NYC’s Green New Deal

By Lisa DiCaprio, Conservation Chair, Sierra Club NYC Group

On April 18, 2019, the NY City Council passed the Climate Mobilization Act, also referred to as NYC’s Green New Deal, which comprises nine bills that were enacted into law. A new NYC department, the Office of Building Energy and Emissions Performance, will be established in the Department of Buildings to implement and enforce the Climate Mobilization Act.

Local Law 97, introduced by Council Member Costa Constantinides as Int. 1253-2018-C, sets fossil fuel caps on buildings exceeding 25,000 square feet, which comprise 50,000 out of NYC’s one million buildings and produce 35% of NYC’s greenhouse gas emissions. The fossil fuel caps vary according to the building occupancy group; for example, residential, business, factory and industrial, education, hotels and dormitories, and hospitals. Houses of worship and buildings with one or more rent-regulated apartments are exempted from the caps; however, these apartment buildings must implement specified energy efficiency measures.

Building owners may purchase renewable energy credits. The first compliance period, which begins in 2024, will apply to the 20% of buildings responsible for the most emissions in each building occupancy group. The bill’s goal is to reduce 40% of the greenhouse gas emissions from covered buildings by 2030 and 80% by 2050 relative to a 2005 baseline. According to the most recent, 2017 NYC Inventory of Greenhouse Gas Emissions, buildings are responsible for 67% of NYC’s greenhouse gas emissions. Fines of $268 per metric ton of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) will be imposed on an annual basis on non-compliant buildings. Local Law 97 will facilitate the 80% by 2050 reduction in greenhouse gas emissions mandated by Local Law 66 (2014) introduced by Council Member Constantinides as Int. 0378-2014. [Note: I testified in support of Int. 1253-2018 on behalf of the Sierra Club NYC Group at the City Council Committee on Environmental Protection hearing on December 4, 2018.]

Local Law 96, introduced by Council Member Costa Constantinides as Int. 1252-2018-A. “This bill would establish a sustainable energy loan program for the purposes of providing certain building owners with funding for the installation of renewable energy systems or energy efficiency improvements.” [Note: The bill authorizes a Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program in NYC that will allow building owners to receive long-term financing for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.]

Local Law 95, introduced by Council Member Andrew Cohen as Int. 1251-2018-A. “A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to a building energy efficiency grade.”

Local Law 94, introduced by Council Member Raphael Espinal as Int. 1032-2018-A. “This bill would require the installation of green roofs or solar photovoltaic electricity generating systems on the roofs of certain buildings in the City.”

Local Law 93, introduced by Council Member Raphael Espinal as Int. 1031-2018-A. “This bill would require the office of alternative energy to post and maintain links on its website to [give] information regarding the installation of green roofs and other resources and materials regarding green roof systems.”

Local Law 92, introduced by Council Member Donovan Richards as Int. 0276-2018-A.. “This bill would adjust the green roof requirements established by Int. No. 1032-A for buildings 5 stories or less. It would also require HPD to study the potential impact of compliance with the green roof requirements on the affordability of certain buildings. Finally, this bill would provide for adjusting the requirements of Int. No. 1032-A for certain buildings (e.g. buildings receiving certain tax exemptions or owned by HPD) for a period of 5 years.”

Local Law 98, introduced by Council Member Costa Constantinides as Int. 1317-2019-A. “The local law would clarify the building department’s obligation to include wind energy generation in its toolbox of renewable energy technologies. It would also require the department to develop or support standards and technologies and authorize the installation of large wind energy turbines and assemblies that are certified in appropriate locations.”

Local Law 99, introduced by Council Member Costa Constantinides as Int. 1318-2019-A. “The local law mandates an assessment on the feasibility of replacing in-city gas fired power plants with battery storage powered by renewable sources by the mayor’s office of sustainability or such other office as the mayor may designate. Such an assessment shall include when such replacement could take place, and a review of potential technologies for battery storage of energy. The assessment will be part of the long-term energy plan and shall be updated every four years.”

Local Law 100, introduced by Council Members Margaret Chin and Brad Lander as Int. 1527-2019. “This bill would require certain covered retail vendors who sell certain products subject to New York State sales tax to charge a fee of 5 cents for each paper bag provided to a customer of such vendor. This bill would have the City opt into State law that goes into effect on March 1, 2020. It would also exempt residents who use the supplemental nutrition assistance program, special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children, as full or partial payment toward the items purchased in a covered store from paying the bag fee.”

[NOTE: The law referred to in this bill is the NYS statewide plastic bag ban that allows local governments to mandate a five-cent fee on carry out paper bags. Three cents will be directed to the NYS Environmental Protection Fund and two cents to NYC for the purchase of reusable bags. On April 11, 2019, Mayor de Blasio signed an Executive Order that will prohibit NYC agencies from purchasing almost all single-use plastic foodware, which must be replaced with compostable or recyclable alternatives. The Executive Order will be implemented by the end of 2019 and is predicted to result in a 95% reduction in the purchase of single-use plastics by NYC agencies.]

 

On April 18, the City Council also passed these two resolutions

Res. 0066-2018 Introduced by Council Member Stephen Levin. Resolutioncalling upon the State Legislature to pass, and the Governor to sign, legislation that would increase the real property tax abatement for the installation of a green roof to $15 per square foot.”

Res. 0845-2019 Introduced by Council Member Costa Constantinides. Resolution “calling upon the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to deny the Water Quality Certification permit for the construction of the Northeast Supply Enhancement pipeline through New York Harbor.” [Note: This pipeline is also known as the Williams pipeline.]

 

RESOURCES  

The agenda of the April 18, 2019, NY City Council hearing with links to the bills comprising the Climate Mobilization Act and the hearing video.

The Climate Mobilization Act and NYC Buildings and Climate Change

NYC’s Local Law 84 requires all NYC buildings over 10,000 square feet to annually measure and report their consumption of energy and water. This annual benchmarking provides the data required for implementing Local Law 97 of the Climate Mobilization Act which applies to buildings over 25,000 square feet. The data is also available to the public.

The Building Energy Exchange organized a May 22, 2019, event that I attended on the Climate Mobilization Act. See the website for the Climate Mobilization Act Series: Briefing, which provides several resources, including a video of the event, and The Building Energy Exchange, Insight: The Climate Mobilization Act

Building Energy Exchange, Pursuing Passive: Strategies for a High Comfort, Low Energy Retrofit in NYC

New York Passive House

NYC Mayor's Office of Sustainability

NYC’s Climate Action Plan: OneNYC2050

NYC Panel on Climate Change 2019 Report

The press release on the July 18, 2019, press conference in NYC at which Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act and announced two offshore wind projects that will generate 1,700 MW of electricity. The press release includes a link to the video of the press conference, at which Governor Cuomo was joined by Vice President Al Gore and NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos. Several hundred people, including members of the Sierra Club, attended the press conference. The Sierra Club participated in the NY Renews coalition and advocated for the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which was sponsored by State Senator Todd Kaminsky and Assemblyman Steve Englebright. As the Sierra Club press release states, “This bold, historic legislation represents a framework by which New York can lead the nation and the world in addressing the climate crisis while building a clean energy economy that works for all New Yorkers.”

These four articles on reducing emissions from buildings appear in the real estate section of the July 14, 2019 New York Times:

Stefanos Chen, “Counting Down to a Green New York

Ronda Kaysen, “Making Your House Greener” 

C. J. Hughes, “More New Yorkers Embrace Solar Power

Michael Kolomatsky, “Which States Build the Greenest?