In the News: Latinos on Climate Change; Solar Advances in Brooklyn; and Europe Takes a Step Back?

23 Borough Homes Are Going Solar Thanks to Solarize Brooklyn

23 private homes in Kensington, Windsor Terrace, Park Slope, and Flatbush have been approved for solar panel installation. These homes will create 80 kilowatts of energy, covering 50-80% of those homes’ needs…The population of Brooklyn is growing rapidly; we’ve somehow managed to fit 60,000 more people into our borough since 2010. Our demand for electricity is growing with our population and our continued addiction to electronics. [Ditmas Park Corner]


Con Ed gets a post-Sandy reboot

More than a year after the city’s electric grid failed in superstorm Sandy, the utility giant Con Edison is on the verge of cementing a billion-dollar plan to upgrade its facilities to endure the projected future impacts of extreme weather, under an unusual agreement signed by the utility, city, environmentalists and consumer groups. [The New York World]


New City Council committee will keep an eye on funds earmarked for Hurricane Sandy relief

“This City Council is not only very committed to rebuilding areas devastated by Sandy but also dedicated to finding ways to make sure all five boroughs are more resilient in the face of climate change,” said City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “The [Council’s] Recovery and Resiliency Committee will start by looking at why so many city Housing Authority buildings damaged by the storm are still using unreliable, temporary boilers.” [NY Daily News]


Europe, Facing Economic Pain, May Ease Climate Rules

“On Wednesday, the European Union proposed an end to binding national targets for renewable energy production after 2020. Instead, it substituted an overall European goal that is likely to be much harder to enforce. [The New York Times]


Latinos Want Strong Presidential Action to Combat Climate Change

“Of the issues we’ve polled, the only other national issue Latinos feel more intensely about is immigration reform,” said Matt Barreto, co-founder of Latino Decisions and associate professor of political science at the University of Washington. “Action on climate change is a very high priority for Latinos—regardless of age, income, party affiliation or where they live.” [NPR]


Upstate fracking is danger to city water supplies: mayor

Mayor de Blasio is jumping forcefully into the debate over fracking on upstate lands — calling it a danger to the city’s water supply…The comments are sure to put added pressure on Gov. Cuomo, who has refused to lift a statewide moratorium on fracking — which pumps a cocktail of chemicals underground in order to free up natural gas — pending a drawn-out environmental and health review. [NY Post]


And, from our neighbors to the northeast, a news source on the global transition to renewable sources of energy: The Green Energy Times

Legacy of Sandy Visible in Council’s Environmental Leadership

The New York City Council has a revamped Environmental Protection Committee with new leadership, and an entirely new committee that will focus on climate resiliency and rebuilding issues.

The leadership and makeup of the two committees were announced this week. Much of the Council’s new environmental leadership hails from New York City communities battered by Superstorm Sandy in 2012, like the Rockaways, South Brooklyn and South-East Queens, large sections of Manhattan’s waterfront, and the Eastern Shore of Staten Island.

Building on the Council’s Efforts to Address Climate Change

The Environmental Protection Committee was highly active under the leadership of outgoing Member James Gennaro, a trained geologist from Queens, who has now joined the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Gennaro will serve as the DEC’s Deputy Commissioner for New York City Sustainability and Resiliency.

During Gennaro’s tenure, the Council’s Environmental Protection Committee developed numerous pieces of legislation which helped to lock-in and expand Bloomberg-administration sustainability initiatives.

One of the Committee’s arguably greatest achievements during that period was crafting legislation that required the city to take the needs of its most vulnerable residents into account as it planned for climate change.

The Committee will now be chaired by Donovan Richards, who represents Far Rockaway, Laurelton, Springfield Gardens and Rosedale, Queens. Before joining the Council, Richards served as chief of staff for former Council Member James Sanders, Jr. Richards won Sanders’ seat in a special election last February.

