Posted by: Patricia Salkin | February 14, 2009

Bar Association Task Force on Global Warming Issues Report

New York State Bar Association President Bernice Leber created a special Task Force on Global Warming to review and summarize New York’s existing laws and programs (taking into account the existing and pending federal laws and local initiatives) regarding climate change, and to make specific proposals that the State can implement in a timely and cost-effective fashion to address the current global warming crisis.  The Task Force, Chaired by Professor Michael Gerrard, who is also the Director of the new Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University School of Law, issued its report in January 2009.  The report, which is not the official policy of the New York State Bar Association until the Association considers it at their April meeting, contains 22 specific proposals that the Task Force believes can be readily accomplished and that will yield results. The proposals are organized into four general categories: buildings and energy, land use, transportation and other.


The following description of the specific proposals is excerpted from the Executive Summary:


With respect to buildings and energy, the Task Force has made nine recommendations. First, the Task Force recommends that New York improve its incentives regarding energy incentives in buildings by centralizing information concerning energy efficiency incentives, updating the State Energy Code more swiftly and providing incentives for local Code enforcement, by expediting processing for “climate friendly” projects, and by prioritizing energy efficiency initiatives for affordable housing. Second, the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) should be raised from 25% to 30%. Third, the Public Service Commission should be permitted to require time-of-use pricing, which allows the price of electricity to more closely track the actual cost of producing it on an hour-by-hour basis. Fourth, New York should provide incentives for the installation of “smart meters,” which allow for the exchange of information between the electricity provider and the customer’s electric meter. Fifth, sub-metering should be required in all buildings, which

would allow building owners to bill tenants for individual measured electric usage. Sixth, the State Energy Code should be amended to cover more building renovations; currently only renovations that involve the replacement of 50% or more of a building’s subsystem must comply with the Code. Seventh, all new or substantially renovated school buildings should be required to meet green building standards. Eighth, water and wastewater treatment plants should be required to adopt energy conservation requirements. Finally, the State Energy Planning Board should be reinstated.


With respect to land use, the Task Force has made three recommendations. First, the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) regulations should be amended such that GHG emissions are considered for projects that are subject to it. Second, GHG emissions should be factored into local comprehensive plans. Third, wind projects, including those offshore, should be encouraged and New York should adopt a statewide wind energy goal as part of its RPS requirement.


With respect to vehicles and transportation, the Task Force has made four recommendations. First, New York should continue to strive for a 10% reduction in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) below business as usual within 10 years; to this end, New York should initiate a VMT Task Force as recommended by the Renewable Energy Task Force. Second, New York should consider imposing feebates on the purchase of new vehicles with low fuel economy and offer rebates on the purchase of vehicles with high fuel economy. Third, New York should encourage the purchase of alternative fuel vehicles. Fourth, energy-saving vehicle maintenance techniques should be included as part of the vehicle registration process.


The Task Force has made six additional recommendations that did not fit in the above three categories. First, New York should encourage the expansion of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) by promoting the adoption of an economy-wide cap on GHGs; in addition, New York should consider lowering the existing cap. Second, carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology should be pursued provided that adequate federal funding is available. Third, green workforce development should be promoted by enhancing educational and job training programs throughout the state. Fourth, New York should encourage the Interagency Committee on Sustainability and Green Procurement to be aggressive in setting green specifications for certain goods that are purchased by State agencies. Fifth, New York should promote methane

capture by requiring or encouraging it in all municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills. Sixth, New York should improve its floodplain mapping system by taking into account future sea level rise.

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