New York Sandy 'Climate Resilience' Plan Won't Address Climate Pollution

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 24 May 2013 00:09:00 GMT

The nearly $300 million climate-resiliency initiative established by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg using Sandy relief funds will not address climate pollution, according to a city official.

The New York City Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency (SIRR), formed in November 2012, will release a report this month indicating how $294 million in federal funding from the Superstorm Sandy relief act should be spent to increase the city’s “climate resiliency.” The report “will present policy recommendations, infrastructure priorities, and community plans, and identify sources of long-term funding” in addition to the emergency federal funds — but it apparently will not include an accounting of the carbon footprint of that infrastructure development.

In an email, SIRR spokesperson Daynan Crull told Hill Heat that because the initiative’s job is to “protect New York City against future climate threats,” it “does not directly address energy generation vis-à-vis fossil fuels”:
SIRR’s directive is rebuild and protect New York City against future climate threats, so it does not directly address energy generation vis-à-vis fossil fuels. However, New York City has been a global leader in environmental urban policy, pioneering PlaNYC—one of the most comprehensive sustainable and environmentally conscious policy programs ever established for a major city. It is upon this foundation that SIRR is built. Indeed PlaNYC established the New York City Panel on Climate Change, which is supporting SIRR’s work with the best climate science available.

Crull’s statement makes no sense—if SIRR’s plan is to “protect New York City against future climate threats,” it must necessarily “address energy generation vis-à-vis fossil fuels.” One cannot wall off energy use and infrastructure planning into separate boxes. This announcement is especially troubling because it is not clear that New York City is increasing any of its investments in renewable energy or carbon pollution reduction in response to Sandy. Instead, the city is moving forward with new fossil-fuel infrastructure, including a fracked-gas pipeline planned to cut through the Rockaways.

In 2011, PlaNYC set relatively strong climate-pollution goals for the city: a 30 percent reduction from 2006 levels of carbon pollution by 2017, with hopes of achieving an 80 percent reduction by 2050. However, much more ambitious targets are technologically possible—Stanford researcher Mark Jacobson has detailed a strategy for getting New York State’s energy use carbon-free by 2030. And no climate plan for New York City is complete without goals for divesting the financial industry from fossil-fuel producers like New York’s richest man, David H. Koch.

SIRR’s work will update 2011’s NYC Vision 2020 Comprehensive Waterfront Plan, which included a chapter on climate resilience, defined by the planners as “adaptation strategies” to climate change impacts such as sea level rise and more intense storms. The devastation of Superstorm Sandy gives the waterfront plan’s recommendations new and tragic urgency—one of the stated goals was to “develop a better understanding of the city’s vulnerability to flooding and storm surge.” The waterfront plan did not explicitly call for resilience measures to emphasize carbon reduction, an unfortunate oversight that looks to be continued.

It is possible that the public word from SIRR is misleading. The climate-resiliency plan is being developed in consultation with the New York City Panel on Climate Change, co-chaired by climate scientist Cynthia Rosenzweig and urban environmental scientist William Solecki; the NYC Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability, led since December 2012 by Sergej Mahnovski, a renewable-energy expert; and Goldman Sachs vice president Marc Ricks, a lead architect of PlaNYC.

Despite the official word that the SIRR plan will not address fossil-fuel energy generation, there are reasons to hope that the plan will promote infrastructure investments that are intended simultaneously to protect New York City residents from the damages of climate-change-related threats and to reduce the pollution that fuels those threats.

Former New York Army Corps of Engineers Commander Warns Sandy Survivors To Stop Ignoring Climate Change

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 22 May 2013 22:53:00 GMT

At a May 16 televised forum on the recovery from Superstorm Sandy, a former top military infrastructure official called on Americans to “stop ignoring” climate change and “realize it’s the new reality.” At the Sandy town hall organized by public television stations NJTV and WNET, John Boulé, the former commander of the New York District, Army Corps of Engineers, warned New Yorkers to stop ignoring climate change and start preparing for higher sea level rise and more frequent and more powerful storms:

First of all, we’ve got to realize it’s the new reality. Climate change is real. It’s more than sea level rise that’s going to happen over the course of the next 100 years. It’s greater storm intensities, it’s greater storm frequencies. We’ve got to stop ignoring it and start planning and building to reduce the risk to the public. That’s where we are.