Richards co-sponsored legislation last fall with Brad Lander and other Council Members to create a public online database tracking how federal Sandy relief funds are distributed and used. And, with local residents, he helped to lead a public tour last May of mold infested homes in the Rockaways to demand more immediate assistance for Sandy victims.

Richards has also called “for the Department of Environmental Protection to fund a $14 million dollar project in Rosedale’s Brookville Triangle to alleviate flooding.”

Connection to Past Leadership

Richards will be joined on the Environmental Protection Committee by:

  • Stephen Levin, who represents Brooklyn Heights, Greenpoint, parts of Williamsburg, Park Slope, and Boerum Hill, Brooklyn;
  • Costa Constantinides, who served as Deputy Chief of Staff for Council Member Gennaro and represents Astoria and parts of Long Island City, Woodside, East Elmhurst, and Jackson Heights, Queens;
  • Rory Lancman, who served as a state assembly member and will be representing Hillcrest, Queens; and
  • Eric Ulrich, who represents most of the Rockaways and several neighborhoods in South Queens.

Levin and Ulrich are incumbents; the rest of the Committee’s members are new to the Council.

Special Focus on Preparing for the Next Storm

The City Council has also created a Recovery and Resiliency Committee, which will be chaired by newly-elected Mark Treyger, representing Coney Island, Bensonhurst, Gravesend and Sea Gate, Brooklyn neighborhoods hard hit by Sandy.

Treyger’s Council biography states that before his election, he formed STRONG (Sandy Task-Force Recovery Organized by Neighborhood Groups) “to help spearhead the fight against the opening of a dangerous garbage station in Southwest Brooklyn and fight for federal recovery dollars to improve Coney Island and Sea Gate’s sewer system, beaches, and other vital infrastructure”.

Treyger will be joined on the Recovery and Resiliency Committee by Donovan Richards and Eric Ulrich, along with:

  • Incumbent Rosie Mendez, representing neighborhoods along the East River in Manhattan;
  • Incumbent Margaret Chin, representing Lower Manhattan;
  • Newly-elected Carlos Menchaca, representing Sunset Park and a section of the Brooklyn waterfront; and
  • Newcomer Steven Matteo, representing Staten Island’s “mid-Island” district.

Matteo served as chief of staff for outgoing Member James Oddo, who is now Staten Island’s borough president.

Matteo’s district includes communities such as New Dorp and Ocean Breeze, which suffered some of the greatest physical devastation and loss of life during Sandy.

After his appointment, Matteo, one of three Republicans on the Council, declared in a statement, “Sandy will be my number one priority. I am honored to be part of the team of Council Members that will look to make the City more resilient in the face of future storms.”

Mayor de Blasio Comes Out Against Fracking Across New York State

During a q & a session with reporters after giving remarks today at a plenary session of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio made the following statement:

“My purview is the five boroughs of New York City and I try to work closely with the state government but I also appreciate that they have to make decisions on behalf of the whole state. The one thing I am firm about is that I don’t see any place for fracking. The science simply isn’t reliable enough. The technology isn’t reliable enough. And, there’s too much danger to our water supply, to our environment in general.

So my view is that there should be a moratorium on fracking in New York State until the day comes that we can actually prove it’s safe and I don’t think that day is coming any time soon.”

Update:

Bill de Blasio made similar statements while Public Advocate. In an August 27th, 2013 interview with blogger Eric Walton, de Blasio said the following:

“I believe strongly in the moratorium on fracking. I think it is abundantly clear that the technology is far from perfected. There are incredible dangers associated with fracking that could have a lasting impact on our water supply in particular, beyond just the city water shed, but anywhere it’s being done. And so I think the moratorium is necessary and I don’t think the moratorium should be lifted until these issues are resolved, if they are ever resolved.”

A Milestone for Food Metrics in New York

Soon, public school students, hospital patients, and even senior center residents in New York State could find locally grown fruits and vegetables on their daily menus, thanks to a new law passed by Governor Cuomo.

