NYC Activists, Electeds Demand Mayor Adams Withdraw Weak Local Law 97 Rules

Activists warn new rules will gut the climate and jobs law, jeopardizing tens of thousands of jobs, massive pollution reductions and lower energy bills

Published Sep 14, 2023

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Climate and Energy

Activists warn new rules will gut the climate and jobs law, jeopardizing tens of thousands of jobs, massive pollution reductions and lower energy bills

Activists warn new rules will gut the climate and jobs law, jeopardizing tens of thousands of jobs, massive pollution reductions and lower energy bills

New York, NY — Today, local residents, activists and several New York City Council Members rallied at City Hall against Mayor Adams’ proposed Local Law 97 rules, released Tuesday. Activists called on the Adams administration to withdraw their proposed rules which would delay the law and enable a corporate “buyout” loophole. A recording of the event is available here.

The proposed rules jeopardize tens of thousands of jobs, massive pollution reductions and lower energy bills, and directly benefit the real estate lobby, the top contributor to Adams.

Food & Water Watch Senior New York Organizer Eric Weltman said, “Local Law 97 is designed to reduce emissions and energy bills, while creating new jobs. Mayor Adams’ latest proposal turns this on its head, with dangerous loopholes that allow the biggest polluters to continue business as usual. Mayor Adams must immediately withdraw his proposed rules. We need full Local Law 97 implementation and enforcement now, with no loopholes and no delays.”

Passed in 2019, Local Law 97 reduces climate-heating pollution by setting progressively lower limits on air pollution from buildings, which are the top source of the city’s carbon emissions. As a result, buildings must increase their energy efficiency by reducing energy waste and therefore phasing out most fossil fuel use in large buildings, eventually reaching zero pollution by 2050.

“We are in the middle of a climate emergency, and the only way to address it is with bold legislation like Local Law 97,” said Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso. “By weakening Local Law 97, Mayor Adams is showing that his priorities lie not with the well-being of everyday New Yorkers, but with the greed of the people who already have plenty. We should be doubling down on legislation like this, not weakening it. I stand with my fellow New Yorkers in calling on Mayor Adams to implement Local Law 97 without carve outs or loop holes.”

“Not only can New York be a world leader in sustainability and climate friendly policies, but we have already passed the law that would get us there — it just needs to be implemented as intended,” said Council Member Tiffany Cabán. “And that is up to the Mayor. So let’s say clearly: Mayor Adams, you say you believe in public safety, public health, and a New York City where economic prosperity can be enjoyed by all. This is a test of your commitment to those principles. You can create jobs, reduce pollution, and strengthen our city’s climate resiliency — or you can do the bidding of big time real estate moguls. Which side are you on?”

“Local Law 97 is the single most consequential piece of legislation in New York City in the last decade, and it has the potential to successfully drive down emissions from our city’s largest  polluter: big buildings. New York City can be a model for how to tackle the climate crisis and create green jobs, but we need the Mayor to issue stringent rules to fully implement and enforce LL97,” said Council Member Lincoln Restler.

As of the most recent data gathered by the city in 2022, 89% of NYC buildings were already in compliance with Local Law 97’s pollution limits set for 2023-2029, a huge improvement from 2019, the year the law was set into place, when 20% of large buildings were over those limits. The law is also on track to create tens of thousands of jobs, and is projected to lower energy bills. A large new green buildings industry is growing rapidly thanks to Local Law 97. Now, the great progress shown under the law is threatened by Mayor Adams proposed rules.

As proposed, the Mayor’s rule would open up two big options for landlords to use as loopholes under the law: 

  • Delay pollution limits by two years: Building owners could opt to delay the law’s pollution limits by two years for the 2024-2029 requirements. As such, a high polluting building that is obligated to cut pollution in 2024 could elect to delay action until 2026.
  • Purchase Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) in place of reducing pollution: Instead of upgrading their buildings, owners could purchase RECs to cover about 50% of the pollution generated in aggregate across building types. Only building owners who opted for the two year delay program would be prohibited from REC purchases.

The effect of these two large loopholes would be to allow buildings to delay, reduce or entirely avoid energy efficiency upgrades to reduce their pollution through 2030, jeopardizing critical emissions reductions, new jobs, and lower utility bills.

At the rally, protesters angered with the Mayor’s proposal made light of the Mayor’s “Getting Stuff Done” slogan, by carrying signs saying “Getting Stuff Done for Real Estate Billionaires”. New York City was the first to enact a climate and jobs law of this kind – nationwide and globally – in a major triumph for New Yorkers in 2019. Groups warn that Mayor Adams’ proposed rule would take New York City backwards and send a negative signal to other localities contemplating similar laws, with potentially serious implications locally and globally.

“Eric Adams blusters he ‘gets stuff done’ but with this long-delayed rule-making he’s getting stuff done for billionaire real estate owners like Douglas Durst, not working New Yorkers. This proposal will cost jobs, increase pollution, and raise utility bills. He should get out of REBNY’s pocket and enforce the law by withdrawing and rewriting this proposed rule for Local Law 97,” said Pete Sikora, Climate and Inequality Campaigns Director for New York Communities for Change.

“Mayor Adams has the opportunity to side with New Yorkers in the fight to combat climate change and cut pollution by fully implementing Local Law 97 – the City’s landmark law to reduce utility bills, clean up building pollution, and create tens of thousands of green jobs,” said Meg Ahearn, NYPIRG Program Director. “The proposed new rules must be strengthened to reach those goals. With delays and loopholes which allow buildings more leeway to buy their way out of compliance, the City risks taking sufficient action to address the climate crisis and support a burgeoning green economy.”

“Local Law 97 is one of the most important local climate regulations in the country, and young people will not stand for Mayor Adams’ recent attempts to gut this law for REBNY,” said Shiv Soin, Co-Executive Director of TREEage. “By delaying the implementation of this law and allowing loopholes, our city is showing that we don’t take the climate crisis seriously. Young New Yorkers have made their voice loud and clear –– we want to see Local Law 97 fully enforced and implemented.”

“Mayor Adams should change course not take New York City backward. Every day we see the climate crisis impact on everyone and especially communities of color. Our communities need good jobs, a safe climate, and lower utility bills. Not a gift to the landlords that want to get out of their social and legal obligations to reduce pollution,” said Beta Coronel, Senior National Organizer for Climate Justice at the Center for Popular Democracy.

“Every day the climate crisis accelerates. Instead of strengthening New York City’s response, Mayor Adams is proposing to weaken it. That’ll mean more pollution, less jobs and higher bills for New Yorkers. It also tells the world and other city’s leaders that New York City may relinquish a global leadership role. He should reconsider if he and his administration want this to be their legacy,” said Jeff Ordower, North American Director for 350.org

Rachel Spector, Senior Attorney with Earthjustice, said, “After a summer of dangerous air quality, flooding, and heat waves, delay on climate action costs lives. Buildings are the largest source of climate pollution in New York City, and the sector can and should be taking action now to reduce their emissions. The Mayor must act in the best interest of New Yorkers, not the real estate and fossil fuel industry, by living up to the true intent of local law 97.” 

“We cannot let Mayor Adams weaken Local Law 97’s requirements to reduce climate emissions with urgency or lose the opportunity to create good green jobs for NYC residents. With Rosh Hashanah just days away it is fitting that we stand up to protect our planet, our climate and all living creatures,” said Jeff Levy-Lyons and Wendy Seligson, Jewish Climate Action Network NYC Co-Directors.

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