Three Significant Environmental Bills Pass at Final City Council Stated Meeting of 2014-2017 Term

NYLCV’s Adriana Espinoza speaking at a press conference to announce the imminent passage of Intro 1465A.

The New York City Council’s legislative session ended in a flurry of activity, with Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito moving a number of environmental bills in the last stated meeting of her speakership. In a capstone to a productive term, bills to address indoor air quality, outdoor air quality, and to require energy efficiency grades in building entrances all easily passed through the Council last week. Here’s a rundown of what the three bills that passed will require, if signed by the Mayor and enacted.

Asthma  Free  Housing  Act: Intro 385, which has long been a priority of NYLCV and was featured on our scorecard last year,  aims  to  address  indoor  asthma  hazards. It will require building  owners  to  inspect  for  and fix  allergens  that  can  lead  to  asthma,  such as  mold  and  pest  infestations.  Emerging  research suggests  that,  even  more  than  outdoor air  quality,  poor  indoor  air  quality  is  a  leading  threat  to  the health of approximately  one  million New  Yorkers  diagnosed  with  asthma. Asthma  is  the  most  common cause  of hospitalization  for  children  aged  fourteen  and  younger.  This  is  an  environmental  justice issue,  as  children  living  in  low  income  areas  are  four  times  more  likely  to  be hospitalized  for asthma.

Phasing Out Dirty Home Heating Oil: Championed by Council Members Torres and Constantinides, Intro 1465A will speedup the phase-out of fuel oil grade number 4 in poer plants including those in Western Queens. Fuel oil grade numbers 4 and 6 are a major contributor to pollution in the City, emitting nitrous oxides, sulfur dioxide, and especially particulate matter int our air from combustion in buildings and power plants. These emissions are correlated with higher frequencies of cardiovascular disease, respiratory illness such as asthma and bronchitis, cancer, and even death. Currently, power plants can burn fuel oil grade number 6 until 2020 and fuel oil grade number 4 until 2030. Under this bill, plant owners would have the option of either (1) continuing to burn fuel oil grade number 6 until 20201, but immediately switching thereafter to fuel oil grade number 2 or (2) switching from fuel oil grade number 4 to fuel oil grade number 2 by 2025 (instead of 2030).

Energy Efficiency Grades on Buildings: With the passage of Intro 1632A, buildings above 25,000 square feet will be assigned a letter grade based on their energy score, and will be required to post that grade, along with the energy score, in a conspicuous location near their public entrances. This will make information about building energy use easily available to tenants and visitors, including prospective purchasers or lessees, and presented in the easily understood form of a grade. This transparency initiative will equip consumers with already-collected benchmarking data on a building’s energy use. Consumers can use this data to make an informed decision when choosing an apartment or commercial space — just as they weigh other specifications of a building. Landlords will be encouraged to make energy upgrades to achieve higher scores and attract environmentally conscious tenants — reaping financial benefits while the City reaps environmental benefits.