Mainstream Green President’s Commentary Published in Post Standard

Sustainability and Climate Must Be Part of Economic Development Planning

Picture of Dana Johnston, Mainstream Green president, at podium

#TrammelCrow recently proposed building the #secondlargestwarehouse in the world in the #OnondagaCounty, NY Town of Clay. The project is being developed for an unnamed client (guess who... worlds biggest online retailer maybe?)  Dana Johnston wrote the following Commentary, which was published in and the Post Standard.

The Climate Crisis is the single biggest threat to human and animal life on this planet, yet today there is no formal Sustainable Development plan in place for Onondaga County, that takes into account the most current scientific data and sets a path towards safe economic growth.

Unfortunately, without guidance of such a Sustainable Development plan, the Onondaga County Industrial Development Agency and the Town of Clay planning board have been operating at a disadvantage during the approval process regarding the proposed development of the world’s second largest warehouse.

While the advantages of increased economic activity alone are valuable, without adequate consideration of climate impact of this project, both locally and globally,  neither OCIDA nor the Clay Planning Board could  have exercised full due diligence when they quickly agreed to give the developers an incentive bundle that includes a sales tax exemption estimated at $20 million, a $1.7 million exemption from the state mortgage recording tax , and finally, a 15-year property tax discount worth $49.1 million.

In changing the zoning and purpose of that land, the county and the town are trading an area that absorbs and sequesters carbon, and rain, for one that increases and expels greenhouse gases and creates significant rain runoff.

Even though this tradeoff affects more than just Onondaga County, at least the local impact could have been evaluated. Air pollutants, voluminous rain runoff due to massive amounts of hard surfaces, and contamination of  watersheds will definitely increase during construction and in the years immediately following, as the 25 tractor trailers per hour and thousands of employees’ internal combustion vehicles steadily release carbon,  and greenhouse gases into our atmosphere.

During the 15 years of property tax breaks for this project, the world (and our county) must make a near total transition from internal combustion vehicles to electric or fuel cell vehicles and electric heat pumps instead of burning fossil fuels for heating.

Could the OCIDA and the Clay Planning Board have exercised greater due diligence if they had required that the project be designed with climate in mind? If they had, for example, required the project to meet some LEED standards or to be energy net neutral?

Just imagine if we’d been shown drawings for solar panels, stretching across the acres of warehouse rooftop, and perhaps viewed ideas for the creation of  micro-grid. We also might have seen an area for geothermal wells or reservoirs, for a building that will encompass nearly 3.8 million square feet and will need heating and cooling.

We might have seen plans for charging stations or hydrogen fuel cell refill stations for 21st century cars, trucks, snowplows and fork lifts.

We might have been shown green roofs  along with site development plans with rain collection and water storage areas. We know that hard paved and built areas cause rain runoff to gain speed and  carry solids along to contaminate clean water areas, and we know that simply building culverts and more sewers is not the answer.  We know that only well designed buffer areas with trees and other vegetation can sufficiently slow down and process such tremendous amounts of water. Wouldn’t it have been beneficial for us to see if and where they are planning the buffer areas, and whether they are sufficient in capacity for their load?

Taxpayers are well within their rights to expect that, by approving tax benefits to a private developer, their representatives will not deprive them of a 21st Century opportunity for sustainable development. by saddling them with what could be a harmful, unsustainable 20th century private enterprise project AND lost tax revenue.

The unnamed future occupant and Trammell Crow Co., the developers of the enormous Clay warehouse, still have a chance to shape the project for posterity. I hope they step up to the plate with 21st Century technology and climate needs in mind, so we all will not be be stuck with a facility that is obsolete before it is built.

And I hope that our County Executive and legislature will assign top priority to adopting a data driven, scientifically sound Sustainable Development plan for the county to help us grow and prosper, while ensuring livability of our community and the planet.