Watch it:

Like Boulé, other panelists, including PSE&G president Ralph LaRossa, recognized the “new reality” of rising seas and extreme weather. Although these words are welcome, the most important element of facing the reality of climate change is understanding that it’s caused by human activities — something no-one at the forum did. In fact, Richard Ravitch, the real-estate scion and former Democratic lieutenant governor of New York, blamed “forces of nature” on sea level rise.

At no point during the two-hour forum did any panelist or reporter discuss the manmade causes of climate change or recommend opposing the threat to civilization posed by the fossil-fuel industry. The words “fossil fuels,” “carbon”, “greenhouse,” “pollution,” and “oil” were never mentioned. Also not mentioned was David Koch, the carbon pollution billionaire and richest man in New York, who was on the board of WNET from 2006 until the day of the forum. At the WNET board meeting on the morning of May 16, Koch’s resignation was accepted.

As Koch Industries Ramps Up Attack On ‘Left-Leaning’ Media, WNET Drops David Koch From Board

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 20 May 2013 16:31:00 GMT

In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, New York City’s flagship public television station, WNET, has dropped the richest man in New York, carbon pollution billionaire David Koch, from its board of trustees. Days before the monthly board meeting on May 16, Koch’s name was removed from the WNET website. Koch had been a board member since 2006. Koch has been funding WNET since 1986.

The severance of Koch’s longstanding relationship with WNET — which not only serves the New York City area but also produces national programs such as Charlie Rose, Nature, and Great Performances — comes at a time of increasing tension between Koch’s anti-regulatory, climate-polluting industrial empire and the educational mission of public television.

The inherent conflict between Koch’s conspiratorial, anti-science ideology and the public interest with has come under attention in recent months. After Superstorm Sandy struck, WNET’s Charlie Rose and Bill Moyers ran shows on the tragic consequences and threat of greenhouse pollution for the New York region. More recently, reports of Koch Industries’ interest in the newspaper holdings of the Tribune Company have spurred nationwide protests.

Koch also was featured in the November 2012 PBS documentary Park Avenue, which contrasted the extreme wealth of Koch’s residence at 740 Park Avenue with the stark poverty less than a mile north in East Harlem. In the documentary, a former doorman noted that Koch, with a net worth of about $45 billion, gives only $50 holiday tips.

Just after Koch left the WNET board, the station ran a major live town hall on Superstorm Sandy. Broadcasting from New Jersey and New York City, the NY/NJ/Long Island affiliates under WNET management broadcast a two-hour show that talked repeatedly about the major threat posed by climate change in rising sea levels and more frequent storms of increased intensity—threats which Koch’s Cato Institute denies.

In anticipation of today’s piece on the Kochs in The New Yorker by Jane Mayer, Koch Industries issued a conspiratorial rant accusing her of running a “left-leaning” “smear” campaign, in coordination with MSNBC, ThinkProgress, The New York Times, NPR, The Nation, Mother Jones, Huffington Post and more>

