this program because there is no lack of demand, just a lack of financial resources and knowledge which PowerUp can readily supply. It’s clear to me that PowerUp Solar is genuinely dedicated to educating and empowering communities on Long Island to embrace solar as an effective means to combat climate change.

I can’t wait to keep working with LIPC to help communities realize the benefits of locally produced clean energy.

Long Islanders Join Thousands in Albany for #CuomoWalkTheTalk

 

By Joe Tonini,

Monday April 23rd 2018, dawned bright and beautiful, a harbinger of what was to be a good day; good for environmental awareness, good for social justice. And, of course, good for the ongoing political education of Governor Andrew Cuomo. This was a day when thousands would descend upon Albany to tell the Governor to walk the talk on climate – to be the bold climate champion NYS needs by stopping all fracking infrastructure, moving to 100% renewable energy, and making corporate polluters pay.

Our Long Island bus was filled with folks from both Nassau and Suffolk Counties. Ryan Madden, the Sustainability Organizer with LIPC – who did an excellent job of both planning our outing and coordinating the events of the day – gave us a briefing on the ride up to Albany. We had an early, delicious lunch as we approached Albany, and despite the challenging logistics it went off without a hitch. A huge thank you to Bhavani Jaroff of iEatGreen for providing the scrumptious food!

We departed the bus in the Sheridan Hollow neighborhood of Albany, a working class area and community of color that has been saddled with a fossil-fuel power plant for generations. We heard several speakers tell personal stories of living near this plant and of the poor health outcomes experienced by family members. Epidemiological data tells us of higher instances of cancer and asthma in areas adjacent to fossil-fuel power plants. It is one of thing to read of such problems, it is quite another to hear testimony from those directly affected.

Following the Sheridan Hollow rally, over 1,500 of us marched to the State Capital, and an enthusiastic group we were; with creative signage, and some marchers in creative attire as well (e.g. one woman’s outfit consisted of 500 single-use plastic bags). We rallied again in the shadows of the Capital, with speakers from several groups, emphasizing the need for Governor Cuomo to walk the talk.

The Governor has done some good things to help mitigate the effects of climate change. New York State has banned fracking under his leadership. He has committed to closing down the remaining coal-fired power plants in our state, with some provision for those whose jobs will be lost. NYSERDA during his time has become a powerful advocate for renewables. However, his support for the nation’s most ambitious climate legislation, the Climate and Community Protection Act has been tepid. How can he then lay claim to a mantle of an environmental champion and social justice advocate while building a new fracked-gas power plant in Sheridan Hollow?

Our day in Albany concluded with a spirited rally at the “million dollar staircase”, followed by 55 brave and committed souls who engaged in the time honored American tradition of civil disobedience, getting arrested for blocking entrance to the Governor’s office. We will continue to push Gov. Cuomo to walk the talk on climate. These events are energizing and they are fun too!

Working on Climate with LIPC

 

By Paige Golembeski

Over the past month, I have been interning with the Long Island Progressive Coalition. As a student at SUNY New Paltz majoring in Environmental Geochemical Science and minoring in Environmental Studies, I care deeply about safeguarding our climate for future generations. I thought it was important to channel my academic work into local action but didn’t know exactly how to do that.

In early January at a meeting of the Bay Shore-Babylon Women’s Huddle, a leader with the Long Island Progressive Coalition spoke about her efforts with the organization on an ambitious climate campaign under a statewide coalition called NY Renews. After hearing about the aims of the coalition, I immediately reached out to LIPC to see how I could help. I had six weeks before I left for my semester abroad and I was determined to use that time to dig into local climate action. I am grateful to have found LIPC during this time.  

Before I started, I was unsure what to expect. I had never worked for a grassroots community group before but I jumped right in. I found out that I would be calling local elected officials each week and asking them to sign-on to an open letter calling for increased action on climate change and a transition to 100% clean renewable energy in NYS. Each week I would be following up in order to ensure the elected official received the letter and to hold them accountable for a response. I would also be participating in weekly phone banks where a group of us would be calling constituents of a state senator whose support was crucial in the progression of the Climate and Community Protection Act, a bill championed by NY Renews which would commit New York to reaching 100% renewable energy economy-wide by 2050, attach fair labor standards to clean energy jobs, and ensure adequate resiliency resources get to communities most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

With previous internships, I never felt that I had an impact with what I was doing or that I learned much of anything. But working with LIPC taught me a number of different lessons. I learned how important persistence is in this line of work.

Through my consistent calls to local elected officials, I saw that without constant reminding, officials would have bypassed what we had to say and moved on to another issue. Because of our persistence, over 20 elected officials signed-on in support of the open letter we sent out. And in phone banking, I saw the importance of persistence, as well as the willingness of people on the other end of the line to help further a cause they care about. Many people were willing to listen to our message and ultimately made calls to their State Senator Elaine Phillips urging her cosponsorship of the Climate and Community Protection Act. Because of the numerous people we called and the dozens of people who called Senator Phillips, we were able to secure her support for this crucial piece of legislation. When I heard the news, I was in disbelief. We had actually done it!!!

In such a short period of time I saw the true power of grassroots organizing in bringing people together and pushing for progressive change. It was so encouraging to learn first hand that the voice of the people can have a direct impact on state decisions.

Gaining the support of elected officials for the open letter and working to secure the cosponsorship from the state senator showed me that the fight to combat climate change is long and trying, but that everyday citizens have a direct role in leading the efforts. The Long Island Progressive Coalition empowered me in a way I was not expecting, and for that, I am truly grateful. I’ll be back at their office as soon as I return home from abroad.