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April 12, 2013

City Council Approves Redevelopment of Pier 57 in Hudson River Park

On April 9, 2013, the New York City Council unanimously approved a proposal to redevelop the historic Pier 57 within Hudson River Park, at the foot of West 15th Street in Manhattan.  This followed approval by the City Planning Commission in March, and the environmental review of the project by the Hudson River Park Trust (“HRPT”) and other agencies, through the preparation of an environmental impact statement (“EIS”).  SPR is serving as HRPT’s environmental counsel for the Pier 57 redevelopment, continuing the Firm’s representation of Hudson River Park since its establishment in the 1990s.

Pier 57, which was constructed in the early 1950s and comprises three underwater caissons, a head house and a pier shed, is listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places.  It has been vacant since the 1990s.  Developer Youngwoo & Associates proposes to lease the Pier from HRPT in order to redevelop it with an urban marketplace (using repurposed shipping containers for small food- and design-oriented retail businesses), restaurants, a large rooftop open space, and public circulation space around the perimeter of the pier.  The project may also include cultural space, an educational facility, and a marina.

SPR principals David Paget and Elizabeth Knauer have been advising HRPT regarding all environmental aspects of the project, including preparation of the EIS, consultation with the State Historic Preservation Office, and obtaining environmental permits for work that will be needed within the Hudson River.  This representation is the latest example of the firm’s longstanding work on major New York City waterfront developments, dating back to the South Street Seaport and Battery Park City projects and continuing with more recent projects such as Queens West, Brooklyn Bridge Park, the redevelopment of the Battery Maritime Building and Pier A in lower Manhattan, the Whole Foods store and Domino Sugar Refinery redevelopment in Brooklyn, and the proposed expansion of the New York Container Terminal in Staten Island.

April 11, 2013

Panels Reflect on Lessons Learned After Sandy

Last week, at a conference co-sponsored by SPR, government officials, academics, attorneys, and scientists convened at Hofstra University to discuss the legal and practical consequences of Superstorm Sandy. Expert panels addressed the following questions:

  • How can local governments physically modify their transportation, power, and sanitary infrastructure to adapt to the impacts of climate change, and by what legal mechanisms?
  • Are massive floodgates feasible and desirable for the protection of the New York metropolitan area?  Or do “soft” barriers such as man-made wetlands represent a better alternative?
  • What planning and land use concepts can be used to encourage smart real estate development that responds to climate change risks?
  • Will claims of “scientific uncertainty” hinder climate change adaptation efforts to the same extent that similar claims have hindered climate change mitigation efforts?
  • Where and how should coastal communities be rebuilt? What is the legal framework for government-led “strategic retreat” from the coast?
  • How may relief be obtained from FEMA? How may relief be obtained from insurance companies?
  • What federal, state, and local government programs are available to homeowners and businesses to aid recovery?
  • What resources are available to help individual homeowners who have lost everything in the storm? What has been the experience in New York’s underprivileged communities, and can that be improved?

The conference was chaired by SPR principal Michael Bogin and Hofstra Law Professor Carol Casazza Herman, with critical support from SPR principal Pamela Esterman.  SPR principal Steven Barshov participated as a lecturer, focusing on the integration of infrastructure resilience into planning and development.

Sponsors of the conference were the American Bar Association Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources, the New York State Bar Association, and SPR.

For more information on Sandy recovery or climate change adaptation in the context of development, please contact Michael Bogin, Steven Barshov, or David Yudelson.

2013.4 - Sandy Conference follow-up

Conference speakers: (L-R) Professor Katrina Kuh, Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University; Associate Dean Jennifer Gundlach,  Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University; Dean Eric Lane, Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University; Nassau County Supervisor Ed Mangano; SPR Principal Michael Bogin; Professor Carol Casazza Herman, Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University.

May 13, 2011

NYC Releases its April 2011 PlaNYC Update

By: Laura Friend — Filed under: Brownfield Cleanup, New York City Environmental Law, Sustainable Development — Posted at 2:18 pm

Last month, New York City’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability released an update (“Update”) to PlaNYC, a plan for a “Greener, Greater New York.” The Update is the first full report since the main report was released at the project’s inception in 2007.  It provides information regarding the project’s progress, obstacles and shortfalls, and current near and long-term goals.

The 2007 plan presented 127 initiatives. While 97% of these initiatives have already been launched, some have been delayed by a reduction in the City’s capital budget, and others hindered by a lack of federal or state permission, action or funding.