The Food Metrics Bill (S.4061/A.5102), sponsored by Sen. Patty Ritchie and Assemblywoman Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes, mandates that New York State agencies establish a robust tracking and reporting system for all the food they purchase.

The law requires successful bidders on state food contracts to provide the type, dollar value, and geographic origin of all their food to the procuring agency and also requires the Office of General Services and the Department of Agriculture and Markets to develop guidelines for state agencies on increasing their purchase of local foods.

“Eating local is a big trend right now—and it can mean big business for local farmers and food producers. This legislation builds upon that movement, seeking to use the purchasing power of state government to help farmers grow,” said Senator Ritchie.

This bill will provide New York State with valuable (and currently non-existent) baseline data about money being spent on food as well as the geographic source of such food, all with the aim of increasing the amount of local goods purchased by state agencies.

This information will also be shared with the state’s agricultural community, in hopes that farms may tap into the institutional food market by shifting production towards those items shown to be in demand.

Channeling this opportunity to local farms can reduce carbon emissions related to food production and transportation and help keep them profitable, protecting vulnerable farmland from development.

The New York League of Conservation Voters, which works to make environmental sustainability a top political and policy priority in New York State, named State Senator Patty Ritchie a 2013 “Eco-Star” for her work on The Food Metrics Bill.

How Are We Doing? City Reports Back on Protecting Drinking Water & Fighting Pollution

New York City air pollution levels are lower than they have been in over fifty years. New York Harbor is the cleanest it’s been in a century.

So says the city’s Department of Environmental Protection, which released its 2013 progress report earlier this month. The city attributes improvements in the Harbor’s water quality to major investments in wastewater treatment. And enhanced air quality is “largely” due to the phasing out of heavy heating oils.

“This dramatic reduction in [air] pollution has prevented 800 deaths, and 2000 emergency room visits and hospitalizations from heart and lung diseases each year compared to 2008,” said the city’s report.

In addition to maintaining the daily water supply for nine million city and suburban residents, DEP’s almost 6,000 employees are responsible for collecting and treating the 1.3 billion gallons of wastewater produced daily by New York homes, schools and businesses; and reducing air, noise, and hazardous materials pollution.

The To-Do List

The city’s environmental “to-do” list, as laid out in the DEP’s 2011-14 strategic plan, includes one-hundred specific objectives ranging from: “restore wetlands habitat in and around Jamaica Bay” to “develop a leak detection system for [water] customers” to “protect the water supply from hydrofracking for natural gas in the New York City watershed”.

[While the DEP opposes hydraulic fracturing in the city’s vast upstate watershed, it notes that it helped to facilitate approval for the first natural gas pipeline projects to be built within the five boroughs in decades, the Spectra (cross-Hudson) and Rockaway pipelines.]

The DEP, led by Bloomberg-appointed Commissioner Carter Strickland, says eighty-five of its strategic objectives have been accomplished. “Considerable progress” has been made toward making the agency “the safest, most efficient, cost-effective, and transparent water utility in the nation.”

Hello Tunnel No. 3

According to Strickland, one of the agency’s “notable” accomplishments in 2013 was the activation of the Manhattan leg of City Water Tunnel No. 3.

There is an urgency to the work on Tunnel No. 3, the largest infrastructure project in the city’s history. The new tunnel is needed in order to provide “critical redundancy” to the city’s water supply, especially while the city inspects and repairs Tunnel No. 1.

The city has also moved ahead with a $1.7 billion program to repair the Delaware Aqueduct, which delivers water to New York City from the western section of the city’s watershed. The aqueduct is reportedly leaking between 15 and 35 million gallons per day, and has been cited as an example of the aging of the city’s water supply infrastructure.

The DEP also reported a ground breaking on a separate $21.2 million project to connect the Catskill and Delaware aqueducts, which are the two main water supply lines to the city.

