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Grassroots Bulletin

July Newsletter

City Lawmakers Pass 2014 Budget & Paid Sick Leave  

New York City lawmakers have passed a $70 billion spending plan for the next fiscal year. It does not include tax increases, avoids major layoffs of city workers and implements the first of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plans to protect the city from future super storms and effects of climate change.

The budget remains balanced through billions of dollars in previously implemented agency savings actions and increased revenues from the city’s economic growth.  The Mayor said city finances are benefiting from a more diversified economy led by the tech, film, tourism and higher education sector. The budget for 2014 allocates additional funds to certain agencies in order to fill some gaps caused by federal sequester cuts, which went into effect in March 2013.

The City Council approved the budget Thursday, June 27th.

The budget includes $250 million for bulkheads and other coastal protection improvements. Those projects are among plans Bloomberg recently outlined for guarding against rising seas and other threats associated with climate change.

The Council also overrode a recent veto by Mayor Bloomberg of the Paid Sick Leave bill. 

Under the new law, sponsored by Councilwoman Gale Brewer, employees of businesses with 20 or more workers would get up to five paid sick days a year beginning in April 2014; the new law does not go into effect until October 2015 for small businesses with 15 to 19 workers.

The requirements can be postponed under a “circuit breaker” provision if the city economy experiences a downturn.

Employees could choose to work extra hours instead of taking sick time, a component aimed at those who would rather share shifts.

Manufacturing companies are exempt from the paid sick time requirement under the rationale that this sector is still struggling to recover from the last recession.  

Bloomberg vetoed the bill in May on the basis that it could raise costs for employers and lead to layoffs.

President Announces Climate Action Plan   


Last week President Obama unveiled a series of proposed actions intended to mitigate the impact of climate change.  Speaking at Georgetown University on June 25th, the president outlined a plan which reiterates his goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) “in the range of 17 percent” below 2005 levels by 2020.  The “three key pillars” of his plan include:

• Cut carbon emissions in the U.S.
• Prepare the U.S. for the impacts of climate change
• Lead international efforts to combat global climate change and prepare for its impacts

Obama highlighted Superstorm Sandy and said that rising sea levels contributed to the level of destruction.  Later this summer, it’s expected that the President’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force will issue a rebuilding strategy report to be implemented in regions affected by the storm with recommendations that that can be followed elsewhere. The Task Force and federal agencies are also piloting new ways to support resiliency in the regions impacted by Sandy.

Although the President’s speech did not incorporate any new policies, his announcement is viewed by many as a renewed commitment to climate change in an era where legislating on carbon has been met with strong opposition in congress.

Highlights of the plan are as follows:

Cut Carbon Emissions in the U.S.

• Cutting carbon emissions from power plants: The president issued a Presidential Memorandum directing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “to work expeditiously” to finalize carbon standards for both new and existing generating units.

• Promote American leadership in renewable energy: The president has set a goal of doubling renewable electricity generation by 2020. The Plan also calls on the Department of the Interior to permit an additional 10 GWs of renewable generation on public lands by 2020.

• Cutting waste energy in homes, business and factories: With a focus on reducing energy bills, the Plan identifies several energy efficiency improvement measures:

     o New energy efficiency standards - The Department of Energy will establish new minimum efficiency standards for appliances and federal buildings.
     o The Plan references the existing Multifamily Energy Innovation Fund run by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and notes that the Federal Housing Administration will convene a roundtable in July to discuss how to factor energy efficiency into mortgage underwriting and appraisals.
     o Expand the Better Buildings Challenge - The Plan will expand the Better Buildings Challenge, which has a goal of making commercial and industrial buildings at least 20 percent more energy efficient by 2020, to include multifamily housing.

• Increase federal use of renewable energy: The Plan announces a new goal to have the federal government consume 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. The current goal is 7.5 percent.

• Increase federal energy efficiency: In the coming months, the Administration will take a number of actions to strengthen efforts in promoting energy efficiency, including through performance contracting. The Administration will initiate a partnership with the private sector to develop a standardized contract to finance federal investments in energy efficiency. Other efforts include “synchronizing” buildings codes for federally owned and supported buildings and expanding the use of the “Green Button” program to aggregate energy use data.

Prepare the U.S. for the Impacts of Climate Change
To support community-based preparedness and resilience efforts, the federal government will undertake three initiatives:

    o Support climate-resilient investment and preparedness: The President will direct agencies to identify and remove barriers to making climate-resilient investments and encourage and support such investments. Agencies also will be directed to ensure that climate risk-management considerations are fully integrated into federal infrastructure and natural resources management planning.
    o Protect economy and natural resources: DOE will soon release an assessment of climate change impacts on the energy sector, including power plant disruptions due to drought and disruption of fuel supplies during storms.