Key Topics of Interest: Neighborhood Development and Brownfields

According to the Update, over 87% of new housing starts since 2007 have been within a half-mile of transit. In addition, the City has created or preserved 110,000 units of affordable housing since 2004, with plans for 165,000 units by 2014. Over 30,000 of these units financed by the City will meet Enterprise Green Communities guidelines for energy efficiency and sustainability. In addition, the City continues to explore underutilized areas as potential new sites for development, including areas of Staten Island and the Bronx.

Progress on brownfields is also reported. In 2008, the City created its Office of Environmental Remediation, which facilitates the nation’s first municipally-run cleanup program (The NYC Brownfield Cleanup Program, or “NYC BCP”).  It has also created the Searchable Property Environmental Electronic Database (“SPEED”), an online search engine containing environmental and historic land use information on thousands of sites throughout NYC. The City plans to establish the NYC Community Brownfield Planning District (“CBPD”) Program, under which it will create 25 new NYC Community Brownfield Planning Districts and link these grassroots efforts into larger networks. The City will continue to collaborate with the state and federal governments to improve incentives for brownfield cleanup and development; advocate at the state level for a full liability release for parties who remediate under the NYC BCP; collaborate with local entities to establish low-interest loan programs to fund cleanups; and establish an online document repository for NYC BCP project information. As noted previously on this  blog, the City is continuing to encourage participation in this program.

Other Initiatives

The Update discusses the City’s progress in other environmentally-related areas, including:

  • reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (the goal remains to reduce them 30% by 2030 and 80% by 2050);
  • using federal stimulus money to install more than 200 electric vehicle (EV) chargers throughout the metropolitan area (including in commercial parking garages);
  • retrofitting over 100 City-owned buildings to be more energy efficient;
  • implementing regulations to phase out dirty heating fuels;
  • planting one million trees;
  • preparing for what may be inevitable results of climate change (rising temperatures and sea levels); and
  • approximately 400 very specific short-term goals in a variety of areas to be completed by the end of 2013. 

For more information on PlaNYC, and to view the many reports that have been published in conjunction with the program, visit New York City’s PlaNYC website.

Laura Friend is a paralegal at Sive, Paget & Riesel.

February 16, 2011

SPR Represents Purchaser of Former Pfizer Manufacturing Plant in Brooklyn

SPR attorneys recently served as environmental counsel to Acumen Capital Partners in its acquisition of the former Pfizer manufacturing facility in Brooklyn.  The plant, comprising 660,000 square feet, had been vacant since Pfizer operations ceased there in 2008.  Pfizer traces its corporate origins to the neighborhood, having commenced its operations there in 1849.

Plans for the property include conversion to light industrial and commercial uses.  Acumen seeks to incorporate environmental sustainability into its redevelopment projects, and is known for constructing a rooftop farm comprising 43,000 square feet on another former industrial property in Long Island City.  Five acres of undeveloped property remain north of the former Pfizer plant, which Pfizer has envisioned for potential development as affordable housing.

SPR represented Acumen in evaluating the environmental aspects of the purchase of the plant.  For more information contact Michael Bogin or Jeff Gracer.

November 24, 2010

New York Sea Level Rise Task Force Proposes Potential SEQRA Reforms

Earlier this month, the New York State Sea Level Rise Task Force (“Task Force”) released a draft report assessing the climate-related threat to coastal communities and recommending a series of policy changes (“Draft Report”).  The state legislature commissioned the Task Force in 2007, bringing together state agency representatives, county and local government officials, and other public and private stakeholders to “protect[] New York’s remaining coastal ecosystems and natural habitats, and increas[e] coastal community resilience in the face of sea level rise.”  The Draft Report is open for public comment until Dec. 12, 2010, and is scheduled to be finalized by Jan. 1, 2011.

The Draft Report contains nine findings concerning the projected impacts of sea level rise and 14 policy recommendations for state legislators and executive agencies to prepare for and protect against those risks.  This post focuses on the recommendations related to the State Environmental Quality Review Act (“SEQRA”), the New York law requiring state and local governments to consider the potential significant adverse environmental impacts of their actions.

The SEQRA recommendations primarily relate to actions undertaken within newly-proposed “coastal risk management zones,” which would require an amendment to SEQRA or its implementing regulations.  The Task Force suggests that such zones should be established and include those areas that FEMA has already identified as “coastal high hazard areas” or “areas of moderate wave action” on Flood Insurance Rate Maps (Draft Report, at 54).