And in 2013 the city opened an Ultraviolet Disinfection Facility in Westchester County to treat potentially harmful organisms in the city’s water supply without the use of chemicals. The city says that the $1.2 billion facility is the largest of its kind in the world, and that it “ensures that New Yorkers continue to enjoy the highest quality drinking water in the nation”.

The DEP also focused on local water quality and sustainability projects, including the rehabilitation of the 1.3 mile Gowanus Canal Flushing Tunnel in order to bring oxygen-rich water from New York Harbor into the Canal.

Among the projects yet to be completed? The massive Croton water filtration plant in the Bronx’ Van Cortlandt Park. The city says it will be done this year.

The Challenges Ahead

But some argue that the city has a long way to go in managing its water supply and other environmental infrastructure.

“We are at a crossroads,” says Paul Gallay, president of Hudson Riverkeeper, a non-profit which monitors both the metro-area’s water supply and the Hudson River and its tributaries. “A lot of money has been invested in the water supply system but there are threats that need careful attention.”

Gallay said that both lead in pipes and the volume of pharmaceutical products in the water supply deserve more scrutiny.

And Gallay stressed that the city needs to “ramp-up” how it deals with stormwater. The state agrees, saying that a wastewater infrastructure “crisis” is in the making throughout New York.

Currently, Gallay explained, anything more than a half-inch of rain overwhelms the city’s sewers, which are then opened into local waterways. “Every year, old sewers flooded by stormwater release more than 27 billion gallons of untreated sewage into the New York Harbor alone” notes the state Department of Environmental Conservation on its website.

What’s the answer? The state says that millions of dollars in lost federal Clean Water Act funding must be restored. Gallay added that the city and state have agreed to start thinking outside the box about how to handle stormwater, but it needs to happen more quickly.

Stormwater, he argued, should be “used as a resource that can cool the city.” Gallay said that green infrastructure solutions like rooftop gardens and permeable pavement can both absorb water and lower urban heat levels.

Upstate and Downstate

But of particular concern to Riverkeeper is New York City’s relationship with upstate watershed communities. The city has to periodically release excess water from its upstate reservoirs into nearby streams and creeks, which local elected officials have said degrades water quality.

On January 9th, the city announced that it had begun to release “high-quality” water from the Ashokan Reservoir in the Catskills in order to remain within the 90-percent storage limit required by state regulators, and “to further reduce the potential for flooding during the late winter and spring”.

The DEP said that it planned to reach a release rate of 300 million gallons per day.

Previous discharges into the lower Esopus [Creek] have created “terrible problems with turbidity…[the Esopus is] full of mud from the city’s reservoirs,” said Gallay.

News reports in the upstate Daily Freeman said that current releases come “while there is a low turbidity level in the west basin [of the reservoir]”. Nonetheless, “among complaints from property owners…has been the strength of water releases [which] has eroded stream banks and increased downstream flooding,” wrote William Kemble in a January 9th Daily Freeman article.

The city, maintained Gallay, cannot provide water to its residents on “the backs” of upstate residents.

Will the de Blasio administration work with upstate communities to address their concerns about the city’s management of its massive watershed? “I’m confident that they’ll be responsive,” said Gallay.

This Week in the News: clarity from the White House on the polar vortex, upstate cows, Long Island’s water and more

The Flood Next Time

Much of the population and economy of the country is concentrated on the East Coast, which the accumulating scientific evidence suggests will be a global hot spot for a rising sea level over the coming century. [The New York Times]


State Gives $21M to Help Cultivate Yogurt Boom

Just as the City of New York has begun converting human waste into methane at its largest waste treatment facility, “Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday nearly $21 million would be awarded to help state dairy farmers convert farm waste to renewable energy and help improve business operations. [Politics on the Hudson]


Two Key Legal Victories for Fracking Supporters

Pro-fracking supporters are proclaiming victory in two recent court cases that have overturned municipal bans on drilling. [Capital New York]


