In an effort to establish New York City as a national leader on climate change, the City Council recently passed a slew of bills collectively known as The Climate Mobilization Act or NYC’s Green New Deal. The package is anchored by a bill requiring large and medium sized buildings to reduce emissions 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050. Buildings that are deemed to be “the very worst performing” have until 2024 to curb their emissions. Mayor Bill de Blasio further elaborated by stating that classic glass and steel skyscrapers will be banned moving forward, unless they meet strict performance guidelines. So, what are these guidelines? What exactly is in the NYC Green New Deal? And what businesses will be impacted?
As mentioned above, the heart of the Climate Mobilization Act is Intro 1253-C and 1252-A (Constantinides) which mandates that buildings not emit greenhouse gases at levels higher than the limits set in the legislation. These limits are set based on the occupancy group of the building and are calculated to require emissions reductions from the highest emitting 20% of buildings in each occupancy group beginning in 2024, and the highest emitting 75% of buildings in each occupancy group beginning in 2030. This bill also increases the City’s bureaucracy by creating the Office of Energy and Emissions Performance (OEEP) within the Department of Buildings (DOB). The OEEP will be tasked with overseeing this and any future legislation relating to building emissions. The legislation also creates a Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Program. PACE is a voluntary financing mechanism that enables energy efficiency and renewable energy projects to receive long-term financing for little or no money down. Debt service is mostly limited to the money saved through the resulting energy savings. Ideally, this lending program will allow building owners to make the required alterations.
To reduce carbon emissions there must be a shift to alternative energy sources. Intro 1317-A , 1318-A, and Res 845 (Constantinides) does just that by providing a clear process for design and construction standards as well as maintenance and removal protocols for large wind turbines. The Mayor’s Office of Sustainability or another office that the mayor sees fit, must create an assessment on the feasibility of replacing in city gas fired power plants with battery storage systems powered by renewable sources (where appropriate) this assessment must include when replacements could take place, and a review of technologies for battery storage of energy. The assessment will be part of the long-term energy plan and is to be updated every four years. Lastly, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is to DENY the Water Quality Certification permit for the construction of the Northeast Supply Enhancement Pipeline (Williams Pipeline).
Another major target of the NYC Green New Deal is the installation of green roofs with Intro 1031-A, 1032-A (Espinal), Intro 276-A (Donovan), Intro 1251-A (Cohen), and Res 66 (Levin). These bills will require the creation of a data base with information and resources relating to green roofs, require the inclusion of green roofing zones in new construction, as well as for buildings undergoing major renovations, study the feasibility of extending these requirements to smaller buildings, adjust the grading scale to properly asses energy efficient buildings, and ask the State Legislature to increase the real property tax abatement for the installation of a green roof to $15 per square foot.
The last significant component of the NYC Green New Deal is Intro 1527 (Lander & Chin) which will impose a 5-cent fee on paper bags distributed by stores (beginning 3/1/2020). Customers who use SNAP or similar programs will be exempt. This is in addition to the State’s recent plastic bag ban.
It is important to note that the estimated cost of compliance for this is in the $4 billion range. Unsurprisingly, many landlords, co-op boards, and the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) are opposed to the finalized legislation. As such increased rents for both residential and commercial tenants (or co-op maintenance fees) are a possibility. Though there are exemptions for rent stabilized buildings which means the cost of the retrofits can’t be passed onto tenants in the form of higher rents. Clearly, from this point on building owners and managers are going to have to really think about their energy usage and modes.