ESG: – New York City Council Passes a Natural Gas Ban for New Buildings

Last week, New York City’s city council approved a ban on natural gas as a fuel source in newly constructed buildings.

Per reporting from NPR, nearly 40% of carbon emissions in the country — and more than 50% of New York City’s emissions — come from buildings.

The new natural gas ban in newly constructed buildings, by a vote of 40-7, applies to buildings that are up to 7-stories in height by the end of 2023; buildings that are taller than 7-stories have until 2027 to comply.

The bill contains several exceptions, including hospitals, laundromats and crematoriums.

As noted by NPR, the legislation also requires that the Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability conduct 2 long term studies. The first will examine the use of heat pump technology and the second is a study on the impact of the new bill on the city’s electrical grid.

Not surprising there has been massive pushback from the natural gas industry against these type of natural gas bans. This pushback, however, has not stopped cities around the country from proceeding with various types of natural gas ban efforts. By way of example, at least 42 cities in California have acted to limit natural gas in new buildings, and Salt Lake City, Utah and Denver, Colorado have also made plans to move toward required electrification in buildings.

Moreover, in Ithaca, New York, the city committed to ending the use of natural gas in all buildings — not just new ones.

Passing this type of natural gas ban for new buildings in New York City, the largest city in the country, marks a significant move for other cities trying to move similar legislation to attempt to cut down carbon emissions in the fight against climate change, joining cities like San Jose and San Francisco that have made similar commitments to reduce emissions.

The efforts to ban natural gas in new buildings in New York City is also being considered on a state wide basis in the New York Senate and House. Senator Brian Kavanagh (D) and Assembly Member Emily Gallagher (D) are working on legislation that would require any buildings constructed in New York after 2023 to be entirely powered by electricity. If their legislation passes, New York would become the first state to ban natural gas in new buildings on a state-wide level.

Triple Bottom Line – By passing this type of natural gas ban in new buildings, focusing on buildings as one of the largest emitters of green house gases,  New York has provided other cities with a leader to attempt to follow if they are so inclined.  As noted, California has been attempting this type of ban on a city by city basis and has passed 42 such bans throughout the state.  If New York state follows the NYC lead it will become the first state to enact such a ban and would mark a bit of a watershed moment in the fight against greenhouse gas emissions showing that buildings can indeed be constructed in this manner if reduced emissions are one of the  key goals attempting to be achieved by the builder/owner or the legislature.

Duane Morris has an active ESG and Sustainability Team to help organizations and individuals plan, respond to, and execute on Sustainability and ESG planning and initiatives within their own space. We would be happy to discussion your proposed project with you. For more information, or if you have any questions about this post, please contact Brad A. Molotsky, Nanette Heide, Seth Cooley, David Amerikaner, Jolie-Anne Ansley, Hari Kumar or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.

NYC enacts Racial Equity Reporting for Many Land Use Projects

On June 17, 2021 the New York City Council passed Intro – 1572-B,  legislation which requires “racial equity reports” for certain land-use actions. According to Langan and the ordinance, racial equity reports will be standalone, project-specific, publicly-available documents that provide supplemental information for use  during the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (“ULURP”) process.

Starting June 1, 2022, a racial equity report will be required for applications involving all of the following actions:

  • Adopting citywide zoning text amendments that affect 5 (or more) community districts;
  • Designating historic districts that affect 4 (or more) city blocks;
  • Acquiring or disposing of (selling) city-owned land for a project containing at least 50,000 square feet of floor area;
  • Increasing permitted residential floor area by at least 50,000 square feet;
  • Increasing permitted non-residential floor area by at least 200,000 square feet;
  • Decreasing permitted floor area or number of housing units on at least four contiguous city blocks;
  • Changing the permitted floor area (for any use) in a manufacturing district; and
  • Changing use regulations in a manufacturing district with a project containing at least 100,000 square feet of floor area.

The New York City Department of City Planning (“DCP”) and Department of Housing Preservation and Development (“HPD”) will have administrative oversight of the racial equity reports and have been charged with aggregating the data and developing detailed guidance for further report preparation.

According to the Real Deal, the measure requires the DCP and the HPD to create a database (called the “equitable development data tool” (“EDD”)) with current and historic information focusing on neighborhood demographics, affordability and displacement risk. The EDD will include a 20 year lookback, disaggregated by race origin, aimed at spotting trends in the data over time.

For residential developments, reporting would include proposed rents or sales prices and the household incomes as well as listing the number of government-regulated affordable units at different income levels.

For nonresidential projects, reporting would include the “projected number of jobs in each sector or occupation, median wage levels of such jobs based on the most recently available quarterly census data on employment and wages or other publicly available data, and the racial and ethnic composition and educational attainment of the workforce for the projected sectors of such jobs.”

It’s easy to provide this information for projects with government regulatory agreements; not so for areawide re-zonings and private applicants, where many outcomes are possible. By acknowledging the “worst” possible outcomes (market-rate housing! non-union jobs!), the reports will tee up the opposition’s demands.

Triple Bottom Line – often California leads policy and mandates on various social issues, in this instance, New York City has taken action and mandated racial equity reporting in various land use developments for new projects on a go forward basis.  This action will require the aggregation of critical data in order to make land use decisions which will likely result in a different, more informed decision making process that takes into account racial disparity and equity.  A big step in the process and one which many towns and municipalities in the US will look to in their own decision making.  Too early to call on overall success of the initiative or what will occur, but in my view, a big important step in enabling more informed decisions, that this commentator believes will be the beginning of a more national move in many cities to similar reporting and requirements.

Duane Morris has an active ESG and Sustainability Team to help organizations and individuals plan, respond to, and execute on Sustainability and ESG planning and initiatives within their own space. We would be happy to discussion your proposed project with you. For more information, or if you have any questions about this post, please contact Brad A. Molotsky, Nanette Heide, Darrick Mix, David Amerikaner, Vijay Bange, Stephen Nichol, or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.