“Breathtaking:” The White House Releases Its Climate Heavy Hitter on the Polar Vortex

VIDEO: A growing body of evidence suggests that the kind of extreme cold being experienced by much of the United States as we speak is a pattern that we can expect to see with increasing frequency as global warming continues. [Climate Desk]


A Win for Long Island’s Water

Water quality is one of Long Island’s most pressing and complex environmental concerns…That’s why this week’s announcement about a troubled sewage treatment plant is particularly important for the region. [Eco Politics Daily]


Will Cuomo’s Budget Plan Protect The Environment?

The governor’s [proposed 2014 budget] plan will have a tangible impact on New York’s environment, since it includes everything from the number of environmental enforcement personnel to dollars set aside for parks, transportation and more. [Eco Politics Daily]

Taking a Bite out of NYC’s Carbon Emissions

From shopping at Greenmarkets to eating less meat, New Yorkers can reduce their carbon footprint three times a day by making more sustainable food choices—a fact many agriculture groups hope Bill de Blasio will champion during his term as mayor.

Up to 13 percent of all household carbon emissions can be traced back to what we eat and how it’s grown, packed, and shipped. With 8.3 million permanent residents and 52 million tourists visiting annually, New York City requires a lot of food—yet most of it is grown in other states (or even other countries), using pesticides and carbon-intensive growing methods.


Creating sustainable food policies and increasing local food purchasing could not only reduce the city’s carbon footprint, but also support our health, our economy, and our environment.

Putting Things in Context

Food policy is not a new issue for New York City. During the 12 years that Michael Bloomberg served as mayor, his administration maintained a serious focus on public health, working to increase access to fresh, nutritious food for all New Yorkers.

And on a state level, the Food Metrics Bill passed by Governor Andrew Cuomo this past December will ideally lay the groundwork for increased purchasing of local food by state agencies.

But many involved in agriculture and environmental efforts in the city feel Bloomberg missed a critical opportunity to highlight the connection between agriculture and carbon emissions.

For example, the first edition of the landmark PlaNYC was all but silent on the issue of food. The second edition, released in 2011, did introduce food as a “cross-cutting issue,” but devoted only two of the plan’s 98 pages to food, with no concrete policy steps. By comparison, Chicago’s regional plan has an entire chapter devoted to food systems.

Taking Stock

Now that Bill de Blasio has taken office, many are scrambling to understand how his administration will approach these same issues.

While he has not yet tipped his hand with regards to climate change or food policy specifics, there is reason for optimism.

In July of 2009, then-city councilmember Bill de Blasio sponsored the first ever resolution linking food and climate change, “A Resolution to Reduce NYC’s Climate ‘Foodprint.’” In it, de Blasio called for the implementation of Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer’s report “Food in the Public Interest,” a lengthy series of recommendations to increase the availability of locally grown food in New York City.

De Blasio also encouraged the establishment of “FoodprintNYC,” a citywide initiative that would include “climate-friendly food policies and programs, financial and technical support, a public awareness campaign regarding the city’s food consumption and production patterns and greater access to local, fresh, healthy food.”

Specifically, the resolution called for:

  • An analysis of New York City’s foodshed;
  • An expansion of local and/or organic food distribution centers, both wholesale and retail;
  • Increased support for community gardens and urban farming initiatives; and
  • Local food procurement goals of 20% for city-run institutions within 10 years.

Sadly, while Foodprint garnered a respectable number of co-sponsors and a lot of grassroots support, the full council never actually voted on it. Many suspect de Blasio became distracted by his own campaign for public advocate. Others argued that the resolution process was not the best approach for Foodprint in the first place: resolutions are nonbinding and often only express a legislature’s intent.

The Next Four Years

We have yet to see how food and climate priorities will shape de Blasio’s administration, and attempts to reach his office for comment have so far been unsuccessful.

