Local Law 97 of 2019: Building Emission Limits in NYC

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In April 2019, New York City took a giant leap toward reducing its greenhouse gas footprint by passing the Climate Mobilization Act, landmark legislation focused on building decarbonization.

Although the Climate Mobilization Act contains eleven different pieces of environmental policy focused on counteracting the effects of climate change and greenhouse gas emissions, one of the most critical laws included in the package is Local Law 97.

This law mandates a progressive emissions limit for all buildings over 25,000 square feet in total floor area or for two or more buildings on the same tax lot that exceed 50,000 square feet. Affected facilities must comply with the first progressive emission limit by 2024, followed by a stricter emission limit by 2029.

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Local Law 97 Emission Limits

The New York City Sustainable Buildings online portal cites the city’s buildings as the single largest source of carbon emissions in the city. The emission limits outlined in Local Law 97 are based on occupancy classifications, including buildings with mercantile, business, educational, institutional, factory, and residential (both hotels and multifamily) classifications. These classifications include medical offices, retail spaces, assembly areas, office spaces, schools, storage spaces, factory environments, and different forms of housing and lodging. Each carbon limit is measured in kilograms of carbon equivalents (all greenhouse gases, relative to their equivalencies to carbon dioxide) per square foot. The exact progressive emission limits are available here. You can check whether your building complies by comparing its annual emission with the emissions limit over the corresponding floor area for either compliance period (2024-2019 or 2030-2024). Alternatively, you can check by using the interactive NYC Energy & Water Performance Map by entering your address and comparing your greenhouse gas intensity to the greenhouse gas intensity target. You will be assessed an annual penalty if your GHG intensity is larger than the GHG Intensity Target.

Local Law 97 Penalties & Fines

If affected buildings cannot meet the requirements of the new emissions limits set forth by LL97, penalties of $268/year/metric tons of CO2 and CO2 equivalent emissions will be held against the property owner.  

In addition to compliance requirements, building owners must also submit yearly emissions reports, with penalties for missed reports totaling $.50/sq ft per month and the penalty for a false report amounting to $500,000 and 30 days of imprisonment.  

To avoid penalties and fines, it is critical to ensure that annual emissions do not exceed the limit by the compliance period. Since building emissions are related to energy consumption, property owners can implement energy-efficient measures, such as retrofitting their HVAC system with UVC lighting, to control building emissions and cut energy-related costs, and monitoring greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon dioxide. 

What's Next?

Although most of the affected buildings are already in compliance with the mandates of Local Law 97, these mandates will undoubtedly be an essential consideration in New York City building management moving forward.  

Achieving the energy efficiency that will ensure compliance with Local Law 97 is no easy task; however, implementing energy efficiency practices within building management such as HVAC system energy efficiency, and measuring the emission of greenhouse gases, will go a long way in reducing total emissions.