NYC to spend billions to cut greenhouse gases

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City will spend $2.3 billion to cut greenhouse gas emissions from municipal buildings and operations by 30 percent in 30 years, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Monday.

A couple sit below the Brooklyn Bridge in New York May 21, 2008. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

The city aims to cut 1.68 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents a year from 2006 levels by 2017, with measures ranging from improved heating and cooling systems to fixing methane leaks at water treatment plants and using that gas to run electric generation equipment.

“The city is doing its part, I hope the private sector follows our example and finds conservation savings of their own,” Bloomberg said in a statement. The city’s government consumes about 6.5 percent of the city’s total energy use, and 10 percent of its peak electricity demand.

“It’s a cost that, as we know, is likely to grow as energy prices never seem to stop climbing,” Bloomberg said at a news conference, saying he believes the city can achieve the results with existing technology.

Bloomberg said the city should break even on its investments, on an annual cash flow basis, by 2013.

“By 2015, we project we will have saved more on our energy bills than we will have spent on all our planned investments to that point,” Deputy Mayor Ed Skyler said.

The program will partly be funded with 10 percent of the city’s energy budget -- about $100 million in the current fiscal year.

Improved heating, cooling and ventilation systems in city buildings will be used to accomplish 57 percent of the total reductions, Bloomberg said in a statement.

Emissions at firehouses, police precincts, offices, court houses and sanitation garages will also be reduced via repairs, ranging from leaky pipes and broken windows to inefficient pumps, along with correcting wasteful systems.

Another 17 percent of the reductions will come at water plants that treat sewage and storm water runoff, by fixing methane leaks and using that gas to run electric generation equipment.

Other steps include buying more vehicles that get better gas mileage. And Bloomberg, who jests with reporters about replacing the light bulbs at his Upper East Side townhouse with more efficient ones, plans to do the same with street lights.

Asked how much he could accomplish before his second and last four-year term ends, Bloomberg noted he only had 542 days left to serve.

“You’ll be living here, you’ll be breathing the air, and it’ll be your children who will suffer. If you believe this is the right way to go, you’ll have to pressure whoever so they continue on.”

New York City has already committed $900 million for the program and it spent $80 million in its previous budget. The mayor also hopes to tap federal and state dollars, private foundations and so-called energy performance contracts.

The program puts in place one of the independent mayor’s so-called PlaNYC initiatives, a series of green proposals to manage the city’s expected growth in the next few decades. His best-known proposal, a program to fight gridlock by imposing fees on drivers during peak hours in parts of Manhattan, was killed by the state legislature.

Noting the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the state agency that runs the subways, buses and commuter trains, faces shortfalls in its capital and operating budgets, Bloomberg said he was still optimistic the state will enact “an economic disincentive” for drivers that will pay for mass transit.

Editing by Leslie Adler