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Focus on Compliance With Local Law 97 Will Maximize Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reductions

Strategy Includes New City Programs to Support Buildings Making Green Upgrades, New Rules With Clear Guidance on Building Owner Obligations

New Analysis Shows Local Law 97 Already Working, Buildings Reducing Harmful Emissions

New York City Mayor Eric Adams today launched “Getting 97 Done,” a comprehensive plan to cut harmful carbon emissions from the city’s large buildings as part of their obligations under Local Law 97 of 2019. The plan includes four key elements: identifying and targeting city, state, federal, and utility-based financing and funding for upgrades; providing buildings with needed technical advice through the NYC Accelerator; implementing key enforcement mechanisms via a New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) rule package; and decarbonizing central systems in partnership with New York State. Under Local Law 97, New York City’s nation-leading emissions law, large buildings’ greenhouse gas emissions are limited starting in 2024 — and those limits are the centerpiece of the administration’s plan to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions from buildings and meet an aggressive target of carbon neutrality by 2050. The new phase of the Adams administration’s climate efforts builds on a new analysis showing, among other things, that Local Law 97 has already been effective with buildings meeting their emissions reduction targets and coming into compliance.

This new mobilization strategy delivers on goals outlined in “PlaNYC: Getting Sustainability Done,” New York City’s long-term strategic climate plan that Mayor Adams released in April 2023. It also builds on the administration’s comprehensive approach to tackling climate change, which includes reducing emissions from various types of buildings, as well as in other sectors like transportation and food.

“I pledged to New Yorkers that our administration would work to reduce harmful carbon greenhouse gas emissions, and this administration is a ‘promises made, promises kept’ administration,” said Mayor Adams. “Every part of the ‘Getting 97 Done’ plan builds towards one core goal: reversing the effects of climate changes. The data shows that our administration’s efforts are already working, and we’re going to continue moving forward. Building owners are learning every day that complying with Local Law 97 and going green will save green, and we are addressing climate change from all angles in New York City.”

Getting 97 Done

The ‘Getting 97 Done’ plan tackles four key focus areas on Local Law 97 and achieving decarbonization goals: identifying and targeting city, state, federal, and utility-based financing and funding for upgrades; providing buildings with needed technical advice through the NYC Accelerator; implementing key enforcement mechanisms via a DOB rule package; and decarbonizing central systems in partnership with New York State. Building on the work of NYC Accelerator — which has already completed compliance assistance for 5,000 buildings— the Adams administration is taking a series of steps to remove obstacles to compliance and help buildings meet their obligations.

First, the administration is identifying financial resources that will support retrofit projects towards Local Law 97 compliance, making buildings more efficient and emit less carbon. The city estimates that the Federal Inflation Reduction Act makes available $625 in tax credits and subsidies that buildings will be able to use to comply with Local Law 97. The New York State Public Service Commission recently directed utilities and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to propose a total of $5 billion in programs across the state in 2025-2030 as part of its “New Efficiency: New York” program; the city will seek to collaborate with NYSERDA, Con Edison, and National Grid to align those programs to support buildings that have to do significant work to comply with Local Law 97, especially in disadvantaged communities where compliance is lagging other parts of the city. Additionally, the administration will seek to develop a federal grant proposal targeting the $40 billion allocated for financing support or credit enhancement for eligible clean energy projects to make funding available for Local Law 97 compliance projects and particularly for buildings that might struggle to access market-rate loans.

As part of its commitment to provide this financial support, the administration will also work with the New York City Council to enact the J-51 housing quality incentive program — passed this year by the New York State Legislature, with Mayor Adams’ support, and awaiting New York Governor Kathy Hochul’s signature — and to allow buildings to use it to cover Local Law 97 compliance costs. This creative approach will devote significant city resources to help low- and moderate-income multifamily buildings, including many moderate-income co-ops and condos outside of Manhattan, comply with the law.

To improve awareness and provide technical support, the administration is enhancing NYC Accelerator, the city’s Local Law 97 technical assistance program, including by launching a new, formalized program to deliver more information to buildings that must comply with Local Law 97. Called “Climate-Friendly Buildings: Local Law 97 in Your Neighborhood,” the program will create invitation-based workshops, in partnership with members of the City Council, at which NYC Accelerator will provide information directly to those buildings that will need to do work to comply with the law by 2030. Building on the dozens of information sessions that have taken place informally since the law’s passage, the first workshop will be co-hosted with New York City Councilmember James Gennaro, chair of the Committee on Environmental Protection, Resiliency, and Waterfronts. The NYC Accelerator is today adding a new resource on their website listing all the various federal, state, local, and utility programs that can help building owners plan and pay for Local Law 97 compliance. 

Furthermore, the administration will convene a Local Law 97 Mobilization Council to meet regularly and review the effectiveness of implementation efforts. The council will include building owners and managers, workforce, and companies that provide financing to help ensure that the city has a clear sense of how implementation is proceeding on the ground. And the administration will work with the City Council to bring other city energy-related mandates into alignment with Local Law 97 to reduce the cost of compliance to building owners and managers.

