Testimony of Mark Dunlea
People’s Climate Movement New York, 350NYC and Green Education and Legal Fund
To the Joint Hearing of the NYC Council Committees on
Environmental Protection and Recovery and Resiliency
On One NYC
December 14, 2015
My name is Mark Dunlea, and I am a resident of Bedford Stuyvesant in Brooklyn. I am chair of the Green Education and Legal Fund; co-convener of the 100% Renewable Now NY campaign; and a member of the steering committee of 350NYC. I speak today also as one of the co-chairs of the Legislative Committee of the People’s Climate Movement NY.
We appreciate the City Council holding a public hearing on the city’s sustainability plan, OneNYC. (A copy of the city’s testimony)
As we have previously told the de Blasio administration and members of the City Council, we call upon New York City to adopt a formal climate action plan to outline the concrete steps the city will take to effectively reduce our carbon footprint.
Obviously OneNYC will need to be overhauled to reflect the new international goal of keeping global warming under 1,5 degrees centigrade rather than the 2 degrees upon which the city established its climate change goals in conjunction with last year’s 400,000 strong People’s Climate March.
The Global Catholic Climate Change Movement has a good outline (bit.ly/1mit713) of what this new goal will mean. A 1.5°C cap reduces the remaining carbon budget for the 21st century to almost half that of the 2°C path; carbon neutrality must be achieved 10-20 years earlier than the 2°C track, and faster improvements in energy efficiency are required. It is estimated that reasonable likelihood of achieving it would require average reducing emissions by 9% for CO2 and 7.1% for all gases (whereas a 66% chance of hitting 2°C would require reductions each year of less than half of that, for all gases, 3.4%).
350.org yesterday, in an email to its international members, cited a study by Indian scientists pointing out that “the carbon space for a 1.5°C target is so limited that developed countries will have to reach net zero emissions in next 5-10 years. Developing countries will have some more time, but their development space will be so constrained that they will need massive support in terms of finance, technologies and capacity so that they are able to meet their basic development and poverty alleviation needs while remaining within the available carbon budget.” (bit.ly/1lG4A5V)
NYC should immediately convene a panel of scientists, climate activists, and representatives of impacted communities to determine how it will revise its plans to achieve these new goals.
100% Clean Energy by 2030
PCM NY supports the city moving to 100% renewably energy by 2030; this is not just for electricity but for all energy, including heating, cooling and transportation.
The transition to clean energy is also the path to full employment, a healthier city and lower electric bills. The Jacobson report done by Stanford and Cornell professors showed that New York State would create an estimated 4.5 million jobs during the build out (the equivalent of 280,000 40-year jobs). It is estimated that the burning of fossil fuels results in an increase in the annual death of NY residents of between 3,000 and 20,000 individuals, many of whom are city residents. It would reduce breathing problems such as asthma. And it would lower future electric bills by more than 50% compared to continued reliance upon fossil fuels.
A commitment to a rapid transition to clean energy is essential if NYC is going to avoid the most catastrophic aspects of climate change. The country’s best known climate scientist, Dr. James Hansen, formerly of NASA, recently concluded that sea levels will rise by 10 feet or more within 50 years since the Antarctica and Greenland ice shelfs are melting much faster than initially predicted. Many parts of NYC will not survive such a rapid sea rise and resulting increased storm surge, as we saw with Hurricane Sandy. NYC will also experience a significant increase in high temperature days above 90 degrees.
OneNYC presently states “sea levels are expected to rise 11 inches to 21 inches by the 2050s, and 22 to 50 inches by 2100. Using the highest estimate of current projections, sea levels could rise as much as six feet by 2100.” We urge the plan to review and incorporate the finding from Dr. Hansen as warranted.
Adopting a Climate Action Plan
A climate action plan can grow out of OneNYC. OneNYC is not a detailed plan with clear timelines, steps and benchmarks for the various climate change actions that are needed. Rather it is an aspirational statement of some very good goals that need further fleshing out.
There are worthwhile goals already in OneNYC, such as moving to Zero Waste and expanding composting. It is time however for the Mayor to announce how he wants to move forward with the proposal to reduce plastic bags.
We applaud the Mayor’s recognition that action on climate change must incorporate the principles of equity and Just Transition, providing good paying jobs and opportunities to displaced workers and communities most impacted by climate change. New York City’s climate plan must ensure that the needs and voices of impacted workers, low and moderate income residents, and communities of color are respected and empowered.
We support the Plan’s call for goals on transportation such as Select Bus Service, the expansion of bike networks and bike share, safer streets for walking and biking, expanded ferry service, and upgrades to the subway system.
