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From the Desk of Senator Craig Johnson - September 18, 2009

Johnson Announces Passage of Green Jobs/Green New York Initiative

In a major step toward rebuilding New York’s crippled economy and rescuing the state’s energy consumers, the state Senate recently passed the landmark Green Jobs/Green NY Act of 2009, Senator Craig Johnson announced.

This legislation (S.5888) will create 14,000 family-sustaining jobs with the goal of retrofitting 1 million homes, businesses and not-for-profits on Long Island and across New York State during the next five years. It will also reduce carbon emissions caused by outmoded construction and save New York State residents upward of $1 billion annually in energy savings.

“This legislation will help middle class homeowners save on their utility bills,” Senator Johnson said. “In communities across Long Island, much of the housing stock was built before the 1970s and is not energy efficient. This program will serve those who surpass the income ceiling for the federal Weatherization Assistance Program, but cannot afford the upfront costs to retrofits on their homes.”  

How it Works:

• The program will be funded with revenue raised by the auction of carbon emission credits through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. This funding will be used to leverage private and federal investments. The bill allocates $112 million from these auctions to NYSERDA. Auctions of carbon emission credits over the last two years raised $126 million, with an estimated $75 million more expected in the next two auctions this year alone.

• NYSERDA will establish a revolving loan program to provide up to $13,000 per residential customer to retrofit a home and up to $26,000 to retrofit each qualifying business, and also conduct energy audits, program administration and a credit enhancement for critical private sector capital investments.

• In partnership with the Department of Labor, NYSERDA will also create workforce training programs throughout the state to ensure that the state’s workforce is highly trained and in place to handle mass-scale retrofitting.

• The program will front the cost of the work, enabling property owners to afford energy efficient retrofits. Although property owners will repay the full cost over time, their total energy usage will be reduced by 30-40 percent and the loan payment on their energy bill will be less than what they saved, yielding a net saveing to the property owner.

• Local contractors, certified to perform the retrofits would be able to expand their crews, creating new and permanent jobs in green construction and additional jobs in local businesses and manufacturing that serve those new workers.

• Loans will be eligible to home and business owners communities throughout the state, from Watertown to Montauk and Buffalo to Albany.  

The legislation, which previously passed the Assembly, passed the Senate 52-8 with huge bipartisan support.

Dr. Jim Melius, administrator of the New York State Laborer’s Tri Funds, said: “The Senate passage of the Green Jobs/Green NY legislation is a major accomplishment that will help reduce energy bills for thousands of New Yorkers and improve our environment. At the same time, the legislation will help to provide new jobs and job training for throughout New York State especially in low-income communities hit hardest by the economic recession. We thank the NYS Senate leadership for making this bill a priority and thank everyone in the Senate who supported this legislation.”

Pasquale Strocchia, vice president of the board of directors for the Building Performance Contractors Association of New York State, added: “The passage of the Green Jobs/Green New York legislation is a major victory towards creating a greener economy for the residents of New York. This legislation provides a critical opportunity to achieve several goals simultaneously: development of a viable and effective green-collar workforce, increasing the energy efficiency of existing homes throughout the state and helping to reduce energy costs for residents while also reducing carbon emissions related to climate change.”

The Majority Conference developed this important legislation with partners in organized labor, the Center for Working Families, the Center for American Progress and NYSERDA.     

The legislation sets up a reliable mechanism for collecting revenue to recoup the costs of retrofitting, including “on-bill recovery” where customers can repay the costs affordably over time. For example:

• A customer is currently paying $100/month in energy costs.

• After retrofitting their home, the customer saves $30 each month and receives a bill of just $70.

• To repay the loan for the retrofitting, $24 would be assessed on the lower bill, leaving a net savings of $6, or 6 percent less than what they had been paying, before the capital improvements were completed on their home or business.

• This continues to save them money immediately, and will produce significantly lower bills after the project has been fully repaid.

By removing key barriers to weatherization, including the upfront costs to home and business owners and lack of enough skilled labor to do mass-scale retrofits, the state will finally have a program that can fully and successfully implement a “green” vision by undertaking broader non-energy retrofits such as low-flow water fixtures and green roofs that will reduce global warming.