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Three Ways New York Made Environmental History in 2013

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Three Ways New York Made Environmental History in 2013

By Rory Christian

As New York dives into a new year and New York City gets a new administration, I hope you’ll join me in taking a “New York minute” to reflect on the remarkable environmental progress the city made in the last 12 months. Other cities, take note: if these environmental gains can make it here, they can make it anywhere.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Cleaner Heat

The city announced in September that the many efforts launched since 2007 to clean the city’s air are, in fact, having a positive impact. NYC is breathing easier than it has in 50 years thanks to NYC Clean Heat, a unique public-private partnership led by EDF to phase out the use of heavily polluting heating oil in the city.

Sulfur dioxide (SOx) levels have fallen 69 percent since 2008, particulate matter (PM 2.5 or soot) has dropped 23 percent since 2007 and building owners are continuing to save money on their energy bills. The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is proud to have played an instrumental role in helping the Bloomberg administration develop the Clean Heat program. The effort’s success demonstrates the significant impact that can be made in a very short period of time.

Cleaner Trucks

Mayor Bloomberg, in one of his last acts as mayor, signed a bill into law that slashes diesel pollution from commercial waste trucks in NYC (ranging from big fleets to small independent operators).  These trucks are both essential infrastructure and an air-quality bane, especially in underserved communities where they dump and transfer waste. 

EDF and the Business Integrity Commission (BIC) together worked tirelessly on this effort with a shared vision for a solid waste system that does not burden our neighborhoods with dirty diesel trucks. This vision is now city law, bringing privately-owned trucks up to the same diesel standard that New York City’s own collection trucks will soon meet.

Logo credit: New York Green Bank

Greener Investments

In December, Gov. Cuomo seeded a new clean energy effort by announcing the launch of a New York Green Bank with $210 million to advance the cause. This venture is intended to spark private clean energy investment and deployment, as well as grid modernization, by targeting market barriers to private financing of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. The NY Green Bank will offer credit enhancement, loan bundling and other financial products to clean energy companies. New York is not the only state to combine grid modernization and clean energy into economic development, but with a stated $1 billion target, the NY Green Bank is leading the pack.

So, New York: Congratulations on a successful 2013!  This city never stops changing and improving, and we look forward to building upon these successes throughout 2014.

Visit EcoWatch’s SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS page for more related news on this topic.

A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.

Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.

California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.

As reported by AccuWeather:

In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

For a deeper dive:

AP, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, New York Times, Slideshow: New York Times; Climate Signals Background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

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