PCM supports an open process for input from climate justice activists, including those most directly impacted by climate change. This did not adequately occur with respect to the development of OneNYC despite some stated intentions to use the community planning boards as such a vehicle.
Section 197-A of the City Charter provides a process for the formal adoption of a plan. Sections 16 and 17 of the city charter also does require the Mayor to submit annual plans related to environmental health and four year plans related to long-term strategy planning – § 16.
The City could also formally become a Climate Smart Community under the State Department of Environmental Conservation. DEC’s office of Climate Change has various how to guides on how a community can develop a climate action plan. California state law also provides direction for the development and adoption of a climate action plan.
Such plans typically include a rationale, generation and evaluation of options for action, a funding strategy, implementation priorities, project schedule and timeline and a plan for involving all community stakeholders, both in and out of government. For long-term success, it is especially important also to identify ways the community will measure its progress toward achieving emissions reduction and adaptation goals.
An implementation strategy is an important tool for prioritizing actions identified in a local action plan. An implementation strategy will indicate the individual or department responsible for overseeing the project as well as a timeline. As with any planning process, metrics grow out of the climate action plan’s goals and implementation steps. Thus metrics will probably include a mix of such indicators as measured reductions in emissions or energy consumption, projects completed and status of public participation and support.
Say No to Natural Gas and Fossil Fuels
It is important to note that moving to 100% clean energy means saying no to the further development of any fossil fuels and related infrastructure, including repairing and building natural gas pipelines. Every dollar invested in fossil fuels impedes the effort to transition to clean energy. And once such investments are made there will be pressure to use that infrastructure as long as possible in order to recoup the investment. It means phasing out the use of fossil fuels as soon as possible and ensuring that 80% of the existing fossil fuels are left in the ground.
It was a major climate change defeat that the Spectra Pipeline into NYC was approved. Right now many groups are focusing on defeating the Algonquin Incremental Market, or AIM –Spectra pipeline, known as Spectra 2, to place a 42-inch high-pressure pipeline within 105 feet of the spent fuel storage area at the Indian Point nuclear plant, and the same distance from the backup generators for cooling.
Sane Energy Project has recommended that when the city looks to upgrade and convert heating and cooling systems in buildings (such as with NYCHA) that it should consider a combination of renewable alternatives including efficiency, solar thermal and the use of biodiesel or bioD blends. Switching an oil-burning boiler to bioD requires minimal expense and disruption. Using solar thermal to pre-heat hot water greatly reduces the amount of energy required for domestic hot water. Efficiency and conservation reduces the amount of fuel required, and therefore the level of emissions, no matter what type of fuel is used. NYCHA also should use in-house expertise as much as possible and should bring on additional staff especially to oversee the new heating systems and explore the options for the use of clean fuel.
Issues to Include in a Climate Action Plan
There are a number of issues that we would recommend that the city include in a climate action plan.
Apart from of the issue of investing in fossil fuel infrastructure, we support the goals and principles of the Climate Works for All agenda, though we favor a more rapid implementation. We concur with their efforts supporting a more aggressive and mandatory energy retrofit to reduce the carbon footprint of all buildings in the city.
- Commit to develop off-shore wind.
The first step in our City’s transition off of fossil fuels is to make off shore wind part of the city’s plan to get 100% of its own electricity from new renewable energy. A wind farm off the coast of Long Island could generate tremendous electricity at a low cost.
We urge New York to become the national leader in the development of off shore wind projects (“OSW”). “OSW is the only large scale renewable (LSR) technology at the scale and location necessary to achieve the City’s 100% renewable target and essential reductions in greenhouse gas emissions As the City noted in its LSR comments, “[OSW] presents one of the only opportunities to construct utility-scale renewable generation in the downstate region.”
We urge NYC to issue an RFP for an OSW project and to commit to a large Power Purchasing Agreement for OSW (e.g., in excess of 1,000 MW, larger if done in conjunction with NYS.)
A January 2015 Oceana report  found that New York has 11.6 gigawatts of off shore wind potential. That’s enough energy to power over 9 million households. They also found that 134 GW of off shore wind off of the East Coast is possible through a gradual and modest development over the next 20 years.
A March 2015 report from NYSERDA and the University of Delaware, the New York Offshore Wind Cost Reduction Study, concluded that OSW could become the most viable option for delivering large-scale renewable electricity generation to New York City and Long Island.