SEQRA regulations currently categorize actions as Type I (those that presumptively have significant adverse impacts and are more likely to require preparation of a full Environmental Impact Statement), Type II (those determined not to have significant adverse impact or otherwise precluded from SEQRA review) and Unlisted.  Under one proposal, the Task Force recommends that all Unlisted Actions undertaken within a coastal risk management zone be added to the Type I list (Draft Report at 61).  Alternatively, the Draft Report suggests amending the criteria for environmental significance in the SEQRA regulations to expressly incorporate sea-level rise related impacts (Draft Report at 61; 6 NYCRR 617.7(c)).

Neither of these recommendations, however, addresses the technical issues of how the environmental significance of sea level rise on a proposed project should be measured.  Moreover, the classification of all actions occurring within a coastal risk management zone as Type 1 may be inconsistent with existing SEQRA guidance which anticipates that the significance of sea level rise and other global warming impacts on a project would be assessed “on a case-by-case basis” — with no bright line test imposed based on project location.[1] This recommendation could also sweep in minor discretionary actions, such as wetland permits for single lots, that are not the type or scale of government action typically considered Type I.

Finally, the Task Force makes a commonsense recommendation that DEC’s short and long Environmental Assessment Forms (“EAF”) – used to determine the potential significance of an action’s environmental impacts – be revised to “require[e] an evaluation of risks to and from the project based on the risk of sea level rise and coastal hazards … and other related effects of sea level rise” (Draft Report at 61).  The long EAF currently asks, “Is [the proposed] project or any portion of project located in a 100 year flood plain,” though sea level rise is projected to expand the areas of New York traditionally considered at risk of serious flooding.

For additional information on the consideration of climate-related impacts under SEQRA or the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”), contact Steven Russo.

[1] DEC, Assessing Energy Use and Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Environmental Impact Statements, July 15, 2009, at 4, 5.


November 12, 2010

EPA Issues New GHG Permitting Guidance

In anticipation of new greenhouse gas (“GHG”) restrictions set to take effect on January 2, 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) released guidance on the GHG permitting determinations for new and modified power plants, industrial facilities, and other stationary sources.

The guidance is directed at regulated entities and state agencies, which have been delegated authority to implement the permitting provisions of the Clean Air Act.  Next year, New York and most other states will begin to phase in GHG regulations for certain new and modified stationary sources.  The EPA plans to take over GHG permitting in those states that refuse to adopt the GHG rules or are not prepared to do so.

A “tailoring” regulation finalized by EPA last June raised the emissions threshold for the new GHG limits.  From January 2 through June 30, 2011, the regulations only cover stationary sources whose construction or modification would increase annual GHG emissions by at least 75,000 tons of carbon-dioxide equivalent and would also trigger the Clean Air Act’s Prevention of Significant Deterioration provisions for other pollutants.  Starting in July, construction or modification that increases annual GHG emissions by at least 100,000 tons of carbon-dioxide equivalent could also trigger GHG control requirements.

EPA’s new guidance adopts a flexible interpretation of the “best available control technology” requirements for GHGs.  While supporting the consideration of add-on technologies like carbon capture and sequestration systems, the agency acknowledges that such technologies present “significant logistical hurdles” that may render them inappropriate at the present time (GHG Guidance, p. 38).  Control technologies are also most commonly selected based on the permit applicant’s primary purpose or objective, so the Clean Air Act would typically not require an applicant for a coal-fired power plant to switch to a less carbon-intensive fuel (e.g. natural gas or renewable energy) (id. at 29).

Instead, sources that trigger the GHG permitting requirements are more likely to be required to implement energy efficiency improvements, which are promoted throughout EPA’s guidance.  For instance, EPA notes that “an applicant proposing to build a new facility that will generate its own energy with a boiler could also consider ways to optimize the thermal efficiency of a new heat exchanger that uses the steam from the new boiler” (id. at 32).  Other options for GHG reductions include the use of certain types of biomass or implementation of a source-wide Environmental Management System.

The new guidance may impact sources not directly covered by the new GHG controls.  With respect to permitting decisions for other pollutants, EPA instructs applicants and authorities to “consider how the control strategies under consideration may affect GHG emissions,” and certain control technologies may be rejected in part based on their projected contribution to climate change (id. at 42).

As implementation of its GHG regulations draws closer, however, EPA’s efforts are facing serious legal and legislative challenges.  Suits pending in the D.C. Circuit seek to overturn several EPA rules regulating GHGs under the Clean Air Act, including the tailoring rule.  In the Senate, meanwhile, a legislative proposal would delay EPA’s stationary source regulations for another two years.