Lead International Efforts to Address Global Climate Change
The Administration is working on major international initiatives focused on concrete actions to reduce emissions, including bilateral initiatives with China, India, and other major emitting countries. International efforts are intended to address:

    o Deforestation and forest degradation
    o Increased deployment of cleaner energy technologies and efficiency
    o World Trade Organization negotiations towards global free trade in environmental goods, including clean energy technologies
    o Public sector financing for clean energy and climate finance

Consistent with other international efforts, the president called for the phase-out of U.S. fossil fuel tax subsidies in the proposed FY 2014 budget.

 City Prepares for Future Storms     

After 11 oversight hearings and months of analyzing the city’s response to Superstorm Sandy, the City Council proposed 10 bills it says will help plan and prepare for future storms and emergencies. 

Some of the bills require backup generators for traffic lights while others direct city agencies to make changes in emergency response.   The proposals also include planning for emergency bus and ferry service if subway service goes down, measures that call on the city to plan for post-storm fuel shortages and small business disaster assistance.

Some of the ideas are similar to recommendations released earlier this year by various post-Sandy commissions established by Governor Andrew Cuomo.  Others look like proposals made by Mayor Michael Bloomberg last month in his “A Stronger, More Resilient New York” report, which outlines more than 250 ideas to protect the city against climate change. 

The Mayor’s report calls for buying more police boats and fuel trucks, working with companies to extend backup power for cell phone towers, and expanding the city’s official evacuation zones.   The total cost of all 250 recommendations contained in the report is nearly $20 billion, which the Mayor proposes paying for through a combination of city capital funding and federal aid. 

The plan also calls for the installation of removable “adaptable floodwalls” in riverfront locations across the city, including Hunts Point in the Bronx, the East Harlem waterfront, the Lower East Side and the Financial District, as well as a new levee and floodwall system along the East Shore of Staten Island, with barriers that could rise as high as 15 to 20 feet.  A city panel put in place after Sandy found sea levels could rise by more than 2.5 feet by 2050.

In November 2012, Cuomo charged a commission with looking for ways to guard against new superstorms.  The 2100 commission issued its report in January calling for flood walls in subways, water pumps at airports and sea barriers along coastal areas.  Some of the specific recommendations in the 205-page report include constructing two more tunnels out of Manhattan, a “rapid” bus system and an additional Long Island rail track.  It also calls for improvements in insurance coverage for the state and residents.

Cuomo has sought $60billion in federal relief funds to pay for the recommendations and to cover the damage and lost economy from Superstorm Sandy.  

 Energy Department Creates Cybersecurity Council   

 Newly confirmed Federal Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said he intends to bring together various Energy Department branches to create a cybersecurity council in a move that underscores increasing political and policy focus on cyber threats by the Obama administration.

“We [will] bring all these assets together to look at everything from grid reliability and resilience to, frankly, protecting our own national security secrets,” Moniz told the House Energy and Commerce Committee in a hearing in June.

Moniz said the council will include representation from the Energy Department’s electricity office, its intelligence division, the chief information officer and the National Nuclear Security Administration.

Cyber threats — including those on energy-related infrastructure — have risen in recent months according to analysts, government officials and regulators.

Obama issued an executive order in February aimed at protecting against attacks on critical infrastructure, but major cybersecurity legislation remains stalled on Capitol Hill.

The Cyber Information Sharing and Protection Act, which focuses on improving real time information sharing between the federal government and private sector in order to combat cyber attacks, was passed by Congress in May but is not expected to gain traction in the Senate due to concerns over privacy and civil liberties.

The US General Services Administration recently issued a request for information on ways to improve the federal government's cybersecurity and increase intelligence sharing between government and industry.  

Become a Volunteer Leader 

The Power of Giving program empowers employees by offering opportunities to take on leadership roles through volunteer work. Through these opportunities, the Power of Giving aims to strengthen our community of volunteers, enhance leadership skills, and strengthen our relationships with our nonprofit partners. Volunteers are needed year-round to assist with managing day-of-event tasks, such as serving as the main point of contact for the nonprofit and volunteers, and assisting with the distribution of volunteer supplies.

How can you become a volunteer leader?

Register for an upcoming volunteer event via a Power of Giving e-blast or our intranet site. If the event description indicates a need for a volunteer leader, notify Keiko Akashi, volunteer manager, that you are interested in serving as a leader for that event.




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