New York City Comptroller John Liu on Friday called for the issuance of “green apple” bonds to rid all city public schools of light fixtures housing the known carcinogen polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, by 2015, six years ahead of the Bloomberg administration’s current schedule and at savings of $339 million.
Liu said his plan would lower the city’s greenhouse-gas emissions while creating 3,000 jobs.
City Council approval would not be necessary, only that of the mayor’s Office of Management and Budget, though Liu’s staff has consulted with some council members and Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration, said a spokesman for Liu.
“What this does is accelerate funds for capital projects that have already been included in the city’s 10-year plan. It doesn’t add new capital projects into the plan. So it would just require OMB and our office to sign off on it,” the spokesman said. “We’re in discussions with City Hall about the plan. We’re working in it with the mayor’s people as well as some members of the City Council.”
The city’s Department of Education plans to remove PCB-carrying light fixtures in these 772 school buildings by 2021. The federal Environmental Protection Agency has recommended more urgent and comprehensive action.
“That the DOE ignores parent concerns for the health of their children does not, unfortunately, come as a surprise. … Our students should learn about PCBs in class, but through their textbooks, not through firsthand exposure,” Liu said in a statement. “Green apple bonds will finance the rapid cleanup of PCBs and the retrofitting of old schools buildings. Moreover, this plan will save $339 million for our taxpayers.”
The DOE issued the following response late Friday: “The city has committed $838 million over 10 years to replace the fixtures and make our school buildings more energy efficient,” the statement said. “The city is already on track to meet our goals, having already completed work in 151 schools and are currently working 196 schools.”
Liu said his plan parallels the Environmental Protection Agency’s opinion and the $407 million raised by the sale of these bonds will achieve remediation of the 772 school buildings by 2015. “In addition, the timetable of this plan would address a pending lawsuit against the city,” Liu said.
A third-party auditor, he added, would monitor these projects to ensure eligibility and quantify cost savings.
Overall, Liu’s plan would save taxpayers $339 million through 2021. The estimated debt service would amount to $380 million through 2021; he said that cost, however, would be more than offset by an estimated $719 million in savings resulting from reduced energy consumption, lower interest rates, and federal subsidies for energy conservation.