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The Fight Over NYC’s Building Emissions Rule Continues with New Lawsuit

A group of building owners has sued New York City over its Local Law 97, claiming the ambitious crackdown on building carbon emissions is “ill-conceived and unconstitutional” and proposed penalties on properties are “draconian.” The lawsuit was filed in the New York Supreme Court by Glen Oaks Village Owners, 9-11 Maiden LLC, and Bay Terrace Cooperative Section 1.

Local Law 97 was passed in 2019 and requires buildings over 25,000 square feet to reduce emissions beginning in 2024. Many NYC properties must reduce emissions by 40 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050. Building owners who fail to comply face penalties based on how much their emissions exceed benchmarks set by the city, though Mayor Eric Adams’ administration has recently signaled that it may provide some wiggle room.

The plaintiffs in the suit criticized many aspects of Local Law 97, including what the building owners say is too short a timeframe to become compliant. The law is one of several crackdowns on building carbon emissions in cities across the U.S. and the world, and it could be a sign of things to come for many real estate owners. Many real estate experts expect efforts to curb building carbon emissions will only intensify in the years ahead. Yet, the lawsuit shows how complicated implementing and enforcing laws for building decarbonization will be, not just in New York. The transition to net-zero buildings worldwide will be a massive, decades-long undertaking, and a fair share of courtroom battles and political wrangling should be expected.

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