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Grassroots Bulletin

October Newsletter


Climate Policy Takes Center Stage 

 

As President Obama embarks on a public campaign to win support for his Climate Plan that seeks to limit emissions from power plants,  Republican lawmakers and some industry groups are vowing to fight the new proposed rules.

In late September, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released draft New Source Pollution Standards (NSPS) for greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. Under the proposal, new coal-fired power plants would likely need to install expensive technology to capture carbon dioxide. No U.S. plant has done that, largely due to the cost. Opponents say that makes the rule ripe for challenges. Limits for new coal-fired plants would be 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide for each megawatt hour of energy they produce. New natural gas facilities will need to meet a 1,000 pound limit, which industry says is achievable under current technology.  

While the emission rules for new plants are just one component of Obama’s plan, critics have already begun campaigning against the yet-to-be-released greenhouse gas standards for existing plants.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose state of Kentucky is a major coal producer, has indicated he plans to pass a resolution to block it.  The Congressional Review Act provides for expedited Senate consideration with a simple majority vote to overturn regulations.  If Republicans can muscle the resolution through both chambers, they will still have to face the president’s almost certain veto. 

Outside of congressional action, it is widely expected that emission standards for both new and existing plants will be legally challenged.  The Supreme Court has ruled that the EPA has the authority, under the Clean Air Act, to regulate greenhouse gases, but that doesn’t mean the EPA won’t be sued. 

In anticipation of the draft emission rules, both Republicans and Democrats have been promoting various climate-related agendas.  In the House, the Energy and Power Subcommittee held a hearing on September 18 on the cost of the proposal as well as efforts already underway.  Republicans have focused on the economic impacts of the regulations, noting higher energy costs, as well as whether U.S. emission rules will have any significant impact on global emissions or climate change.  Democrats have used the opportunity to draw links between extreme weather events and climate change.



New York Green Bank Launched

 

Following up on a promise he made in his 2013 State of the State speech, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has launched a $1 billion “Green Bank.”  The Green Bank will provide loans to projects that generate power without using fossil fuels – a move meant to push private lenders into the clean-energy market.

In January, Cuomo announced he would introduce legislation that would allow the state, with oversight by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), to leverage public dollars with private sector funds to spur the clean-tech economy.  The bill was approved in April and the state’s energy czar, Richard Kauffman, was tasked with initializing the financing to connect green projects with investors and capital.

In a petition filed in September with the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) the Green Bank was established to use $165 million in seed money previously collected from utility bills through state mandated programs and set aside for energy-efficiency programs.  The petition directs NYSERDA to use money collected through the Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), Systems Benefit Charge (SBC), Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standards (EEPS), and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) to fund the bank.  RPS, SBC, and EEPS dollars are all collected directly through a surcharge on utility customers’ bills. RGGI dollars are collected through the sale of emission allowances to generators.

The Green Bank will provide financial products such as credit enhancement, loan loss reserves, and loan bundling. It is anticipated that the Green Bank will offer its initial financial products in early 2014 and will package loans for resale into the secondary market, creating an opportunity for pension funds and other institutions to invest. It will also provide guarantees to private lenders that it will absorb a portion of losses incurred on specific loans.

The bank’s funding will grow as loans are repaid or sold, without additional funds from utility customers, the petition said. In 10 years, Cuomo expects the bank to have $8 billion. 


New York Primary Results

 
New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio won the Democratic primary for New York City mayor. Final results give de Blasio 40.81 percent of the vote and former City Comptroller Bill Thompson 26.2 percent.

On the Republican side, former MTA Chairman Joe Lhota won the party’s nomination when he received 52 percent of the vote and defeated supermarket magnate John Catsimatides, who received 41 percent.

Outgoing Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, who won the Democratic primary over former New York State Governor Eliot Spitzer, has no Republican challenger for the November general election.

In the race for Public Advocate, neither term limited Councilwoman Leticia James nor State Senator Daniel Squadron received 40 percent of the vote.  They are facing off today [Oct 1] in a runoff - remember to vote!  

Candidates for over 20 City Council seats faced off in the September primary.  A complete list of those outcomes can be found here.

All five borough president seats were up for election with several candidates running uncontested races.

Bronx
Incumbent Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. won the Democratic primary and now faces Republican Elizabeth Perri in the November 5 general election.

Brooklyn
New York State Senator Eric Adams ran unopposed in the Democratic primary and has no Republican challenger in the November 5 general election.

