More than 70 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in New York City come from buildings (with cars coming in second). This was the impetus behind Local Law 97, a bill that passed in 2019 that forces buildings to become more energy efficient or face steep fines.
For years, the real estate industry has fought the bill, arguing that it would be too costly to implement ($20 billion over a decade). They had a friend in Governor Andrew Cuomo, who inserted a law into the state budget that would allow property owners to purchase offsets instead of bringing their buildings up to code, but it was taken out.
Last month, the City's Department of Buildings issued a draft of how LL97 would be enforced, and the rules state that owners can buy renewable energy credits (RECs) if they want to offset their carbon bill, so long as they go towards electricity generation. The draft doesn't set any limits for how many RECs can be purchased.
Environmental advocates say that while some RECs are necessary to give owners time to get their buildings into compliance—one compared retrofitting a large building to "open heart surgery"—too many offsets will blunt the impact of the bill and encourage landlords to keep stalling.
Advocates also argue that the Adams administration's proposed offset scheme amounts to a loophole, since just a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions come from electricity generation, while the rest comes from producing heat and hot water.
On Thursday, a group of City Council members wrote a letter to Mayor Adams, asking him to close the loophole. “Far too many building owners would opt to purchase RECs instead of upgrading their buildings to high energy efficiency,” the letter stated.
"The first batch of proposed rules announced last month represent a first step on Renewable Energy Credits, and DOB will continue this work on limiting their use in the future," a spokesperson for Adams told Hell Gate in an emailed statement. "DOB’s rulemaking process will continue to be informed by careful study by the department’s Bureau of Sustainability along with close collaboration with other city agencies, the Climate Advisory Board, the Local law 97 Working Groups, and partners throughout government."
The DOB is holding a virtual meeting to discuss them on November 14; the rules have to be finalized by the end of the 2022, because the biggest buildings (and thus biggest offenders) have to get their buildings in line by 2024.
You could be forgiven if Adams is somewhat preoccupied, because, well, keep reading.
Too Much News:
-Eric Ulrich has resigned as the head of the City’s Department of Buildings, days after the Manhattan DA’s office questioned him in an investigation over his possible mob connections and illegal gambling. The New York Times has more details on the DA’s investigation: “Investigators were examining the possibility that Mr. Ulrich may have used his influence on behalf of mob associates while he was either a Queens councilman, a senior adviser to the mayor or buildings commissioner.” In a statement, Mayor Eric Adams told him to fuck off: “We have accepted his resignation, appreciate him taking this step, and wish him well.”
-In other Eric Adams news: As lawyers continue to flee City agencies over low pay and the inability to work from home, the Adams’s administration has proposed bringing in…eight attorneys from the private sector…for a one-year fellowship. That’ll fix things!
-Death machines are still killing people. Via Gothamist: “The number of people who have died on city streets in traffic collisions so far this year is down slightly from last year, but still 14 percent higher than pre-pandemic levels, according to the latest data released by the Department of Transportation, accounting for deaths through Nov. 1. Overall, 207 people were killed in crashes so far this year, the data shows.”
-Kyrie Irving has been suspended by the Nets without pay for at least five games after he, to borrow the words of the Nets, “refused to unequivocally say he has no antisemitic beliefs.” In a post to Instagram on Thursday night, Irving continued to issue a non-apology apology, writing, "I want to clarify any confusion on where I stand fighting against Anti-semticism by apologizing for posting the documentary without context and a factual explanation outlining the specific beliefs in the Documentary I agreed with and disagreed with. I had no intentions to disrespect any Jewish cultural history regarding the Holocaust or perpetuate any hate."
-Sadly, Hell Gate was unable to procure either a boat or a T-shirt cannon in time to prevent this atrocity:
This post has been updated to clarify that the proposed rules did not place any limits on RECs, and we also added a statement from the Mayor's Office.