Green Jobs, Green New York Law Will Stimulate Economy

October 19, 2009
Legislation that I co-sponsored and the Assembly approved with unanimous, bipartisan support earlier this year authorizing the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to create and administer the “green jobs, green New York” program has been signed into law. The program provides financing to communities, homes, small businesses and not-for-profits to help revitalize the economy in an energy-independent and environmentally responsible way.

This program will simultaneously help revive New York’s struggling economy and protect our environment. We’ll be tackling our economic and environmental problems head-on by investing in green energy resources, while creating the jobs to support this new industry. It will create workforce development opportunities for underemployed communities, and require a comprehensive report back to the governor and legislature after 18 months.

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) will provide $112 million in funding for residential and small business energy efficiency projects. RGGI is a cooperative effort by 10 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states – including New York – to limit greenhouse gas emissions. A revolving loan fund will help commit resources – with no less than 50% of the capital going to “retrofit” residential homes with green technology. The program will front the cost of the work, enabling property owners to afford energy 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.

There are many ways that homes can be retrofitted, which will save people money. These include more energy-efficient lighting, installing programmable thermostats, plugging air leaks, tuning up heating and cooling systems, using ENERGY STAR fixtures, reducing water use and switching to thermal and solar water-heating systems.

Specific communities will be selected through a program opportunity notice or other form of competitive solicitation. Applicants will include local community groups in collaboration with contractors and local utilities, and labor and training organizations. An emphasis will be placed on geographic diversity, and preferential funding will be awarded to coalitions that include women- and minority-based businesses, as well as groups based in economically-distressed communities.

The law directs NYSERDA to include more provisions in its comprehensive home-assessment program to establish a sliding scale for payment of audit fees for residential projects. These audit fees may be fully waived for income-qualified homeowners. If a business or residence chooses to participate in the energy-efficiency project or retrofit, any applicable audit costs may be capitalized in the repayment of the retrofit costs.

The law directs up to $4 million to establish green jobs training programs throughout the state and requires NYSERDA and the state Labor Department to develop additional sources of job-training funds.

Protecting the environment can go hand-in-hand with employing New Yorkers with good jobs that help promote a healthy energy future. This law is in step with President Barack Obama’s groundbreaking $150 billion, decade-long plan to further develop clean, renewable energy sources like wind and solar and to promote conservation. Like the President’s plan, our goal is to create many new jobs in the green-energy sector and make the important energy-efficiency changes that will get our economy – and our environment – back on track.

It’s time for New York to become more energy and cost efficient. Green jobs, green New York has the potential to improve our economy by helping businesses thrive while saving our citizens money in energy costs.

Barbara S. Lifton
Member of Assembly
125th District