Manhattan

Councilwoman Gale Brewer won the Democratic primary and now faces Republican David Casavis in the general election on November 5.

Queens

Former Councilmember Melinda Katz won the Democratic primary and now faces Republican Tony Arcabascio in the general election.

Staten Island
Councilmember James Oddo ran unopposed in the Republican primary and now faces Democrat Louis Liedy in the general election.

Further north in other important general elections:
Westchester County
Republican Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino had no primary challenger and will face off in November against Democratic challenger and New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson.

Rockland County
In the Democratic primary for Rockland County executive, former County Legislator David Fried defeated County Legislator Ilan Schoenberger and will face off against Republican County Legislator Ed Day in November.

Orange County
Republican Stefan Neuhaus, supervisor of the Town of Chester, will face off against Democratic County Legislator Roxanne Donnery for the seat being vacated by County Executive Ed Diana who is not seeking re-election after 12 years in office.    



A Conversation with Assemblyman Dan Quart

Dan Quart represents New York’s 73rd Assembly District, which encompasses the Upper East Side, Midtown East, Turtle Bay and Sutton Place.

As the son of a teacher and social worker, Quart supports an effective public education policy that emphasizes smaller class size, stresses teacher development, and nurtures strong community-school relations. In 2003, Quart and his family secured over 2,000 signatures in support of the United Federation of Teachers’ smaller class size initiative.

Quart has a strong record of pro bono advocacy. Since 2002, he has served as a volunteer for the Housing Division of the Legal Aid Society, providing free representation for low-income tenants in eviction proceedings. In 2003, New York State Chief Judge Judith Kaye awarded Quart the Pro Bono Publico Award as one of New York City’s top pro bono attorneys. In 2004 and 2005, Quart served as the pro bono attorney for the Eastwood Housing complex on Roosevelt Island, defending tenants in eviction proceedings and prosecuting claims against the management company for failing to provide basic services.

As an Assembly Member, Quart is committed to working on the vital issues that affect the residents of the 73rd Assembly District, including education, transportation, health care and housing.

Con Edison supports legislation you’ve introduced in the state assembly that would change the real property tax class system in New York City. Can you talk about the benefits the bill would provide to the City and utility customers?
By separating “utility property” (property owned by Con Edison) from other commercial property, the State is able to target this property for increases in assessments and tax rates, increases that are ultimately paid by energy consumers. Merging classes 3 and 4 would ensure that utility property would be treated with the same consideration as all other commercial property and would save New Yorkers real money on their power bills.

As part of Mayor Bloomberg’s PlanNYC, all buildings in New York City must convert to Number 2 oil, biodiesel, natural gas, or steam by 2030. You have some ideas about how to help New Yorkers comply with this mandate and converting to a cleaner fuel source.
Mayor Bloomberg’s initiative was a great first step to cleaner air in New York City. I think we can do more to help some buildings, especially those with rent-regulated units, make the significant financial investment necessary for  a boiler conversion. Many of these buildings are undercapitalized and unable to secure financing, so they have been unable to undertake the conversion. A large proportion of buildings that have converted have moved from one dirty fuel oil to another, which is, at best, a half measure. I am working to secure state funds to help these remaining buildings make the essential step of moving to cleaner fuel oil, natural gas or renewables.

2014 will be a big election year with all state legislative seats and the Governor up for reelection.  As we head into the fall, what issues do you anticipate rising to the top?
Access to renewable sources of energy is an important election issue. Because so many New Yorkers live vertically, individual switches to renewable energy are difficult. However, New Yorkers have an undeniable demand for access to more renewable energy, especially solar. On the state level, we have made many important strides toward increasing access to renewables through better interconnection policies, but we still need to implement policies like virtual net metering to allow New Yorkers to participate in renewable generation.

Beginning in 2014, New York City will have its first new mayor in 12 years. How will the transition impact New York City? What will be the most pressing issues for the new administration?
Over the course of multiple administrations, our mayors have ignored reforming our failed and inequitable property tax system, despite requirements from the State Legislature to put forth a concrete plan to permanently increase equity in our system. I have introduced legislation that will increase transparency in the system and make small changes, like the merging of Con Edison property with all other commercial property for tax purposes.  However, comprehensive change and reform must come from the mayor’s office. Our next mayor will be charged with addressing a variety of inequalities all across the city; it is absolutely critical that the problems in our property tax system be at the forefront of that work.


  

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