November Monthly Forum Recap: Environmental Policy: NYC’s Next steps

December 15, 2014

By: Brigitta Berze   The topic of the evening for the GreenHomeNYC’s November forum, hosted by Trespa Design Centre in downtown Manhattan, were the NYC policies and actions created under the new political figures in regards to Environmental Policies in NY. The night included three speakers: Clare Donohue, founder of the grassroots group Sane Energy Project, Elizabeth Strojan, research and policy fellow with Enterprise Community Partners, Inc., and Stacey Lee, policy advisor for the NYC Mayor’s Office of Long-term Planning and Sustainability.   Clare Donohue was the first speaker whose organization’s mission is to promote the infrastructure for renewable energy production and prevent fossil fuel and nuclear infrastructure. Clare’s presentation began with an in-depth description of the issues associated with the fossil fuel production life cycle. Some of the causes they deal with are:   1)      Emissions from pipelines and compressors that have corroded over time. Bob Ackley measured underground Manhattan pipeline leaks that carried gas, he called it “lost and unaccounted-for” gas.   2)      The proposed Port Ambrose pipeline project which will be located off of the Rockaway and Jones beach shores, and will supply NYC and Long Island with liquefied natural gas through miles of underwater pipelines connected to shuttle and regasification vessels. The location conflicts with a proposed wind farm which would create more long-term jobs.     Clare was the first of the three speakers to touch on the topic of the Mayor de Blasio’s new environmental plan to decrease 80% of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by the year 2050; 80 by 50 plan. Clare’s organization urges new policy makers to rethink projects like Port Ambrose, to pass a local ban on liquefied natural gas, ban in-state hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), and build only renewable energy infrastructure.     The second speaker of the forum was Elizabeth Strojan, representing Enterprise Community Partners. Her presentation dug a little deeper into the Mayor’s climate action plan called, “One City: Built to Last”. Affordability and climate change through green housing initiatives is the main focus. Groups such as the Enterprise Green Communities and the NY Department of Housing Preservation and Development are seeking ways in which to improve green programs for rehabilitation projects, as well as, create a universal design that would allow people to age in place. Elizabeth pointed out the importance of incentivizing affordability and creating resilience on varying platforms for NY communities.     The last speaker of the evening was Stacy Lee who delved into a great amount of facts found through several data collections on NYC building’s energy use, costs, emissions and future plans of the Mayor de Blasio’s office to combat said issues. Stacy began with pointing out all the ways in which NYC will be affected by climate change, such as, rising sea level, heat waves, storms, and such. The U.N. has projected that world GHG emissions must be reduced 80% by the year 2050 or the effects will be irreversible. NYC buildings emit 75% of total GHG emissions from the city. At the same time, studies show 50% of renting residents are burdened by rising utility costs.     ‘One City: Built to Last’ is a detailed roadmap of the current state of affairs, the goal and the ways in which to reach the new goal; 80 by 50 plan. The Mayor’s office will hold city owned buildings to higher standards and make them as exemplary models for private building owners. The first milestone the plan wants to achieve is to reduce 30% emissions from privately owned buildings and reduce 35% emissions from city owned buildings by the year 2025. The way in which the city officials would like to reach these goals are to improve building efficiency, create energy performance targets, retrofit public schools, install solar on rooftops, implement cutting edge technology, improve operations and maintenance, and engage with public housing projects, as well. The plan is to achieve these goals through engagement of the communities, raised standards, create an energy and water accelerator, and create an educational platform, among other things. The current plan focuses heavily on buildings and a 2015 version will be published that encompasses other environmental sectors, as well.