Walden Partners with Vassar College Students on NYS Climate Act Research
Walden was very fortunate to have worked with a team of student researchers from Vassar College this summer! The students spent the past couple of months learning about the New York State Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA, or Climate Act) and developing a business plan for Walden. As a result of this work, they provided recommendations to Walden on CLCPA-related services that we can offer our clients as they firm up their efforts to comply.
New York’s Climate Act
The CLCPA was signed into law in 2019. In late 2022, the state’s final Scoping Plan was issued. This document provides guidance to state agencies and local governments on how New York shall meet the goals outlined in the CLCPA.
Some of New York State’s goals include:
- Decreasing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 40% (as compared to 1990 levels) by 2030
- Making 70% of electricity renewable by 2030
- Banning the sale of new internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles by 2035
- Decreasing GHG emissions by 85% (as compared to 1990 levels) by 2050
- Achieving net zero emissions by 2050
These goals are very ambitious, and some deadlines that the state has imposed are approaching very quickly. At Walden, we are committed to helping our clients address their environmental challenges, and we recognize that under the CLCPA, they are facing some massive changes. Walden is working hard to stay on top of new CLCPA-related regulations as they are rolled out so that we can help our clients stay compliant.
The CLCPA’s Scoping Plan is a large document and is packed with information. Working with Vassar College researchers was a fantastic opportunity for us at Walden to more thoroughly digest the information contained in the Scoping Plan, by following up on reference materials, and to consider the impacts that the CLCPA will have on New Yorkers.
Walden’s Work with Vassar
The Vassar students that we worked with are all a part of the Vassar Student Consulting Initiative. This program offers students the opportunity to work with companies on consulting projects, giving them real-world consulting experience.
Walden’s student consultants began the summer reading the CLCPA Scoping Plan. They split up the main sectors amongst themselves (transportation, buildings, electricity, industry, agriculture/forestry, and waste) and looked more deeply into each of these.
The team updated Walden on their progress during weekly meetings. Their research was guided by Walden’s President, Joseph Heaney III, who encouraged the students to think outside the box and always ask questions. He made sure to mentor the students by including discussions about resume building and career preparation.
Walden is committed to community engagement, and one of the ways we do this is by mentoring students attending schools in the areas where we work. Students have received mentorship at Walden through summer internships, winter shadowing opportunities, and sponsored research programs (such as the Vassar program). As a professional engineering firm, Walden believes in giving its time and resources to support the development of the next generation of engineers, scientists, and sustainability professionals.
The Vassar team presented its findings on August 11. As a result of their weeks of research, the students were able to make recommendations on how Walden can best provide CLCPA-related services to our clients. They also noted potential unintended consequences that may come about as a result of new CLCPA-related policies and discussed some of these in their presentation. Each one of our student consultants was very motivated and hard-working, and we are very proud and appreciative of all that they accomplished over the past several weeks!
Key Takeaways from the Research
- State residents should consider early adoption of changes required by the CLCPA in order to take advantage of funding available in the form of state grants and tax credits before programs run out of money. Eligible activities include purchasing electric vehicles (EVs), converting heating systems to ground source heat pumps, and performing energy efficiency studies.
- Energy efficiency improvements can easily be identified through an energy audit.
- Municipalities and businesses need to consider long-term budget planning measures directed at meeting CLCPA requirements.
- Surplus land in heavy drive areas currently occupied by gas stations will become available as the state transitions away from internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.