Home > Uncategorized > Voluntary NJ “Green Building” Incentive Bill Will Not Work and Would Miss Huge Opportunity

Voluntary NJ “Green Building” Incentive Bill Will Not Work and Would Miss Huge Opportunity

Bill would preclude more aggressive mandates required to avoid climate chaos

The NJ Senate Environment Committee, on Monday November 20, 2017, will hear proposed legislation (S3129 -Smith, Greenstein) that would provide incentives to “green buildings”, specifically the bill:

“Provides for priority consideration, by DCA, DEP, DOT, and municipalities, of permit applications for green building projects”

The building sector is a huge source of greenhouse gas emissions.

If we are to meet the aggressive science based goals of the NJ Global Warming Response Act, the Paris Accords, and avoid catastrophic climate change, we need to get deep and swift reductions in emissions from this sector.

The DEP’s 2009 Global Warming Response Act implementation recommendations Report includes this set of recommendations on the building sector: (Table ES-1, p.5)

Require adherence to green building guidelines for new construction ..

Require water-related infrastructure retrofits

Through a combination of energy efficiency requirements and renewable energy sources, all new buildings constructed after 2030 will have a net zero energy consumption. (p.7)

Coordinate with the Legislature to authorize new codes resulting in new construction which is 30% more energy efficient by 2009, and a longer term goal of achieving net zero carbon emitting buildings (p.26)

Once the guidelines are established, the NJDCA will seek appropriate statutory authorization to incorporate them during its periodic building codes and standards revision process, thus requiring adherence to the State’s green building guidelines for all new construction. (p.35)

Therefore, it is critical to focus not only on “green” design for new construction, but also on ways to retrofit existing construction to be more environmentally-friendly and less energy intensive. (p.16)]

Note especially the recommendations that compliance with standards be required and the existing buildings be retrofit.

In contrast  the Voluntary measures and regulatory review “incentives” in the bill are woefully inadequate policy tools to achieve these necessary emissions reductions. 

I just wrote the below letter to the sponsors of the bill – Chairman Smith and Senator Greenstein – to urge that they rethink the overall voluntary incentive based approach in favor of an enforceable science based model. I urge readers to do the same:

Dear Chairman Smith and Senator Greenstein:

I’ve read your bill, S3129, which “Provides for priority consideration, by DCA, DEP, DOT, and municipalities, of permit applications for green building projects”

While I appreciate your efforts to promote more environmentally friendly building practices, unfortunately I must strongly differ with the overall approach of the proposed legislation and encourage you to revise and amend the bill:

1) to establish enforceable regulatory requirements in terms of local and state building codes and DEP permit requirements, and;

2) to link the standards to a science based DEP plan or legislative policy goals (e.g. the greenhouse emissions reductions from the building sector necessary to attain the goals of the Global Warming Response Act or water conservation measures of the Water Supply Master Plan, etc)

It is my understanding that the proposed voluntary incentive based private standards in the bill (LEED, ASHRAE, et al) are not tied in any way to attainment of science based public policies or numeric planning goals or regulatory standards – nor has there been any assessment or demonstration of whether implementation of the standards in the bill would make progress towards various NJ legislative goals and regulatory standards.

Additionally, it appears that the bill would grandfather existing development and thereby miss huge opportunities to retrofit the existing built environment.

Furthermore, all new development should be zero net emissions and leverage investments in renewable energy infrastructure, much like off-site impact fees are designed to finance necessary upgrades in infrastructure.

In contrast, as drafted, the bill would actually provide a perverse preemptive shield against real enforceable standards and codes and impact fees necessary to meet urgent policy objectives, like GHG emissions, water quality and water conservation and renewable energy infrastructure.

I urge you to table this bill pending reconsideration of a more aggressive and enforceable approach.


Bill Wolfe

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