Enforcement is a key part of Local Law 97’s implementation. Today, DOB is publishing a set of rules to guide the ongoing implementation of Local Law 97, with a focus on driving compliance with the law and maximizing emissions reductions. Under these rules, building owners may be able to mitigate compliance fines in 2024 — saving their limited resources for projects to reach compliance — but only if they can demonstrate concrete steps towards decarbonization that will result in them achieving their 2024 targets by 2027 and their 2030 targets on-time by 2030.

Finally, the city’s mobilization plan includes an increased focus on working with the state to decarbonize the electric system and Con Edison’s steam system on a schedule consistent with the State’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA).

City government buildings are also subject to Local Law 97 and are required to meet even stricter limits: a 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from all city government operations by 2030, with an interim target of 40 percent by 2025. DCAS has already made significant progress in reducing carbon emissions from their portfolio to help the city achieve carbon neutrality, completing more than 13,000 energy conservation projects across 2,300 buildings over the past decade, including the installation of 22 megawatts of solar energy production on city properties. These projects have reduced greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to removing 83,000 cars from city streets.

DOB Rulemaking Package

DOB today also advanced the city’s emissions reductions efforts under Local Law 97 by publishing its second set of proposed rules to guide implementation of the law. As the law continues to prove effective, these rules target the city’s worst emitters — focusing on achieving emissions reductions and providing building owners with the support they need to advance retrofit projects, while also outlining enforcement, including financial penalties, for building owners neglecting their legal responsibilities.

Like the agency’s first rules package — which gave building owners guidance on how to calculate their specific emissions limits and was adopted in December 2022 — it was heavily informed by the collaborative work of the city’s Local Law 97 Advisory Board and Climate Working Groups

The proposed rules:

  • Set out penalties for noncompliance at the maximum amount allowed under the law;
  • Outline how property owners can demonstrate a “Good Faith Effort,” as written in Local Law 97, to reduce emissions and comply with the law, therefore avoiding penalties — namely by showing progress on decarbonization, sharing a plan to reach their emissions reduction targets, and accepting a framework for retroactive enforcement if they fail to follow through on those plans;
  • Fully prohibit buildings that qualify for the “Good Faith Effort” provision of the law, and implement a decarbonization plan, from purchasing renewable energy credits as part of reaching their emissions reduction targets;
  • Establish a new credit for early electrification work in a building that owners can apply towards compliance with their emissions reduction targets; and
  • Provide guidance for affordable housing buildings and houses of worship on their Local Law 97 prescriptive compliance pathways under Article 321 of the law.

These proposed rules will be open to public comment during an online hearing on October 24, 2023. DOB will review and consider all public comments made during the hearing for inclusion before publishing the final adopted rules later this year. DOB will publish additional rules related to Local Law 97, as needed, in the future.

Local Law 97 Analysis

The mobilization strategy was informed by a new analysis of the actual costs and benefits of implementing the retrofits that Local Law 97 requires. This analysis found that Local Law 97 is working, and buildings are coming into compliance, but additional work is needed. The right combination of city, state, federal, and private action can not only further the goal of reducing building emissions but also advance the city and state’s broader, shared climate goals.

Only 11 percent of properties covered by Local Law 97 are currently not in compliance with their emission limits for the 2024-2029 compliance period — down from 20 percent when the law was passed. Of the buildings still not in compliance, those in disadvantaged communities (as defined by the state) are likely to need greater support to reach emissions reduction targets.

For the following compliance period beginning in 2030, 15,000 buildings will require a total investment between $12 billion and $15 billion — creating up to 140,000 jobs to make necessary adjustments. The city’s analysis suggests that with a combination of state and utility company energy efficiency incentive programs and reasonable investments from building owners, virtually all multifamily buildings and most commercial buildings could achieve their 2030 targets. This will require the city, state, and federal governments to align various programs to target assistance towards buildings needing significant upgrades to comply with Local Law 97.

The modernized J-51 housing quality tax incentive program — passed earlier this year by the State Legislature following advocacy from Mayor Adams and now awaiting Governor Hochul’s signature and adopting legislation from the New York City Council — could be a valuable financial tool to help eligible multifamily buildings cover Local Law 97 compliance costs. Additionally, $625 million in Inflation Reduction Act tax credits is available for buildings to claim towards compliance costs.

In addition to reducing building emissions, the city is supporting major projects that will deliver clean and renewable solar, wind, and hydroelectric power from upstate New York and Canada into New York City’s grid. Through the purchase of renewable energy credits, the city will procure clean energy from the Clean Path New York and Champlain Hudson Power Express projects — the largest transmission projects contracted for New York State in the last 50 years — which will reduce the city’s reliance on fossil fuel-fired generation by more than 50 percent in 2030.