2011-02-25 / Community

DOE To Begin Work On Hazardous Fixtures

Schools Chancellor Cathleen P. Black, Deputy Mayor for Education Dennis M. Walcott, and Deputy Mayor for Operations Stephen Goldsmith announced on Wednesday a comprehensive plan to dramatically increase energy efficiency and environmental quality in 772 public schools, including the removal and replacement of all PCB lighting ballasts throughout the entire school system.

The plan will result in complete energy audits and retrofits, beginning this year, with priority given to buildings based on the age of both the building and student population. The City has allocated an additional $708 million in its capital budget to implement the plan, which will not only reduce any potential exposure to PCBs, but is expected to reduce the City’s greenhouse gas emissions by more than 200,000 metric tons per year — the equivalent of removing more than 40,000 cars from the road.

Starting this year, the City will issue Requests for Proposals (RFPs) to Energy Service Companies (ESCOs) or other qualified bidders for purposes of entering into energy performance contracts. The procured Energy Companies would then conduct comprehensive energy audits of school buildings and make specific recommendations on how to improve each building’s overall energy efficiency. All of the 772 schools must receive full lighting replacements, or at least to the extent necessary to replace all lights using PCB ballasts. But additional upgrades, including the replacement of outdated No. 4 and No. 6 fuel oil boilers, will take place where necessary. This comprehensive approach will result in significant operational savings to the City and its taxpayers.

The city’s plan comes in the wake of an investigation on the part of the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that showed a majority of the older schools in the city, including at least a dozen in Rockaway, have PCB ballasts.

Up until Wednesday, the Department of Education said that the ballasts were of no proven danger to students.

“This is a progressive plan to increase energy efficiency at our schools and simultaneously address the issue of PCBs in old light fixtures,” Chancellor Black said. “Given that both the EPA and the Department of Health have said there is no immediate health threat to students in these buildings, we believe this is the most responsible way to proceed. This plan can be accomplished without any significant interruption to student learning, and it will generate significant energy savings in the long run.”

The Plan builds upon two existing, groundbreaking programs undertaken and funded by the City. First, the Plan builds upon the significant achievements already made through the energy programs overseen by the New York City Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS), which has been working with the New York Power Authority (NYPA) since 1990 and has already completed lighting retrofits in 239 City schools buildings. Since 2008, DCAS has expanded its energy retrofits in order to achieve greater emissions reductions in a more cost-efficient manner. This comprehensive approach complies with Local Law 87 of 2009, part of New York City’s landmark Greener, Greater Buildings Plan, which requires energy audits in most City-owned buildings, including public schools. DCAS currently has 90 projects in progress in school buildings, 69 of which potentially contain lighting ballasts with PCBs.

The plan also builds upon findings from the ongoing PCB Pilot Study, which is being undertaken by the New York City Department of Education and the School Construction Authority (SCA) under the oversight of EPA. The pilot program – the first of its kind in the nation – is designed to study PCB caulk in five New York City school buildings and, under certain circumstances, other potential sources of PCBs such as lighting ballasts.

“New York City has been a national leader on environmental issues for years, and this is the most aggressive investment ever made by any city to address the issue of PCBs in schools,” said Walcott. “It builds upon the preliminary findings of our PCB pilot study as well as the work DCAS has done over the years to achieve greater energy savings through comprehensive retrofitting of buildings.”

“This is an innovative solution that will reduce energy use in schools, remove PCBs from light fixtures and introduce the concept of performance contracting to City government,” said Goldsmith. “I’d like to recognize the team at the Department of Citywide Administrative Services that helped develop this creative way to accomplish our environmental objectives. This can be a model for future public / private partnerships and implementing PlaNYC, our long-term vision for a greener, greater New York.”

The City will prioritize schools for retrofits in the following order: (i) schools with visual leaks, (ii) elementary schools built between 1950 and 1966, (iii) secondary schools built between 1950 and 1966, (iv) elementary schools built between 1967 and 1979, (v) secondary schools built between 1967 and 1979, (vi) elementary schools constructed prior to 1950, and (vii) secondary schools constructed prior to 1950.

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