By J. Cullen Howe
On December 27, 2011, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed into law three bills that enacted recommendations of the New York City Green Codes Task Force. The bills are aimed at carrying out long-term municipal plans to reduce carbon emissions, improve air and water quality, and limit waste.
The first bill (Intro. No. 576-A) seeks to improve protection of water and sewer systems by requiring construction sites to collect concrete washout water for proper disposal. The second bill (Intro. No. 578-A) requires that new asphalt used in the city have a minimum of 30 percent recycled content. According to the city, this requirement will save about $2.3 million per year by reducing dumping fees and avoiding costs of new asphalt and will keep more than 66,000 tons of asphalt out of landfills. The third bill (Intro. No. 592-A), requires all new heating, ventilation, and air conditioning units installed within the city to have filters that can keep out particles of 2.5 microns or more. According to the city, the bill is aimed at keeping soot from trucks and buses from entering indoor home and work environments, where people spend an estimated 90 percent of their time.
In addition, the Mayor signed two bills that address a long-running controversy over levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from fluorescent light ballasts, caulk, and other common construction materials in the city's school system. In January 2010, the City entered into an agreement with EPA to undertake a pilot study to develop a citywide approach to PCBs in schools. In February 2011, it announced a $708 million comprehensive energy efficiency plan to remove and replace lighting ballasts, reducing possible PCB exposure in schools and cutting annual greenhouse gas emissions by more than 200,000 metric tons. The two bills codify many New York City Department of Education practices and protocols for notifying parents and communities about PCBs and lighting fixture replacements. The first bill (Intro. No. 563-A) requires the Department to notify school community members of PCB testing results and the status of the city's comprehensive replacement plan. The second bill(Intro. No. 566-A) requires progress updates to the New York City Council and the public.
Finally, the Mayor also signed a bill (Intro. No. 720-A) to add flexibility to regulations for bicycle storage in parking garages. The bill amends a 2009 law (Local Law 51) setting aside bicycle parking spaces based on a garage's vehicle capacity.
This post originally appeared on Envirosphere, the award-winning blog of the Environmental Law Section.