New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

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City Council Wants to Close a Loophole on Local Law 97 Compliance

New York State

Climate Mobilization Act, co-op and condo boards, renewable energy credits.
Nov. 11, 2022

Pressure campaign. As a Nov. 14 online public hearing on Local Law 97 draws closer, proponents and opponents are bringing out the big guns in a campaign to shape the law’s compliance mechanisms. Co-op and condo boards find themselves caught in the crossfire.

More than half of the City Council has signed a letter pressuring the administration of Mayor Eric Adams to strictly enforce the law’s caps on buildings’ carbon emissions, which start in 2024 and grow tighter in 2030 and 2050, Crain’s reports. Building owners who fail to comply face fines of $268 for every ton of emissions above the limit, which could amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Loophole or life line? The city’s Department of Buildings released a much-anticipated draft guidance last month on how building owners and managers can begin to comply with the law’s aggressive goals. But the initial batch of rules left several key questions up in the air. Most worrisome to city lawmakers is the lack of specific regulation around how property owners can utilize renewable energy credits, which the draft rules say may be purchased from solar and wind projects to offset a building’s carbon emissions from utility-supplied electricity.

“The proposed rule for the use of renewable energy credits as a compliance mechanism would severely undercut the law’s goals by creating a buyout provision many buildings owners would use to avoid cutting pollution from their properties,” states the letter, which was spearhead by council members Carmen De La Rosa, Lincoln Restler and Pierina Ana Sanchez.

The letter urges the mayor to limit use of the credits to offset a maximum of 30% of a building’s pollution. “Otherwise,” the letter states, “the city will risk losing many thousands of future jobs, air quality improvements and the large-scale pollution reductions we must achieve to avoid global catastrophe through greenhouse gas emissions heating the planet.”

Proponents of renewable energy credits argue that they will meet the spirit of Local Law 97 — reducing carbon emissions from buildings — while giving some financially strapped co-op and condo boards a way to avoid the crippling cost of building retrofits and upgrades.

The DOB has said it plans to scale back fines for property owners who can demonstrate that they have made “good-faith” efforts to comply with the law. But officials have yet to define how buildings could qualify for such adjustments.

Pushback on the state law. Meanwhile, according to another Crain’s report, the fossil fuel industry is pushing back against the state’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which calls for New York to reduce emissions 40% from 1990 levels by 2030 and 85% by 2050.

A new report by the Public Accountability Initiative, a nonprofit research organization focused on corporate accountability, details how a key group of fossil fuel companies has worked to undermine the state’s implementation of the law. “The fossil fuel industry and its corporate networks have been mobilizing to delay, water down, and otherwise frustrate the implementation of the CLCPA and other key climate legislation,” the report states.

Natural-gas supplier National Fuel, which serves western New York, and the statewide trade group the Independent Power Producers of New York have executives on the Climate Action Council — the very body charged with crafting a plan to reach the state’s goals — and are among the 10 fossil fuel companies that since 2016 have spent more than $15.5 million on lobbyists to advance fracking and expand fossil fuel infrastructure, according to the report.

A spokesperson for the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation has said that the Climate Action Council is intentionally made up of a spectrum of public, private and community-based interests.

The cadre of companies, the report also notes, has spent a combined $1.4 million in donations to state politicians. They include Gov. Kathy Hochul along with state Sen. Kevin Parker of Brooklyn and Assembly member Michael Cusick of Staten Island — the Democratic chairs of the state Senate and Assembly energy committees.

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