This past Thursday, April 22, was also Earth Day. NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson and his Council colleagues opted to use this day when we focus on the environment to vote and subsequently appoint James F. Gennaro as the Chair of the NYC Council Committee on Environmental Protection, a position that Gennaro previously held from 2002 to 2013. The seat was vacated by former City Council Member Costa Constantinides who resigned for a nonprofit sector job after serving as Chair for seven years. Over the impressive twelve-year span, Gennaro authored and passed into law 50 major pieces of environmental legislation, and shepherded hundreds of other bills through the committee. “I am honored and humbled to hold this position again and will do my utmost to advance the work of the committee along lines of excellence,” wrote Gennaro following word of this announcement. “I am very grateful to Speaker Johnson and my colleagues for their confidence in me. I won’t let them down.”

Climate protection, sustainability and air quality was one major issue Gennaro addressed. In December 2007, the City Council passed Local Law 55 – the New York City Climate Protection Act - authored by Gennaro, which committed the City to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 30% by 2030. This law was the most ambitious GHG reduction bill of any city or state at the time of its passage. This law has other significant local clean air benefits as well -- reducing GHGs by reducing the burning of fossil fuels reduces a host of other harmful air pollutants. The reduction of these pollutants cleans NYC’s air and leads to less pollution-induced asthma in our kids and less respiratory diseases in our senior citizen population.

In August of 2013, the New York City Council passed Local Law 73, mandating the use of ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel blends containing “biodiesel.” Biodiesel is a diesel substitute that is manufactured from food manufacturing waste products such as soybean oil, and the net carbon emissions of biodiesel is less than that of regular diesel fuel.

In September of 2013, the City Council passed Gennaro’s Local Law 84, requiring the Mayor’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability to develop and coordinate the implementation of policies, programs and actions to meet the long-term needs of the city, with respect to the resiliency of critical infrastructure, the built environment, coastal protection and communities.

Water quality and watershed protection was another environmental where Gennaro left a lasting mark. In November 2009, the City Council adopted Resolution 1850-A, authored by Gennaro, calling for the protection of NYC’s drinking water from dangers posed by unconventional natural gas drilling method known as “fracking” in the New York City Upstate drinking water supply watershed. Gennaro is credited with starting the national conversation on the perils of fracking that ultimately led to the banning of fracking in all of New York State.

In September 2009, the City Council passed Gennaro’s Resolution 462, calling on the Delaware River Basin Commission to refrain from issuing regulations governing natural gas exploration and production using fracking and for water withdrawal for the purpose of fracking within the Delaware River Basin until a cumulative impact study is completed to assess the risks and inform the development of adequate regulations for fracking in the Delaware River Basin.

Renewable energy, energy use, and energy efficiency were always close to heart for Gennaro. On Earth Day 2009, the City Council and then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani introduced the revolutionary Greener, Greater Buildings Plan, many elements of which were authored by Gennaro, to increase energy-efficiency in existing buildings. These buildings account for approximately 80 percent of New York City’s carbon emissions, with annual energy costs estimated at $15 billion. The Greener, Greater Buildings Plan included four legislative components dealing with energy audits and retro-commissioning, lighting upgrades, benchmarking energy and water efficiency of buildings, and the City’s energy code.

In December 2009, the City Council passed Gennaro’s Local Law 87, which requires owners of a building of 50,000 square feet or more, or two or more buildings on the same tax lot that together exceed 100,000 gross square feet, to conduct energy-audits once every 10 years. Since its passage, Local Law 87 compliance has become one of the largest green jobs industries in the City, and has led to countless energy retrofits of buildings that have created even more green jobs and yielded incalculable emissions reductions which have dramatically improved the City’s air quality.

In May 2012, the City Council passed Gennaro’s Local Law 24, requiring the city to assess its potential to generate electricity vis hydropower using its massive, extensive water supply system - which includes a network of reservoirs, water treatment plants and thousands of miles of aqueducts, tunnels and water mains.

In February 2013, the City Council passed Gennaro Local Law 12 into legislation, requiring the city to establish a “New York City Renewable Energy Webportal,” to provide city home and business owners a streamlined, easy-to-navigate resource to study the feasibility and economic benefits of installing renewable energy systems on their property.

It is expected that Gennaro will continue to create elasting legislation as he renews his post as Chair of the NYC Council Committee on Environmental Protection.

By QJL Staff