The University of Delaware, which authored NYSERDA’s report, recently said that the United States has moved backwards in the last decade with respect to wind due to overreliance on market forces. We agree with their assessment. The NYSERDA report found that the best way to lower costs for off shore wind was to commit to a large scale project.
Whatever state builds the first major off shore wind project is likely to attract the infrastructure investment in manufacturing, shipping, ports, and supply chain that will position it to be the center of the off shore wind build out along the east coast. NYPA funded studies show that a single OSW project could generate total economic activity of $1 billion in sales, 8,700 job-years and $610 million in wages for New York State. A 2014 study by Stony Brook University found that if 2,500 MWs of projects were developed, Long Island would get 58,457 construction and operations phase jobs, as well as approximately $12.9 billion in local economic output.
Further, with the need to avoid future catastrophic events like Hurricane Sandy, there is evidence that an array of windmills off the coast of Long Island can mitigate the incoming force of future hurricanes. (stanford.io/1hgy4kl ) Additionally, because of the extended shallow shelf off the Long Island coast, the windmills could actually be sited beyond the view shed avoiding the kinds of controversies such off shore wind placement has caused in the past. (bit.ly/1jKKrd6)
The Beyond Coal Campaign has pointed out that off shore wind will reduce electricity prices for New Yorkers because it is the only LSR resource at the scale necessary to produce electricity to the New York City and Long Island suburbs during times of peak demand. By producing power when demand is highest, OSW will also defer the need for peaking fossil-fuel plants, which disproportionately harm the surrounding communities with dirty air and water,
Off shore wind is especially ripe as an economic development tool. There is presently no off shore wind farm in the US, though a small project recently broke ground in Block Island. The first large scale project (e.g., at least 700 MW) will provide the critical mass not only to reduce overall construction costs but lead to the infrastructure investment to support that project (e.g., ports, turbine factories, shipping, platform, supplies, etc.). Whichever community initiates the first large scale off shore wind farm will be ideally positioned to build out other off shore wind projects along the East Coast.
- Immediately Solarize all public buildings.
The City needs to commit to a short term plan to eliminate the carbon footprint of all city buildings – solar where possible, conservation everywhere, geothermal and other options where appropriate. Starting with our public schools makes a great deal of sense, but that must be on a faster time line than presently projected and it needs to expand to other City buildings. While we strongly support solar, we use solarize to refer to the various renewable energy and conservation methods that will result in net zero carbon emissions from buildings. This certainly includes geothermal as well as hydrogen-based solutions.
- Divest the City’s public pension funds from all fossil fuels.
We fully support the Mayor’s call to divest now from coal and to study the climate footprint and risk of the pension fund investments. This was a good first step and as quickly as possible the City should join the growing movement to completely divest from all fossil fuels.
The City’s pension funds should not be invested in companies that contribute to catastrophic climate change that has already inflicted tens of billions of dollars’ worth of damage in NY, starting with Hurricane Sandy.
- Promote locally grown foods and community gardens.
Agriculture has a major carbon footprint. The first step is to purchase locally produced nutritious food for schools and other City institutions. Protecting and fostering community gardens and other urban food initiatives will help reduce our emissions and strengthen community engagement.
- Continue to expand funding for mass transit, including Bus Rapid Transit.
We were pleased to see an agreement worked out between the City and the State, but much greater funding is needed from all levels of government if mass transit is going to meet our City’s need. Much work support is need for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT).
We look forward to seeing the City’s proposal related to developing 100 MW of solar on public buildings. We believe all of the City’s schools and buildings should be solarized and/or energy retrofitted and that this work should be done by the talented in-house workforce at the SCA. This will be a less expensive way to get the work done and it is important for the City’s future needs that it develop greater in-house expertise. We also hope that your office is exploring how to maximize our use of solar rooftop energy in the private sector as well.
We do take issue with OneNYC’s characterization of Indian Point as a source of renewable energy, and its mistaken assertion that it supplies 30% of New York City’s energy. Instead, we urge the Mayor to speak out in favor of shutting down the Indian Point nuclear plant and replace it with clean, renewable energy – not natural gas or other fossil fuels. It would be a step in the right direction if Mayor Di Blasio would announce his support for NYC Council Resolution 694, calling on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to shut down this menacing threat to the health and well-being of our City.
As the City moves forward on the transition to 100% clean energy, there will need to be a robust enforcement process in place. It is imperative that the actions by all city agencies reflect the goals and steps outlined in a climate action plan.
We also hope that wherever possible, and certainly in the retro-fitting of public buildings, that City employees be used in these jobs.
 City of New York Comments, 22.