2007-12-05 / Features

Council OK's Major Clean Air Bill

BY JOHN TOSCANO

Gennaro explained that the emissions reductions would be achieved through applicable policies, programs and actions included in PlaNYC 2030. Gennaro explained that the emissions reductions would be achieved through applicable policies, programs and actions included in PlaNYC 2030. Attacking the global warming problem locally, the City Council has passed a bill designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions throughout the five boroughs to guarantee that the city remains green, clean and sustainable in the future.

The Climate Protection Act, codifies climate change goals targeted in Mayor Michael Bloomberg's PlaNYC program, which ensures that he will sign it into law.

Councilmember James Gennaro (D- Fresh Meadows), chair of the Environmental Protection Committee and author of the measure, hailed it as a landmark that will not only reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the city, but will also foster awareness of climate change issues and encourage people to become part of the movement to protect the environment.

Gennaro added: "Education and outreach are essential to safeguarding the environment and ensuring that future administrations will be required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is essential that we teach our children and other members of our population how to guard the environment in which they live, as well as to protect their health."

Gennaro explained that the emissions reductions would be achieved through applicable policies, programs and actions included in PlaNYC 2030.

In addition, he said, designated offices or agencies are required to annually post on Web sites "an inventory and analysis of citywide emissions... and will calculate the percentage change in citywide and city government emissions each year". The first report on such emissions is due Sept. 17, 2008 and every September 17 thereafter.

Gennaro said, "If the office or agency determines that the required reduction in greenhouse gases is not feasible, it must make recommendations to achieve the legislation's targets."

The legislation requires the designated office to develop public education programs and outreach regarding emission reductions and to disseminate information regarding the potential effects of global warning. Ways to reduce energy consumption and emissions of greenhouse gases will also be given to businesses, residents, schools and other entities, Gennaro said.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a strong supporter of the measure, described it as "a clear forward-thinking plan for reducing New York City's greenhouse gas emissions, helping to make sure our city stays on the right track toward responsible and sustainable environmental policy."

The bill requires the city to achieve two goals in cleaning up the city's air: reducing greenhouse gas emissions such as methane, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide that result from city operations by at least 30 percent by 2017 and reducing those emissions citywide from homes and businesses by at least 30 percent by the year 2030.

Marcia Bystryn, executive director of the New York League of Conservation Voters, declared that the legislation "puts New York City in the vanguard among the nation's cities".

Bystryn added: "This bill proves that New York City is not just talking the talk, we are walking the walk by setting ambitious yet achievable targets to reduce greenhouse gases emissions."

The League, a non-partisan environmental advocacy group, said in a release that the bill would achieve the emission reductions through a blend of mandatory, market-based and voluntary approaches.

The release said the city, through initiatives announced by the mayor recently, is already implementing a program to cut emissions by planting trees and adopting new building codes that will produce more energy efficient structures.

The mayor's proposed congestion pricing plan is also a part of this effort, as well as is a planned New York City Energy Planning Board.

Besides approving the Climate Protection Act, the council also passed a bill introduced by Councilmember John Liu (D- Flushing) to create a Web site with block-by-block information on city parking regulations.

Another bill, introduced by Councilmember Melinda Katz (D- Forest Hills), will create new design standards for parking lots by requiring safety features and interior landscaping.

Liu said he introduced his bill because too many streets have confusing and sometimes contradictory signs and drivers sometimes receive parking tickets despite good faith attempts to comply with the signs.

"This bill will make parking restrictions easier to understand and abide by," Liu said. "Perhaps more importantly, it ensures that parking regulations are enforced consistently and that parking tickets are not written haphazardly."

Katz, council Land Use Committee chair, said the new parking lot zoning will "go a long way to improve the aesthetics of large parking lots while reducing the urban heat island effect, achieving cleaner air quality for all".

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