New bill would lessen energy dependence on hostile foreign regimes
As I meet people during my travels across the state, New Yorkers of all ages and backgrounds have the same thing on their minds: jobs. With unemployment in New York City still in double digits, and an estimated 15 percent of our state’s construction workers out of work, it is clear that we must continue to help working families weather the economic storm. For example, since the downturn began, more than 40,000 construction and manufacturing workers in New York state lost their jobs, and millions more workers across the country suffered significant losses.
Tough times demand bold action and seizing opportunities. One of those opportunities is reducing our dependence on foreign fossil fuels. Bush-era policies were about talking tough when it came to fighting terror and defending America, but it was their policy that sent a billion dollars a day to oil-producing countries that some of the most dangerous terrorists in the world call home.
That is money that should be spent here. By decreasing our dangerous reliance on foreign oil and making smart, green investments, we can create quality jobs and put our construction laborforce back to work.
The Building Star legislation, which I am pushing in the U.S. Senate, would create as many as 12,500 new, good-paying jobs for hardworking New Yorkers, providing incentives to retrofit co-ops, apartment buildings and commercial buildings and rid them of dirty fuels and pollutants.
Not only would this proposal boost our national security and save condo-owners, landlords and building managers millions in energy costs, but it would also protect New York City families by cleaning the air we breathe. According to a recent air survey by the New York City Health Department, the Upper East Side and Midtown’s business district are just two of the neighborhoods in the city with alarming levels of dangerous contaminants in the air. Many of the city’s residential and commercial buildings burn heavy amounts of heating oil and emit large amounts of sulfur dioxide and other pollutants. If these buildings were to use cleaner fuels, you could see reductions of harmful emissions between 65 and 95 percent.
City landlords and building owners concerned about the high cost of replacing outdated boilers or switching to cleaner fuels, such as natural gas, would benefit from the Building Star rebates, which are designed to cover 20 to 33 percent of the installed cost of equipment. This initiative also covers other energy efficient programs to help ease installation costs, including window renovations, duct testing and sealing, and energy audits.
The process for applying for a rebate would be clear and straightforward: An owner would run an energy audit on a building, then submit an application to the Department of Energy. Once the department verifies the project, a rebate would be issued within 30 days.
There is much to lose and little to gain if we do not begin to rebuild our economy by putting more money back into the pockets of city residents and taking them out of the hands of hostile regimes. For every dollar we invest in energy efficiency, we save $3 in energy use down the road. In the long run, residential and commercial buildings citywide could save up to $407 million in energy costs, nearly $160 million of which would benefit Manhattan alone.
Manhattan renters, owners and residents have an opportunity to make the most of their energy dollars and move away from decades of dependence on foreign oil. It’s time to act.
U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand sits on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and Subcommittee on Green Jobs & the New Economy.