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Babylon tries again for state certification to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Brian Zitani, Babylon Town's waterways management supervisor and

Brian Zitani, Babylon Town's waterways management supervisor and Climate Smart Communities coordinator, at an electric car charging station. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

The Town of Babylon is hoping the third time’s a charm, as they try once again to obtain certification in a state clean-energy program.

For more than 12 years the town has been trying to get certification for the state’s Climate Smart Communities program, which helps local governments reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The certification is achieved through a series of state-directed actions and programs, such as upgrading lighting or performing energy audits. The certification can then open the door to grants for further clean energy initiatives.

"The goal is to get the certification and get credit for as many things as we can, but as we’re doing these projects we are also reducing energy demand and finding smarter ways to use energy," said Brian Zitani, the town’s waterways management supervisor and Climate Smart Communities coordinator.

A community must first register for the program before working toward the four levels of certification: certified, bronze, silver and gold. According to the state’s website, Nassau County, Babylon and nine towns on Long Island have registered for the program, along with 12 villages. The towns of Hempstead, Southampton and East Hampton, as well as the City of Long Beach, have obtained bronze certification, while Suffolk County has earned silver.

Certification is earned through more than 100 possible actions, each of which carry a value of 1 to 10 points. To be certified, the town must reach at least 120 points.

"It’s just a lot of work and we would always come close but not get there," Zitani said.

Babylon has received credit for actions such as creating electric car charging stations and upgrading to LED streetlights. But the state does the certification in five-year blocks, Zitani said, so if a community doesn’t get certification within that period, they have to start over. Also, the program’s emphasis is on new projects, Zitani said, so it’s unlikely the town will get credit for established programs and past actions, such as buying an electric vehicle in 2016.

"That’s the kind of thing you sometimes feel a little cheated on," he said.

Last month, the town created a Climate Smart Communities task force consisting of four town employees and consultants and four residents, all volunteers. Zitani said he hopes the increased manpower will help the town reach certification by early next year.

"This time, third time’s a charm for me, I’m going to get that certification come hell or high water," he said.

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