Jane Mayer’s Agenda

As campaigns and attacks against Koch Industries and its shareholders go, the one led by Jane Mayer of The New Yorker has been consistent, if nothing else – consistent in its left-leaning bias, baseless accusations, and numerous inaccuracies. Since lobbing her opening salvo against us in an August 2010 article that was riddled with biases and inaccuracies and based on research by a ThinkProgress blogger, Mayer has authored nearly a dozen screeds attacking Koch Industries, Charles Koch and David Koch. Her latest submission, soon to be published, will be another attempt to smear us while advancing her partisan agenda. We don’t precisely know the content of her story. However, based on her questions to us, we believe it will be an attempt to promote a fleeting PBS show that aired six months ago – one on which she collaborated and in which she appeared. The show attacked David Koch and Charles Koch, with Mayer making an appearance as an interviewee. We also believe Mayer will work hard to make the case that should Koch purchase the Tribune newspapers, as is rumored, we would use those papers to advance a particular agenda. This assertion, of course, is made with no basis in fact or history to support such a claim. Mayer’s tale about us will likely be promoted in all the usual places – MSNBC, ThinkProgress, The New York Times, NPR, The Nation, Mother Jones, Huffington Post and more. Once we see it, we will fact check it and set the record straight here on KochFacts.

Koch is still on the board of trustees of WGBH, the prominent Boston-based PBS affiliate which produces major series such as Masterpiece, Antiques Roadshow, and the science show NOVA.

New York City Outlines Plan For Spending $1.8 Billion In Federal Sandy Block Grants

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 07 Feb 2013 00:57:00 GMT

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has announced an allocation plan for the $1.77 billion in federal Community Development Block Grants that are part of the Sandy disaster relief bill HR 152. It is not clear if mitigation of climate pollution is part of planned investments in housing, business, and infrastructure resiliency.

  • Housing Recovery – $720 Million
    • Single-Family Rehabilitation: $350 million to establish a grant program for up to 9,300 homeowners whose residences were sustained damage as a result of Hurricane Sandy and need additional funding to restore their homes, implement resiliency measures and remediate mold. Will assist up to 1,000 low-, moderate- and middle-income one- and two-family homeowners whose primary residences were destroyed or had major damage, and 8,300 low-, moderate- and middle-income homeowners whose primary residences were damaged but not destroyed.
    • Multi-Family Rehabilitation: $250 million to fund programs to enhance the resiliency of up to 12,790 units of housing for low-, moderate- and middle-income New Yorkers damaged by Sandy that still require significant resources to permanently address damage and resume sustainable operations. The City’s program will provide grants and low-interest loans, depending on need and scope.
    • Public Housing: $120 million to address initial resilience measures for public housing developments, such as permanent emergency generators at key buildings to provide backup power to critical building systems.
  • Business Recovery – $185 Million
    • Business Resiliency Investments: $100 million to provide grants to up to 1,300 businesses. $100,000 per company will go to small- and mid-sized companies, and $1 million per company will go to large companies in vulnerable areas. Program will require companies to commit to reinvest in their New York City presence.
    • Expanded Loans and Grants: $80 million to provide loans and grants to as many as 1,000 businesses. This program will provide expedited low-interest loans of up to $150,000 on similar terms to the City’s existing emergency loan program; provide expedited grants of up to $60,000 to affected businesses; and invite community development finance institutions to compete in a business plan competition to solicit ideas for additional loan and grant programs which would then be funded on a pilot basis, with the best program(s) then funded at scale.
    • Innovations in Resiliency Technologies Competition: $5 million to allocate, through “Race-to-the-Top”-style competitions, grants to the most innovative and cost-effective ideas for demonstration projects featuring resiliency products and technologies that can be replicated citywide.
  • Infrastructure Resiliency – $140 Million
    • Neighborhood Game-Changer Investment Competition: $100 million to jump-start economic activity in the five Business Recovery Zones by allocating, through “Race-to-the-Top”-style competitions, grants to the most innovative and effective investment ideas for spurring long-term economic growth. Possible ideas could include attraction of growing companies and/or companies of significant size, attraction of companies that serve the needs of underserved populations, or other transformative investments in key corridors.
    • Critical Utility Infrastructure Resiliency Competition: $40 million to allocate, through “Race-to-the-Top”-style competitions, grants to the most innovative and cost-effective resiliency measures identified by the utilities for their critical networks. Grants will be allocated to utilities in one or more of the following categories: i) liquid fuel networks; ii) other energy networks (power, steam, natural gas); and iii) telecommunications networks (wires and wireless).