But there is at least some hope that Foodprint remains a guide for future policy work. For one thing, de Blasio participated in the first-ever Mayoral Candidate Forum on the Future of Food in NYC this past July, and did not shy away from making the connection between food, sustainability, and climate change.

And, as the new mayor of a city built on a collection of islands with 520 miles of coastline, one hopes that preparing for and fighting against climate change will become a central tenant of his sustainability platform.

De Blasio’s previous support of Foodprint—and the coalition built around it—proves that he and other New York City policy-makers are aware of the critical connection between food and climate change. Whether he and his administration will take action around these issues remains to be seen.

New York State Has a Budget Surplus. Is That Good News for the Environment?

“The potential for environmental progress in 2014 is greater than it has been for many years,” says the New York League of Conservation Voters.

And New York State’s projected two billion dollar budget surplus offers a window of opportunity. “Our state leaders can begin to chart a long-term course,” argued NYLCV President Marcia Bystryn in a statement yesterday.

Albany is back in session, and NYLCV is urging lawmakers to adapt the League’s 2014 policy agenda.

Facing climate change head-on is the League’s top agenda item, both in terms of converting the state to a clean energy economy, and preparing for rising sea levels and other effects. The League proposes siting wind energy facilities across New York, and “significantly” expanding the use of solar power as part of a renewable energy strategy.

The NYLCV also says that some of the state’s critical natural resources—such as Long Island’s drinking and surface waters- need greater protection, as does public health. Among other things, the League is proposing a Child Safe Products Act that “protects consumers from a broad set of harmful chemicals.”

But the thrust of the League’s policy agenda is that environmental protection can and must be linked to growing New York’s economy. To that end, the League is proposing a renewed focus on the state’s Brownfield Cleanup Program, which it maintains is a “significant catalyst for private-sector investment in the cleanup and redevelopment of contaminated properties.”

In her statement, NYLCV President Bystryn noted, “New York has long been an environmental visionary. In recent years, however, the state’s sights have been set too low…New York has been eclipsed by other states in many areas of sustainability.”

“Last year saw legislative successes in the areas of public health and local food, while important water-quality progress was made in the previous session,” Bystryn added. “Gov. Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers can build upon this foundation,” she said.

Money For The Department of Conservation?

One question for the Cuomo administration and lawmakers will be whether the state’s lead environmental agency, the Department of Environmental Conservation, will benefit from this year’s surplus after several years of staff cuts.

The DEC’s diminished size has been raised as an issue in discussions about whether high volume hydraulic fracturing can be carried out safely in New York.

The League noted that if the state were to ultimately decide to permit hydro-fracking, it must “ensure that all agencies (particularly the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation) have the staffing and resources needed to enforce the regulations and monitor compliance with permit conditions…designed to ensure that the impacts of hydraulic fracturing are appropriately mitigated and the public’s health and safety are protected.”

In the News: Environmentalists Try to Figure out Andrew Cuomo

Cuomo aims at 2014 decision on gas fracking

This could be year for fracking decision. [Albany Times Union]


A Home (for now) for Banned e-waste

VIDEO: State law will soon make it illegal to dump old electronics in landfills. A Brooklyn recycling facility braces for the coming influx. [The New York World]


Governor Cuomo’s Latest Post-Sandy Initiatives Include Focus on “Natural Infrastructure”

Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced a boatload of new initiatives to make New York better prepared for future storms that are certain to hit the region’s shores in the wake of our changing climate. [NRDC blog]


NY energy plan released; doesn’t include fracking

A long-awaited update to New York’s long-term state energy plan calls for expanding use of natural gas as fuel and less reliance on oil, but doesn’t include expanding in-state gas production through hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale. [Utica Observer Dispatch]


State of the State: Not Much Green

Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivered his fourth State of the State address in Albany on Wednesday. Although the governor outlined an agenda for the year that included important proposals on climate resiliency and clean energy, there was little mention of the environment otherwise. [Eco Politics Daily]

NYC reduces carbon emissions by 19%, partially from increased use of natural gas

Just two days before leaving office, Mayor Bloomberg’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability released data indicating that New York City greenhouse gas emissions have dropped 19 percent since 2005.

