Saturday, April 23, 2022

On Earth Day, Council Announces New Environmental Legislation


Legislative package would accelerate phase-out of dirty fuel, and expand organic waste collection, community recycling, electric vehicle chargers, greenways, resource conservation by buildings, and tree plantings 

 On Earth Day, the New York City Council continued its legacy as a leader on environmental policies by announcing a new package of environmental legislation. It includes bills to accelerate the phase-out of dirty fuels, expand curbside organic waste collection citywide, establish community recycling centers, and increase tree plantings, the availability of electric vehicle chargers, greenways, and tree plantings. The package would also include legislation to build upon the City’s groundbreaking energy and water usage benchmarking law to cover buildings of at least 10,000 square feet, creating greater transparency around usage and greater efficiencies to reduce waste. The legislation will be introduced in the coming days, with hearings to follow in the coming months. 

“The New York City Council has a history of advancing local laws for successful environmental policies and programs that have become global examples of responsible leadership,” said Speaker Adrienne Adams. “This Council will continue to build on that record of promoting sustainability, reducing pollution, and protecting the environment. We celebrate Earth Day by establishing a commitment to always do our part in confronting the climate crisis with action. I look forward to working with my Council colleagues to advance these important bills during this session, while supporting global efforts to preserve our planet for future generations.” 

The environment-focused legislative package includes the following bills: 

Citywide Curbside Organic Collection (sponsored by Council Member Hanif, Speaker Adams, Council Members Won, Nurse, Bottcher, Gennaro, Menin, Hudson and Cabán, by request of the Brooklyn Borough President) – Establishing a mandatory citywide organic waste curbside collection program for the diversion of organic waste from residences. An earlier pilot program that covered only a portion of the City was discontinued during the pandemic. This local law would require a permanent citywide program for organics collection, just as programs currently exist for the collection of metal, glass, plastics and paper. 

Accelerated Phase Out of Dirty Fuel Oils (sponsored by Council Member Gennaro, by request of the Queens Borough President) – Requiring that no newly installed boiler shall burn fuel oil grade no. 4 and that no boiler in the City, regardless of when installed, shall burn fuel oil grade no. 4 after January 1, 2025. This would be a significant acceleration of the current phase out date, which is in 2030, and would hasten the further cleaning of our local air from pollutants. 

Electric Vehicle Chargers in Parking Lots (sponsored by Council Member Brannan, by request of the Queens Borough President) – Requiring parking lots above a certain size have certain percentages of spots either electric ready or supplied with electric vehicle charging equipment by certain dates. By making electric vehicle charging more accessible, it encourages the transition to emissions free vehicles and reduces air pollution in the City. 

Encourage Community Recycling (sponsored by Council Member Powers, at the request of the Brooklyn Borough President) – Two pieces of legislation, aimed at establishing permanent drop off points and community recycling centers where New Yorkers can drop off waste, including materials that are not otherwise accepted for curbside collection, such as hazardous materials. 

Citywide Greenway Master Plan (sponsored by Council Members Rivera and Brooks-Powers) – Requiring the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Department of Transportation to develop and regularly update a master plan on maintaining and expanding the City’s greenway network. Greenways are open spaces developed for use by pedestrians or non-motorized vehicles and a stronger greenway network encourages the public use of open space and eco-friendly travel. 

Tree Pit Plantings (sponsored by Council Member Bottcher) – Requiring the planting of a tree or other vegetation in abandoned tree pits within a certain amount of time, to encourage the further greening of the City. An abandoned tree pit is one in which only dirt, or sometimes a tree stump from a previously removed tree, remains. 

Expanded Benchmarking of Buildings (sponsored by Council Member Gennaro) – Expanding the City’s groundbreaking energy and water usage benchmarking law to cover buildings of 10,000 square feet or more. By creating greater transparency around the usage of energy and water by buildings, greater efficiencies and waste reductions can be encouraged and the success of conservation programs can be better understood. 

From passing groundbreaking legislation that has become a global model on how to reduce carbon emissions from buildings (Local Law 97 of 2019), to requiring the electrification of newly constructed buildings (Local Law 154 of 2021), to requiring a transition to a zero emission City school bus fleet (Local Law 120 of 2021) to championing a green future for Rikers Island (Local Laws 16, 17, and 31 of 2021), and even to reforming the commercial trade waste industry to ensure emissions reductions and a greater emphasis on environmental goals (Local Laws 198 and 199 of 2021), in recent years the City Council has advanced significant environmental policies that have served as models for New York State and jurisdictions around the world. 

In fact, the Council’s history of pushing forward local laws advancing environmental policies extends further back as well, with many of those policies having now established themselves as successful programs and global policy examples. The New York City Panel on Climate Change’s regular reports are a trusted source for local climate science; the phasing out of the dirtiest heating fuel oils has already helped clean our local air; restrictions on engine idling have helped clean the air and reduce fuel consumption; and the establishing of larger citywide emissions goals established targets that all City agencies are expected to work towards meeting. 

The Council is dedicated to continuing with sound environmental policies for the City – by establishing new initiatives and fine-tuning existing policies to increase their impact. This work does not begin or end on Earth Day, and will continue throughout the legislative session, with more announcements expected. 

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