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NYC Local Law 97 Advisory Board Established, With Expert Working Groups Coming Soon

Implementation of New York City’s groundbreaking Building Emissions Law (Local Law 97 of 2019) is underway.  On December 19, 2019, Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson announced the appointment of 15 Advisory Board members who will assess and report on over 20 aspects of the Law, with the help of expert working groups yet to be established.  As SPR has written about previously, Local Law 97 is the first law in the nation to cap greenhouse gas emissions from buildings.  Starting in 2024, most buildings in New York City over 25,000 gross square feet must meet greenhouse gas emissions caps or be subject to fines that, for some buildings, may total millions of dollars annually.  Building owners have a long to-do list over the next four years as they evaluate their building portfolios, obtain energy audits, develop compliance strategies, and apply for adjustments to their emissions caps (some of which require submittal of applications by next year).

However, building owners are not alone in their planning efforts—the new Advisory Board is one part of a larger implementation effort required by Local Law 97, which includes establishment of a new office within the Department of Buildings to oversee implementation and enforcement, including the public rulemaking process, as well as completion of a carbon emissions trading study by the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability.  The Advisory Board consists of 15 members, including architects and engineers, building owner and tenant representatives, environmental advocates, and construction industry and public utility representatives.  As prescribed in Local Law 97, the Advisory Board must prepare a report for the Mayor and City Council Speaker by January 1, 2023 that analyzes numerous issues listed in the Law.  These issues include practical questions such as how to stagger reporting cycles and calculate penalties, as well as more strategic questions such as how to incentivize reductions in peak energy demand.  The Advisory Board is also tasked with assessing significant potential changes to the structure of the Law, including separate caps for base building energy systems and tenant-controlled systems, recommendations for reducing emissions from rent regulated accommodations (which currently can install prescribed energy conservation measures instead of complying with the caps), and distinguishing responsibilities of building designers (which currently have no defined requirements under the Law) from building owners.

To assist in the formidable task of evaluating these myriad complex issues, the Advisory Board can convene working groups of experts.  Local Law 97 does not limit the number of working groups, working group members, or topics for discussion.  SPR recommends that stakeholders track the Advisory Board process and collaborate with other similarly situated stakeholders to propose or contribute to working groups.  There are many issues that warrant detailed, methodical evaluation by experts, such as the unique compliance challenges faced by non-profit building owners, manufacturers and industrial facilities, and buildings with very dense or energy-intensive uses.  Now is the time to develop a strategy for effective and productive participation in the working groups, as well as in the rulemaking process to be undertaken by the Department of Buildings and completed by January 2023.

For more information about Local Law 97 and the Climate Mobilization Act, please contact Jeffrey B. Gracer, Adam Stolorow, and Alexis Saba.