Westchester and Suffolk counties are partnering on a shared services plan that will lead to the electrification of their entire vehicle fleets by 2030 in order to cut carbon emissions to zero.
County Executive George Latimer was joined by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone Monday afternoon in White Plains where each official signed an executive order that commits their departments to the conversion to an electric vehicle fleet by the end of the decade and to submit a plan to the Department of Public Works within 90 days detailing how that will be accomplished.
The plan must also include the addition of any charging stations that would be needed, Latimer said.
Latimer and Bellone agreed to enter a joint procurement process that is expected to make the purchases cheaper than if each county went out on its own.
“This is a significant effort to combat climate change. But it doesn’t come without leadership from individuals, and I have to say much of what we’ve done in Westchester that patterns the idea of shared services comes from following Suffolk County’s lead in the creation of a portal in a number of other areas,” Latimer said.
Bellone said the shared services plan is consistent with an executive order signed by President Joe Biden to cut carbon emissions nationwide by 50 percent by 2030. Having suffered from disasters in the last decade such as Superstorm Sandy and Tropical Storm Isaias, which many scientists believe were fueled at least in part by climate change, it’s time to take action, he said.
Transportation-related issues may be the biggest factor in trying to reduce carbon emissions, according to Bellone, making this effort of critical importance. He expects that municipalities or other counties may eventually join the agreement.
“You cannot address climate change, you cannot address this profoundly important issue if you are not dealing with transportation,” Bellone said. “Transportation represents the biggest impact on emissions, and so this announcement is actually critical to our joint efforts to protect the environment, reduce emissions, reduce our carbon footprint, and I think this provides a model for municipalities around the state.”
This isn’t the first time that Westchester and Suffolk have partnered on a regional basis. The two counties had a previous shared services plan when they joined together to buy police cars, which helped to hold down the price for each.
They also recently formed a regional coalition with Nassau County to pressure the state’s congressional contingent to help lift the $10,000 limit on state and local tax deductions.
While the conversion to an all-electric fleet will take money, Latimer said federal funds related to the pandemic, including the proposed American Job Act, could help the two counties get a significant portion of the investment needed. Latimer mentioned that there is currently bipartisan support for the bill in Washington, although how extensive an infrastructure bill Congress would agree to pass is still to be determined.
“How widespread a bill, what it will cover has yet to be known, but there is support on both sides of the aisle to do infrastructure and we think this is appropriate infrastructure for that purpose,” Latimer said.
The county is also prepared to contribute money when needed, he said.
Bellone also said he expects some type of federal commitment, but the initiative will benefit everybody.
“The more we can do to push more quickly to a clean energy future, at the same time do it in a way that is saving taxpayers money, that is a win-win situation and that’s why I think this announcement today is very important,” he said.