July 9, 2010

EPA Proposes New Maximum Achievable Control Technology Rules for Boilers and Incinerators

By: Maggie Macdonald — Filed under: Clean Air Act, Compliance, Emerging Issues, Sustainable Development — Posted at 11:53 am

EPA proposed regulations under the Clean Air Act (“CAA”) for maximum achievable control technologies (“MACT”) for boilers, process heaters and solid waste incinerators on April 29.  The regulations have been published in the Federal Register[1] and are available for hearing and public comment through August 3, 2010.

Boilers burn fuels including natural gas, coal, wood, and oil to produce steam for electricity or heat.  Process heaters are used in industrial processes to heat raw or intermediate materials.  Both are used at facilities such as refineries, chemical and manufacturing plants, and paper mills, and may also be used to provide heat for large complexes such as shopping malls or universities.  Incinerators are used to burn waste for disposal, and some recover energy in the process.

EPA has proposed this regulatory action for boilers and commercial/industrial solid waste incinerators (“CISWI”) together since similar units may be considered boilers or CISWI depending on what material they burn.  As part of this regulatory proposal, EPA included a new rule under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (“RCRA”) defining which non-hazardous secondary materials are considered fuel and which are considered solid waste.  The regulatory action is the result of a 2007 court order following NRDC’s petition for review of EPA’s old standards for boiler and incinerator emissions, as well as the CISWI definitions rule.[2]

MACT standards for major source boilers and process heaters affect sources emitting greater than 10 tons per year of any one hazardous air pollutant[3] (“HAP”) or more than 25 tons per year of combined HAPs.[4] The standard for existing sources is based on the average emission limitation achieved by the best performing 12 percent of existing sources, and new sources must match the best-controlled similar source.[5]

Area sources are any stationary source of HAPs that are not major sources, and are subject to a different set of MACTs.[6] For all coal-fired boilers and process heaters, new or existing, EPA is proposing emissions limits for mercury, particulate matter (“PM”) and carbon monoxide.  Biomass and oil-fired area sources would also have to meet emissions standards for PM and carbon monoxide.  Both area sources and major sources would be required to conduct a one-time energy-saving assessment to analyze cost-effective energy saving practices.  Additionally, the standards for both major and area sources would apply at all times, including times of malfunction, start-up and shut-down.

Small boilers and process heaters (those with a capacity of less than 10mm BTU/hr) and boilers and process heaters using natural gas or refinery gas will be subject to a less stringent work practice standards including periodic tune-ups rather than emissions limitations.  EPA has proposed that these sources would have to come into compliance within three years of the final rule’s publication in the Federal Register.

CISWI are subject to more stringent emissions limits under the Proposed Rule for mercury, lead, cadmium, hydrogen chloride, PM, carbon monoxide, dioxins/furans, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide.  In addition, the proposed rules require that CISWI units have stacks tested and monitored along with annual inspections of emissions control devices.

States would have to submit revised State Implementation Plans (“SIPs”) within one year of the promulgation of the revised standards.  Following the submission of the new SIPs, CISWI units would have a three year period to demonstrate compliance with the SIP.  Alternatively, CISWI will have five years to demonstrate compliance after the final regulations are promulgated if a SIP is not submitted.

Overall, these proposed rules if adopted would constitute much more stringent regulation of boilers and incinerators because the emissions limitations apply at all times.  The energy-saving assessment required for all boilers and incinerators is a facility-wide assessment, which could serve as a predecessor to energy-saving requirements for greenhouse gases as well.

As noted above, comments are being received on the proposed regulations until August 3.

Maggie Macdonald is a summer associate at Sive, Paget & Riesel, P.C.

[1] National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for Major Sources: Industrial, Commercial and Institutional Boilers and Process Heaters, 75 Fed. Reg. 32,006 (June 4, 2010) (to be codified at 40 C.F.R. pt. 63); National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for Area Sources: Industrial, Commercial and Institutional Boilers, 75 Fed. Reg. 31,896 (June 4, 2010) (to be codified at 40 C.F.R. pt. 63); Standards of Performance for New Stationary Sources and Emission Guidelines for Existing Sources: Commercial and Industrial Solid Waste Incineration Units, 75 Fed. Reg. 31,938 (June 4, 2010) (to be codified at 40 C.F.R. pt. 60); Identification of Non-Hazardous Secondary Materials that Are Solid Waste, 75 Fed. Reg. 31,844 (June 4, 2010) (to be codified at 40 C.F.R. pt. 241).

[2] NRDC v. EPA, 489 F.3d 1250 (D.C. Cir. 2007).

[3] Hazardous air pollutants are listed in the CAA § 112(b).

[4] CAA § 112(a)(1).

[5] Id. § 112(d)(3).

[6] Id. §§ 112(a)(2), (d)(5).

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