Local Law 97: NYC Gears Up for Reduced Emissions Requirements

Local Law 97: NYC Gears Up for Reduced Emissions Requirements

By Frank Fortino

When New York City passed the Climate Mobilization Act of 2019, the legislation was groundbreaking in terms of ambition. Notably, Local Law 97 of 2019 laid the groundwork for reducing the city’s total greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050. The Department of Buildings (DOB) and various government officials have since taken critical steps to improve building efficiency and lower emissions.

Local Law 97 – Latest Developments

In April 2019, the aggressive benchmarking limits of Local Law 97 seemed reasonably distant. Only 14 months remain before January 1, 2024, when lower emissions limits go into effect for buildings that exceed 25,000 gross square feet. The law requires covered buildings to lower emissions by 40% by 2030 and by 80% by 2050; for city government buildings, greenhouse gas emissions must decrease by 40% by 2025, 50% by 2050. Meeting these aggressive limits will require large, existing buildings to undertake energy efficiency retrofits.

Last month, the DOB published the first list of Local Law 97 Covered Buildings, as well as proposed rules for implementing Local Law 97. The result of an extensive, joint effort from the DOB’s new Bureau of Sustainability, partner agencies, the Local Law 97 Advisory Board, and Working Groups, the proposed rules include the following:

  • A formula for calculating a building’s annual greenhouse gas emissions limits
  • The method for calculating energy usage for a building
  • The method for factoring time of use into calculations (to promote responsible energy consumption)
  • Adoption of US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Energy Star Portfolio Manager property types to allow the DOB to accurately assign emissions limits to different building types, based on energy usage

The DOB is accepting comments on the proposed rules until November 14, 2022, when the agency will hold an online public hearing at 11:00 a.m. to discuss the rules. The final adopted rules are expected to be published by year’s end.

Local Law 97 – Compliance Deadlines, Penalties

All buildings covered by Local Law 97 are required to submit an annual Greenhouse Gas Emission report by May 1, 2025—and every May 1 thereafter. This report should show the following information for the previous calendar year:

  • Compliance with applicable emissions limits OR
  • Non-compliance with emissions limits, including the amount by which limits were exceeded

Any covered buildings that exceed emissions limits will be subjected to a penalty. At this time, however, it remains unclear which department will enforce penalties. Also, the city government and industry advocates are working together to help building owners comply. The shared goal is to promote energy efficiency and reduce emissions, not to punish property owners who are working hard to make the required upgrades.

Local Law 95 – 2021 Benchmarking Grades

Local Law 33 of 2018, amended by Local Law 95 of 2019, offers a sneak peek at energy efficiency improvements throughout the five boroughs. No later than October 31, 2022, owners of buildings over 25,000 square feet—or multiple buildings on a lot that total at least 100,000 square feet—that appear on the 2022 NYC Benchmarking Covered Building List for Compliance must post an Energy Efficiency Rating in a conspicuous location near each public entrance. These notices include the building’s 2021 energy efficiency score and an energy efficiency grade of A through F.

As Local Law 97 compliance deadlines approach, we must all work together and build a better, more efficient environment for the well-being of our city—and of future generations.