According to the city, New York is well on its way toward a 30 percent reduction in citywide emissions by 2030, a major objective of PlaNYC, the Bloomberg administration’s far-reaching sustainability plan.

Carbon emissions from municipal buildings and government operations have also dropped by 19 percent said the city.

To achieve the drop in government emissions, the city has invested heavily in a “clean” vehicle fleet, and has carried out “major reductions” in fugitive emissions from landfills and wastewater treatment plants.

The city also installed 10 new solar photovoltaic arrays across the five boroughs last year, saying that it had tripled its existing solar capacity.

Public health has been enhanced by the drop in greenhouse gas emissions. New York City’s air is now cleaner than it has been in over 50 years due to the “dramatic reductions” in pollutants, said the statement from the outgoing mayor’s office.

The city attributes the drop in emissions to the “cleaner” generation of electricity and steam; reduction of heavy heating oils used in buildings; increased energy efficiency in buildings; and upgraded government operations.

Co-Generation To The Rescue

More New York City buildings are installing co-generation systems. Co-generation, a process in which “a single fuel source, such as natural gas, is used to produce both electrical and thermal energy… operates on a very basic principle: Generating electricity produces heat; cogeneration equipment captures that heat and uses it to supply hot water, steam, space heating – even cooling,” says Intelligen Power Systems, LLC, a Long Island-based power system installation firm on its website.

“Thus, an otherwise byproduct of electricity generation becomes a highly useful commodity.” As opposed to constructing new power plants, co-generation “creates power now, where you want it – and when you need it,” the company adds.

The city of New York has also mandated the gradual transition away from heavier oils to natural gas and other fuel sources, like bio-diesel, for heating and power production in buildings.

Energy use –and waste- in buildings account for a massive seventy-five percent of carbon emissions In New York City. And multi-family residential buildings are the biggest culprits, says the city. “Energy efficiency and distributed generation investments in buildings are the greatest opportunity to further reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions,” the mayor’s office argued.

The Carbon Challenge

And in order to “accelerate” energy efficiency improvements, the city is expanding the “Carbon Challenge” to residential building owners.

The Carbon Challenge, a voluntary program, is a joint initiative with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA. It is described as a public-private partnership, and also includes local universities, hospitals and “global” companies, according to the city.

There is also a major financial incentive to greater energy efficiency and switching from oil to natural gas. Prestige Management President John Chen was quoted in the city’s release as describing the “immediate savings…to the owners, tenants and shareholders within our portfolio…while developing sustainable, cleaner and more efficient sources of energy”.

The city also says it has deployed $50 million in energy efficiency and clean energy financing products via the New York City Energy Efficiency Corporation, which was launched in 2010. “Clean Energy” financing includes assisting buildings in switching to natural gas.

Natural Gas

And the supply of natural gas, a fossil fuel which has lower carbon emissions and less particulate matter than oil, is expanding because of new infrastructure projects.

The Spectra pipeline, also known as the “NJ-NY Natural Gas Expansion Project”, began delivering gas on October 21, and is the first new significant interstate pipeline to serve the city in 40 years. The pipeline, which crosses from New Jersey underneath the Hudson River to Manhattan, attracted considerable attention from environmental activists because it delivers gas from a variety of locations throughout the U.S., including areas where hydraulic fracturing is used.

Some environmental groups have argued that the focus of cities like New York should be on transitioning to renewable sources of energy immediately. But the Bloomberg administration and others have maintained that an affordable, lower carbon energy “bridge” is needed as truly renewable sources are developed to scale.

The pipeline “provides a new, more affordable source of natural gas to New Yorkers,” said the mayor’s office.