Mayor Vincent C. Gray signed the Sustainability Act of 2012 into law today in the Mayor’s Ceremonial Office of the John A. Wilson Building. As cold rain fell on Pennsylvania Avenue outside, a number of executive level advisors and key staffers sat with other spectators in the small, wood-paneled room before the signing and listened to the Mayor discuss the new law and the city’s progress on sustainability.
The Act includes within its nine subtitles a number of new or expanded environmental and health protections, from new permitting requirements for bee colonies to expanded regulation of dry cleaners. It also funds several ongoing energy-efficiency and stormwater-runoff programs.
“Each piece of this legislation is another important step to achieve a sustainable D.C.,” Mayor Gray said.
The Act expands existing D.C. legislation that creates a market for private-lender financing of energy improvements. Called PACE – commercial property assessed clean energy – lenders receive greater assurance of loan repayments because borrowers repay through their tax bills. The repayment obligation attaches to the property even if sold. The Sustainability Act adds water and stormwater improvements to energy retrofits as covered improvements.
Even before this change, PACE financing in D.C. created a $2.3 billion dollar market opportunity, Bracken Hendricks said. Hendricks is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and a key advisor to D.C.’s PACE program.
The Sustainability Act addresses a number of other ongoing initiatives. It clarifies that rebates and other financial incentives provided under D.C.’s “RiverSmart” programs, which encourage green roofs and other stormwater reduction practices, are tax exempt for gross income tax purposes.
It also funds D.C.’s low-income weatherization and home-heating retrofit programs for the upcoming year, and creates funding to cover implementation of D.C.’s new energy and water benchmarking program.
In addition to expanding, clarifying, and funding existing initiatives, the Act imposes new limitations on fertilizer use to protect the Anacostia River. This provision restricts fertilizer applications, requires product labeling, and mandates public education.
Under another provision of the Act, people who keep bee colonies on their property must register them and the beekeeping operations will be subject to regulatory oversight largely to protect safety and prevent nuisances. Referring to the idea of promoting urban agriculture, the Mayor said, “[it is a] great opportunity to educate children and adults.”
The Act signed today also expands two prior D.C. laws that regulate perchloroethylene use by dry cleaners. Among other things, the new restrictions prohibit any new dry cleaning facility from using perchloroethylene or n-propyl bromide, another toxic cleaning agent, in a building located within 200 feet of an existing child-care facility.
In April of last year, Mayor Gray released his 20-year sustainability vision statement to make D.C. the greenest and most sustainable city in the country. The city has been “using that as a framework to move forward,” he said. Since then, D.C. and the federal government have issued a number of sustainability initiatives, including proposed rules that require large buildings in the city to monitor and report energy and water use.
Looking ahead to further progress, Mayor Gray said that the D.C. Department of Environment plans to issue its final energy and water benchmarking regulations this Friday and to release the sustainability vision’s implementation plan in “a couple of weeks.”