City Council Environmental Protection Committee Hearing June 27th

Tuesday, the New York City Council Committee on Environmental Protection heard a variety of bills related to clean energy and improving energy efficiency within the city. Keeping Mayor de Blasio’s 80×50 goal in mind, these bills outline ambitious strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating against climate change.

Representatives from the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability spoke first at the hearing, addressing several key issues with the proposed bills which lead to the conclusion that more collaboration between the council and the department needs to take place in the future. John Lee, Deputy Director for Green Buildings and Energy Efficiency, identified significant overlap between the introduced bills and the responsibilities of the DOB Commissioner and already existing programs to accelerate renewable energy permitting. The major point of contention was over the energy efficiency grading standards outlined in Intro 1632. This method is not effective at measuring efficiency because it looks at raw energy usage per unit of area, under which a building with a high density of people might actually get a poor grade and an empty building would get a good grade.

Environmental advocates from a variety of organizations, including NRDC, Environmental Defense Fund, and Urban Green Council, as well as NYLCV’s own Adriana Espinoza, applauded the proposed bills on their aim to fight climate change but pushed for the bills to be taken even further. Intros 1630 and 1639 promote bulk purchasing of solar energy, but we should not be limited to solar alone, other renewable energy technologies like wind and geothermal deserve to be supported as well. Additionally, the details of the proposed energy code, real time heat loss in buildings, and energy efficiency grading need to be refined with a variety of stakeholders in order to ensure their success.

Promoting energy efficiency and clean energy in New York City is vital in the fight against climate change, and the bills heard today are a step in the right direction. However, we cannot underestimate the complexity of these issues and we must take the time to refine them now so that they will be as effective as possible in the future.