From Blueprint to Bill | Urban Green Council

From Blueprint to Bill

City Council Hearing on Retrofit Bill

New York City Council hearings can sometimes be sleepy affairs, but this was not the case at yesterday's Committee on Environmental Protection.

It was standing-room only for the hearing on a landmark retrofit bill introduced last week by Council Member Costa Constantinides. The bill, Intro. 1253, proposes new carbon emissions caps and energy performance requirements for the city’s large buildings starting in 2022.

The proposed legislation follows nearly a year of stakeholder engagement through the 80x50 Buildings Partnership and the release of Urban Green’s Blueprint for Efficiency. Over eight months and 85 meetings, with 70 experts from 40 groups, the Buildings Partnership developed 21 recommendations that will deliver the largest carbon reduction in the history of New York City. This shared thinking is the essential ingredient that's been missing in global climate policy debates.

The bill is a good start and includes key recommendations from the Blueprint, such as a robust stakeholder advisory committee to develop a detailed energy performance metric that works for NYC’s large, dense and varied building stock. But, as our CEO John Mandyck outlined in Urban Green’s testimony, we still have work to do to reflect all elements of the Blueprint.

Many stakeholders at the hearing voiced strong support for the goals of the bill. But many also questioned its feasibility as currently structured. Key concerns include the bill’s accelerated 2022 timeline. Another is emissions limits set according to broad occupancy groups that cover buildings with very different space use and operating hours. These questions – and others – will need to be resolved in the legislative process in the weeks and months ahead.

Yesterday's hearing also considered a bill that will open up a new, low-cost avenue to finance energy retrofits and revisions to Local Law 33 on building energy grades. We applaud the former and second the need to reconsider Local Law 33 in light of Intro 1253.

Intro 1253 is critical to the city’s mandate for 80 percent carbon reductions by 2050. Yet even when we get there, New York harbor will still rise if other cities around the world don’t follow. For others to do so, we need public policies that both work in New York and are exportable around the world – policies like the energy efficiency metric and credit trading recommended in the Blueprint.

We applaud Council Member Constantinides’ leadership on climate change policy and we look forward to working with all stakeholders as this bill develops.

What You Need to Know

Changes are expected before the bill passes into law. Here are the current terms: 

  • Covers buildings greater than 25,000 square feet
  • Creates an office of building energy performance within the Department of Buildings to administer and implement the law
  • Sets mandatory carbon emissions limits for 2022 and 2023 based on building occupancy groups
  • Requires an advisory board of relevant stakeholders to develop recommendations for a building energy performance metric and requirements for 2024 and beyond
  • Sets default carbon emissions limits for 2024-2029 if no alternates are developed
  • Empowers the office of building energy performance to establish alternate methods of compliance, including green power purchase and credit trading
  • Provides penalties for non-compliance, as well as variances for hardship or significant weather variability
  • Exempts buildings with one or more rent-regulated units
  • Expands Local Law 87 retro-commissioning and audit requirements to buildings greater than 25,000 square feet (including buildings with rent-regulated units)
  • Requires the city to study the feasibility of a carbon trading program for compliance

See the full bill here.

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