Last week, on June 27th, there was a joint Oversight Hearing with the Committee on Civil Service and Labor, Committee on Environmental Protection, and Committee on Housing and Buildings. This hearing was regarding Local Law 97 and the Green Workforce Pipeline. Not only did the Council Member Chairs of each of these Committees speak, but so did various environmental, labor, and, and housing organizations.
LL97, which passed in 2019, is actually the City’s and the country’s first comprehensive law to significantly lower building emissions. It would start capping greenhouse gas emissions from the largest buildings starting in 2024, with goals of 40% emission reduction by 2030, and 80% reduction by 2050. This City-wide plan requires building owners to optimize building energy systems to make them more efficient. Building retrofits will also help to improve thermal safety and reduce flood risks. Additionally, clean and efficient buildings will reduce utility bills which many are struggling with right now, improve our health, and create jobs.
Local Law 97 is essentially one of the best tools NYC has to combat the climate crisis, In New York City, where buildings account for 70% of the City’s carbon emissions, this plan can directly combat this source of climate change-inducing emissions. This is why we are fighting for funding to ensure that we make significant progress in implementing LL97 equitably and create thousands of good green jobs here in New York City. This will especially benefit New York City’s low- and low-middle income communities of color, unless the real estate lobby is successful in its attempts to weaken the law.
The following are some of the recommendations we have for the City in regards to Local Law 97’s Green Workforce Pipeline:
- Expand Workforce Training and Development Programs
Local Law 97 has the potential to create more than 140,000 jobs by 2030 in NYC – it is actually the City’s largest jobs program that it does not directly pay for. Many of these jobs will be well-paying, career-oriented, and green union jobs, which will help reduce unemployment and raise wages. However, unless there is significant expansion of workforce training and development programs, many workers will not have the skills and experience needed. This means there should be increased access to CTE programs across schools and certification programs, as well as, increased investments in union-linked pre-apprenticeships, apprenticeships, and direct-entry programs. While the City does already offer some public training programs, these should also expand to include skills for green jobs. Overall, these programs shouldexpand access to workers traditionally underrepresented or systemically excluded from this industry.
- Remove Financial Barriers to Job Opportunities
Another crucial aspect of ensuring equitable employment in this industry will be increasing access to job opportunities by making it easier for one to afford going to work. This means increasing paid training opportunities on the job that might not be affordable to get beforehand, which allows for more fair hiring practices. Additionally, subsidizing any related fees such as OSHA training cards and transportation costs is important as these fees disincentivize lower-income job-seekers from applying. By removing these barriers from job opportunities, it encourages more diverse workers to apply who otherwise wouldn’t have and offers a fairer chance of employment for them. Overall, this will support an incoming workforce that has potentially not had the opportunities of related-work experiences, connections, or access, needed to enter the industry.
- Increase Hiring of Frontline Community Members
The City can and should require community hiring to ensure this program benefits the same communities being impacted the most by fossil fuels. In order for this to happen the City should connect Environmental Justice communities with related companies. This can be done through coordinating green job fairs in environmental justice communities throughout the City, bringing employers to job seekers that traditionally do not have access to companies in the industry. There should also be requirements and incentives for companies and projects to hire frontline community members. Additionally, funding targeted local outreach in different languages will also help spread awareness about these job opportunities. This will expand job opportunities for traditionally underrepresented New Yorkers in green industries including women, immigrants, and Black and brown New Yorkers.
- Limit Renewable Energy Credits
LL97 allows building owners to purchase Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) to offset annual calculated building emissions. According to the NYSERDA Tier 4 Petition, there will be an estimated 18.3 million Renewable Energy Credits per year available – this is larger than the yearly pollution reduction requirements for all the buildings covered by Local Law 97 in the 2024-2029 period. RECs are valuable in the near term to build the renewable energy market and help buildings comply, but over time they should be limited with reasonable caps as we need to encourage retrofits and other solutions. Additionally, as was highlighted in the City’s most recent study, a carbon trading system isn’t the best way to encourage emission reductions among building owners.
- Maximize Job Creation through Compliance
The City should set appropriate rules and regulations, abundant support and guidance, as well as needed fines that will maximize compliance. There are a wide variety of technical issues in Local Law 97’s implementation, including finer categorizations of building types for specific requirements in accordance with LL97. If these categorizational definitions and therefore legal requirements are expanded, then it makes it easier for buildings to comply. This helps maximize pollution reductions and therefore job creation.
These recommendations will help NYC gain thousands of jobs and decrease air pollution in our neighborhoods. Ensuring a Green Workforce Pipeline is also a step forward in making sure that communities impacted the most by environmental racism have access to good, green jobs. As Local Law 97 is also a critical step towards reducing emissions and combating climate change, we cannot afford any missteps or delays.
We are setting an example for the rest of the world, let’s exemplify the strong leadership New York City is known for.
By Alexis Hidalgo
Equitable Policy and Programs Fellow
New York League of Conservation Voters