Boston Regulates Building GHG Emissions: The Next Few Years Will Be Very Interesting

Foley Hoag LLP - Environmental Law
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Foley Hoag LLP - Environmental Law

Last week, the Boston City Council approved amendments to the Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance.  The changes are being referred to as “BERDO 2.0”, which almost understates the scope of the revisions.  As indicated by its name, since its original enactment, BERDO only dealt with reporting and disclosure.  Now, however, Boston will be imposing limits on GHG emissions from large buildings.

The limits will first be effective in 2025, will the limits declining every five years until they reach zero by 2050.  Significant negotiations went into the final version of BERDO 2.0 and the Council made real efforts to include some flexibility in the standards.  These provisions include:

  • Opportunities to utilize “blended” emissions standards, both within buildings and across building portfolios.
  • The ability to apply for an “Individual Compliance Schedule.”
  • The ability to apply for a “Hardship Compliance Plan.”
  • Use of Renewable Energy Certificates as a compliance mechanism
  • An alternative compliance payment provision – the initial cost will be set at $234/ton of CO2!
  • The Air Pollution Control Commission has authority to suspend some or all of the requirements of BERDO 2.0 upon finding that:

a significant obstacle interferes with implementation or that implementation has a significant negative effect on Energy cost burdens, equitable access to housing or other factors set for in the Regulations.

There’s no doubt that decarbonizing buildings is going to be one of the toughest climate nuts to crack.  I’m still skeptical that a patchwork of local regulations is the right way to go about it.  That concern is heightened when the Review Board that has significant responsibility for implementing BERDO 2.0 is going to be dominated by community representatives who will not necessarily have significant technical expertise.  Still, we have to start somewhere, and sooner rather than later.

Anyone want to join the betting pool on when the first request to suspend some part of the BERDO 2.0 requirements will be submitted?

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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