Screen shot of online commentary by Mainstream Green President Dana Johnston

Insurer Chubb announces plan to cut coverage of coal production + usage in power plants


On July 1, 2019, Zurich based Chubb Limited (NYSE: CB), the self-described "world's largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company," announced that it has adopted a new policy concerning coal-related underwriting and investment. With the new policy, the company will no longer underwrite the construction and operation of new coal-fired plants or new risks for companies that generate more than 30% of their revenues from coal mining or energy production from coal. Insurance coverage for existing coal-plant risks that exceed this threshold will be phased out by 2022, and for utilities beginning in 2022.  In addition, Chubb will not make new debt or equity investments in companies that generate more than 30% of revenues from thermal coal mining or energy production from coal.

Quoted in a press release, Evan G. Greenberg, Chairman and CEO of Chubb said that the company recognizes the risks of climate change and "the impact of human activity on our planet"  and that "Making the transition to a low-carbon economy involves planning and action by policymakers, investors, businesses and citizens alike.

"The policy we are implementing today reflects Chubb's commitment to do our part as a steward of the Earth," he commented.

Because Chubb is the self-described "leading crop insurer in the U.S. with a $2.3 billion agriculture insurance business and an agribusiness serving the commercial P&C needs of farmers and ranchers," the company is clearly facing an extraordinary amount of loss claims from farmers and ranchers besieged by the record breaking floods of 2019.

Chubb's 2018 Annual Report disclosed that the company views Climate Change as an existential threat. The Chairman's remarks reveal that while last year's disasters were of less magnitude than the record–setting levels of 2017, it nonetheless was a major year for Natural Catastrophe claims, with insured losses around $80 billion, possibly the fourth highest in 50 years.

"Chubb's decision to implement this new coal policy clearly reflects the company's perception that phasing out coal production and usage is in their long term self interest, which now seems to be aligned with that of the planet," commented Dana Johnston, President of the grass-roots environmental nonprofit, Mainstream Green. "I am delighted that Chubb has taken this meaningful step. Hopefully other companies will follow suit, without delay. We have precious little time to reverse this path to planet disaster!"

Chubb's CEO, Mr. Greenberg, also expressed the opinion that "government social policies ...insulate people and society from the true costs of their decisions." He makes the point that when people choose to live in more urban than rural areas, or near water or wilderness, they put themselves at greater risk of loss to natural catastrophes. The company plans to make sure that insurance premiums increase commensurately with the risks to be covered.  "We must face the reality that there is a greater cost citizens must bear to remain protected. Insurers don’t have a printing press," he wrote.

To view the policy and other information about Chubb's commitment to the environment, click here.

Read This Before Plant Shopping This Weekend!

This NYTimes article reports climate change is causing a northward shift of warmer weather, changing what plants thrive where as hardiness zones heat up. We hope you are going to plant more perennials, trees or shrubs, to help cool the planet, but before you plant, figure out which ones will flourish in the coming years. Click or tap on the image to access the article, and see for yourself, the warming trend on the map, which shows information furnished by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

NYTimes article reports climate change causing northward shift of warmer weather, changing what plants thrive as hardiness zones heat up

Kick 2017 out with donation to fight for climate

Will you remember 2017 for the devastating floods? Monster hurricanes that ravaged Houston, Texas, South Florida and completely destroyed Puerto Rico?  Uncontrollable fires?  Blue algae poisoning fresh water sources in CNY and all over the USA?  One of the largest oil spills in North America, more than 200,000 gallons of crude oil spilled from Keystone pipeline?  One thing you won’t want to remember is that  2017 was “the” year you didn’t do ALL you could to fight climate change.
Climate change is the most dangerous social justice and geopolitical issue EVER in human history.
When food and water are most scarce, who will have it and who will not?
When severe weather destroys more communities, which ones will see the most suffering but least resilience or reinvestment?
Will Puerto Rico be the example of what will happen in poor communities all over the United States?
Please join the fight today, with a donation to Mainstream Green, because climate change is here, it is growing, and humans can no longer afford to ignore it.
Mainstream Green has posted a year end fundraiser on Facebook: Dana’s Not Another Hotter Year fundraiser for Mainstream Green, Inc.
Please donate there (or use the link or mailing address on this page) and then share it on your timeline, and ask other people to donate, also. Any amount will help. Facebook accepts donations and passes them along to us for free. Your donations are TAX DEDUCTIBLE (for the last time this year!) because Mainstream Green, Inc. is a 501C3 nonprofit corporation.