Local Law 97 – Steep Fines for Green New Deal
Published on: July 12, 2019

Local Law 97 is New York City’s “Green New Deal”. 

Local Law 97 is designed to enforce energy efficiency in some 57,000 buildings in New York City.  It imposes steep fines on buildings that do not comply and could also lead to misdemeanors.  

Below is some information on Local Law 97 that was summarized from the Urban Green Council’s FAQ page

The Climate Mobilization Act is the name of a package of laws passed by the New York City Council on April 18, 2019. Local Law 97 (the building emissions law) is the centerpiece of the package and by far the most impactful. The package includes other important laws related to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  You can read more about the Climate Mobilization Act on the New York City Council Press Release

Who is subject to Local Law 97?

In general, if a property is subject to Local Law 87, the Benchmarking Law, it is subject to the building emissions law. The city issues an annual Covered Buildings List here.

What is the emissions limit for your building?

Local Law 97 sets emissions intensity limits (metric tons of CO2e per square foot) for 10 building categories. 

There are several exceptions and set asides however.  For example, buildings with rent-regulated units, may not be subject to emissions limits. Mixed-use buildings will have customized limits that reflect their unique blend of occupancy groups.

Below are the 2024 and 2030 carbon emissions limits for the most common groups, specifically multifamily apartments, offices and hotels. The law provides limits in metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.  Note that one metric ton (mt) equals 1000 kilograms (kg) Readers can better understand kg of carbon dioxide rather than “metric tons”.  The following table express these numbers in kilograms of carbon dioxide for ease of comprehension.

Local Law 97 - 2024 Limits

See your building’s emissions score …

To see your building’s annual emissions intensity, find your building by using this website borough-block-lot (BBL) number or type in your street address at Metered.nyc. Scroll down to “GHG Emissions / sq.ft.”. Multiply that emissions intensity by a building’s total area (in square feet) to determine annual carbon emissions for the applicable year.

Check out this example below.

Local Law 97 - Green New Deal
Here is an example of an actual report card as presented on metered.nyc
Local Law 97 - Green New Deal
Multiply 9.1 kg/ton x 1,587,872 SF and divide by 1,000.  According to metered.nyc This building emits 14,550 metric tons of CO2 annually.

How to reduce your building’s Carbon Emissions…

There are many no/low cost energy efficiency measures that landlords can implement to help reduce carbon emissions. We list a few of these measures below

  1. Convert fluorescent lighting to LED Lighting
  2. Install VFD’s on pumps and fans
  3. Install programmable thermostats
  4. Invest in a building automation system

We have been very successful using our GreenConnect Real Time Energy Manager platform to help identify no/low cost measures.

Most notably we find that a good amount of carbon emissions comes from the commercial tenant spaces.  In many instances, commercial landlords do not impose on their tenants energy efficiency practices.  Many landlords sub-meter tenants to recover energy costs.  It would be interesting to see if landlords will be using sub-metering data to mete out the annual fines.  Landlords will in effect penalize inefficient tenants and reward efficient ones.

What if your building cannot reduce carbon emissions from energy efficiency measures alone?

According to the USGBC’s website, here are options that building owners have in addition to implementing energy efficiency measures.

Local Law 97 provides some flexibility for buildings to comply with any of the following:

  • Building Owners can achieve some or all of the required reductions by purchasing credits for renewable energy generated in NYC, or directly sinking into the NYC grid;
  • Owners can deduct up to 10 percent of the annual emissions limit by purchasing greenhouse gas offsets (details to be determined by rule, but typically includes measures like credits for planting trees); and
  • Building carbon trading, where buildings that surpass the goal can sell to buildings that cannot. The city is required to study and recommend a program by 2021.

A new department within the NYC Department of Buildings will also have the authority to grant exceptions, for reasons such as financial hardship and practical constraints (like lack of access to building systems due to existing leases).

Ultimately, failure to comply will result in fines however.

The fines can be steep!

The law creates fines for two types of violations, with a third type also considered a misdemeanor:

For example, a 1,587,872 square-foot commercial office building emitting 14,550 metric tons of carbon would be 1,016 metric tons over its 2024-2029 limit and pay a fine of approximately $272,351.

Fines are assessed on an annual basis.

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