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Oct 6, 2008 12:01 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Nuzzi outlines his own green legislation

Oct 6, 2008 12:01 PM

From the time they were introduced, Southampton Town Board member Chris Nuzzi opposed the controversial new energy codes, which took effect on October 1 and demand that new homes in the municipality meet stricter energy consumption guidelines.

Now, Mr. Nuzzi is proposing his own set of initiatives that reflect, in his opinion, a fundamental philosophical difference in how the town should pursue its “green” agenda.

At the next Town Board meeting on Tuesday, October 14, Mr. Nuzzi intends to introduce three resolutions aimed at increasing the town’s energy efficiency through enhanced incentives, such as making renewable rebates more lucrative and increasing property tax exemptions for those who choose alternative energy resources.

“I share the same goals that everyone else does of conserving energy and reducing our dependence on fossil fuels,” Mr. Nuzzi said. “But I differ on how we should get there.”

One of the problems the councilman has with the current energy codes is that to meet the requirements of the legislation’s mandates, homeowners must shoulder, he said, an unfair financial burden. “If it costs the taxpayers more money, then I don’t like it,” he said.

The councilman is also questioning the constitutionality of the codes, which require builders to meet specific energy efficiency levels based on the size of their new homes. The larger the structure, the higher the standards that must be achieved by the homeowner.

“During these tough economic times, we shouldn’t be putting more government burden on the backs of taxpayers,” Mr. Nuzzi said.

He also argued that dangling a carrot in the form of rebates would entice more homeowners to use alternative energy sources rather than hitting them with a regulatory stick. “If you choose to make the investment in alternative energy as opposed to us telling you to [do it], then you are going to have a personal interest and stake in those alternatives,” he said. “In my opinion, that’s a much more effective way to pursue our goals.”

In his first resolution, Mr. Nuzzi requests that Albany reduce “already high property taxes” for those residents who choose to invest in alternative sources of energy, such as wind, solar, or geo-thermal.

In 2006, the town adopted a program that offered $2,500 rebates to residents and businesses that used only solar energy. Mr. Nuzzi’s second resolution adds geo-thermal into the rebate program and changes the dollar amount of the payback from the fixed $2,500 to 10 percent of the cost of installing the alternative energy system, or up to $5,000.

In that same resolution, the councilman is also proposing waiving the fees and expediting the process for subdivision applications that would use 50 percent or more solar or geo-thermal energy systems.

And lastly, Mr. Nuzzi is calling for an energy audit of all town facilities and asking for the authorization to begin the request for proposal process of seeking an energy consultant who would review the town’s energy uses and make recommendations for alternatives. “Municipal governments throughout Long Island are some of the largest consumers of energy,” he said. “We need to lead by example.”

In 2005, Mr. Nuzzi said the town recognized an executive order signed by former New York Governor George Pataki that encouraged local governments to “review their energy efficiency practices and procedures.” The town ignored those suggestions, according to the councilman.

Throughout the public hearing process on the new energy codes, Town Board member Anna Throne-Holst, the initiator of the legislation, said more needed to be done on the town’s part to encourage homeowners to investigate alternative energy sources. She also said commercial and municipal facilities were next on the list.

The new energy codes are part of the first legislation to be proposed by the town’s “green” committee, which was created to help the town come through on its pledge to chart a more environmentally conscious course.

In April, Southampton Town was named a “cool city,” meaning that it and 600 other municipalities had agreed to pursue an effort, sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, to reduce carbon emissions, increase energy efficiency, and encourage the utilization of alternative energy sources.

At the time, those goals were considered lofty and ambitious, but Ms. Throne-Holst said the members of the “green” committee took them seriously and endeavored to attain them. Hailed by many as visionary and considered among the strongest in the country, the town’s new energy codes are the result of that work.

“I want to be very clear on this,” Mr. Nuzzi said. “I have great respect for Anna and the members of the committee. They brought a very important issue to the forefront and that’s a great thing.

“We may differ on the process,” he continued, “but we all want the same outcome.”

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Congratulations to Mr. Nuzzi for thinking the problem through! Its refreshing to see a politician use his head to solve a problem and not just cram another mandate down the publics throat in an attept to grab headlines. While I agree that Green Building is very important, in this economic climate, the last thing we need are more mandates that raise the cost of construction. It's ironic how some people talk about affordable housing and then do all in their power to jack up the cost of housing with ...more
By mapjack (1), Sag Harbor on Oct 13, 08 4:50 PM
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