NY Green Deal: Increase Carbon Sequestration

This is one of a series of posts on Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s New York State Green New Deal. As part of his 2019 Justice Agenda he included a “nation-leading clean energy and jobs agenda that will put the state on a path to carbon neutrality across all sectors of New York’s economy”.

Not surprisingly there are no details other than the announcement, no mention of potential costs, and no explanation how all this will affect any of the many impacts that he claims are caused by climate change. There is a proposal to provide the plan to make New York carbon neutral and I will blog on those plans as they become available. In the meantime this post discusses the language used to describe the plan to increase carbon sequestration and meet a land challenge as part of the New York Green New Deal.

In the following sections I list the text from the announcement with my indented and italicized comments.

Increase Carbon Sequestration and Meet the U.S. Climate Alliance Natural and Working Lands Challenge

In 2015, Governor Cuomo launched the Climate Resilient Farming Program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and to increase resiliency of New York State farms impacted by climate change. Just last year, New York accepted the U.S. Climate Alliance’s Natural and Working Lands challenge, ensuring that land stewardship and land sequestration efforts join energy reduction and adaptation activities as part of our collective climate solutions.

According to the New York Soil & Water Conservation Committee website “The goal of the Climate Resilient Farming Program is to reduce the impact of agriculture on climate change (mitigation) and to increase the resiliency of New York State farms in the face of a changing climate (adaptation).” The plan is to mitigate and adapt.

Estimates of annual greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture (apart from agricultural energy use, which is classified differently) in New York State range from 5.3 to 5.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. Manure management is responsible for roughly 15% of the emissions; emissions from soils are slightly under a third of the total. This represents a major opportunity to reduce emissions.

 While New York State is projected to increase precipitation overall, it is expected to come in short, extreme precipitation events in between mild droughts. This represents a major risk to farms, particularly those in low-lying or flood prone areas. Even very local downpours and cloud bursts can cause substantial damage to farms.

On the face of it this program is innocuous but is it effective? According to the most recent press release I could find: Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced nearly $2.2 million will be awarded to 34 farms across the state through the Climate Resilient Farming Grant Program. Launched by the Governor in 2015, the program helps farms reduce their operational impact on the environment and better prepare for and recover after extreme weather events. Through three rounds of funding to date, the state has provided $5.1 million to 40 total projects, assisting nearly 70 farms. I have included a description of the awards made for 2018 at the end of the post. My biggest problem is that the 34 farms received money from the state for projects that in some cases seem like business as usual practices. Unless a program can provide this kind of support to every farm in the state then where are we going with this? If my neighbor gets money to do a project why in the world would I do it, however appropriate for the environment, unless I get money too?

To meet our Natural and Working Lands commitment, Governor Cuomo will establish new research partnerships to incorporate forest and agricultural carbon into New York’s greenhouse gas inventory and climate strategy and to establish a carbon sequestration goal for our natural and working lands. To help achieve this goal, Governor Cuomo proposes doubling the State’s investment in the Climate Resilient Farming program and creating new forestry grant programs—enhancing the Healthy Soils NY program and enabling farmers, forest owners, and communities to achieve the economic and environmental co-benefits of sound management practices.

I think the concept that increasing the carbon content of the soil is a no regrets solution. The basic concept is that building healthy soil sequesters carbon dioxide. My point is that healthy soil is good for the planet whatever the effect of CO2 on climate. As mentioned above, however, I think the New York program has to take the big picture approach how to implement their plan across all the farms and forests rather than awarding grants to the politically connected.

Awarded Projects Climate Resilient Farming Grant Program April 27, 2018

  • Fulton County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $74,494 to assist one farm with the implementation of a 45-acre prescribed grazing and 5.7-acre riparian buffer system that will increase soil health and reduce farm based greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Herkimer County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $432,659 to work with a dairy farm to install a manure storage cover and flare. The system will dramatically reduce methane emissions from the farm’s manure storage, mitigate water quality concerns – especially during major precipitation events, and promote energy savings.
  • Schoharie County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $10,256 to work with one vegetable farm to implement cover crops using no-till planting methods. This project will plant 14 acres of diverse species cover crops to improve carbon sequestration and improve resiliency to the farm during periods of flood and drought.
  • Monroe County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $149,085 to work with one dairy farm to install a riparian buffer system and an irrigation water management system. The systems will mitigate nutrient and sediment runoff and allow the farm to store and convey water as needed in preparation for any drought situations.
  • Ontario County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $119,907 to work with four farms to implement cover crops to improve the carbon sequestration potential in the soils and improve resiliency to the farm during periods of flood and drought.
  • Wayne County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $281,686 to work with a diverse livestock farm to install a manure storage cover and flare to dramatically reduce methane emissions from the farm’s manure storage, mitigate water quality concerns – especially during major precipitation events, and promote energy savings.
  • Genesee County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $156,790 to work with one dairy farm to expand a clean water storage reservoir to an irrigation reservoir that will provide additional capacity for drought and flood periods and install a center pivot irrigation system.
  • Madison County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $128,600 to work with one farm to implement a water and sediment control basin system that will prevent erosion and protect the Village of Chittenango from an increased flooding potential due to runoff from the farm.
  • Onondaga County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $40,760 to work with one farm to implement a 78-acre prescribed grazing system that will increase soil health, improve soil carbon sequestration by promoting plant growth throughout the year, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Onondaga County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $180,856 to work with one farm to implement a 1.05-acre wetland that will allow for greater storage of stormwater. The project will help to reduce the flood volume downstream and ultimately reduce sedimentation into Skaneateles Lake.
  • Essex County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $103,500 to work with one farm to install riparian buffers systems and ponds for stormwater capture and irrigation. The systems will sequester carbon dioxide emissions and reduce farm runoff to the Boquet River and Lake Champlain.
  • Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $43,696 to work with one farm to install a riparian buffer system and livestock access control. The systems will reduce streambank erosion and sedimentation, provide a reliable water source for grazing animals, and improve the capability of the farm to withstand extreme weather conditions.
  • Chautauqua County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $85,024 to work with one farm to implement diverse species cover crops that will improve soil quality, reduce erosion during extreme weather events, and increase soil organic matter.
  • Erie County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $82,268 to work with five farms to implement cover crops. These projects will improve the carbon sequestration potential in the soils and improve resiliency to the farm during periods of flood and drought.
  •  Southern Tier
  • Chenango County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $77,255 to work with six farms to implement cover crops. Cover crops are planted to improve soil quality, reduce erosion, and to increase soil organic matter to improve resiliency to the farm during periods of flood and drought and decrease the impacts of flooding downstream.
  • Schuyler County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $205,000 to work with seven farms that include dairy, crop, and beef/sheep farms, in three priority watersheds, to implement cover crops. This project will allow for cover crops throughout nearly the entire growing season, which will conserve soil, improve water holding capacity to help mitigate impacts of extreme storm events, and help to protect several public drinking water sources.

Author: rogercaiazza

I am a meteorologist (BS and MS degrees), was certified as a consulting meteorologist and have worked in the air quality industry for over 40 years. I author two blogs. Environmental staff in any industry have to be pragmatic balancing risks and benefits and (https://pragmaticenvironmentalistofnewyork.blog/) reflects that outlook. The second blog addresses the New York State Reforming the Energy Vision initiative (https://reformingtheenergyvisioninconvenienttruths.wordpress.com). Any of my comments on the web or posts on my blogs are my opinion only. In no way do they reflect the position of any of my past employers or any company I was associated with.

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