Posted: July 21st, 2022
Cambridge Chamber of Commerce
Central Square BID
East Cambridge Business Association
Harvard Square Business Association
Kendall Square Association
July 21, 2022
Dear Property/Condo Owner:
Your property has been identified by the City of Cambridge as being subject to the Building Energy Use Disclosure Ordinance (BEUDO). Currently, a proposal is being drafted to amend BEUDO with very little public engagement, that would require residential buildings with 50+ units (Rental, Market, and Affordable) and commercial buildings 25,000 square feet or greater to reach “net zero” emissions by 2035. This proposal significantly accelerates the carbon reduction percentages and timeframes from the existing BEUDO (enacted in 2014) that currently aligns with the Commonwealth’s 2050 net zero goal.
The 2035 date has been derived from a political process, rather than from a scientific analysis, and is not aligned with the timeline established by the Commonwealth nor in line with Eversource’s announced plans for a “green grid” by 2050. Failure to comply comes with a hefty fee schedule for both residents and business owners alike.
Most property owners do not know that BEUDO exists nor what it means to them. Below are some initial fundamental questions that remain unanswered by our city leaders.
- What if I cannot pay?
- Will the costs be passed down to tenants or a special assessment for my condo association?
- What will I need to do to attain the aggressive emissions reduction targets each year?
- Will I need to displace people who live and work in my buildings to retrofit my infrastructure?
- What if I just recently upgraded my building infrastructure and energy systems, do I need to replace them again?
- Do I need to source Renewable Energy Certificates that meet the BEUDO standard, or is this the same as the offering available in the Cambridge Community Electricity Program?
- The electric power grid in New England today is still heavily reliant on fossil fuels, could early electrification at scale have unintended consequences – like adding more emissions to the atmosphere?
The Council needs to hear from you immediately as they are moving swiftly to pass this ordinance. Demand we join the State in sticking to the appropriate 2050 timeline. Refuse to pay an additional tax that will make housing and running small businesses even more expensive or worse cause significant displacement citywide. We all agree that climate change is one of the biggest challenges of our time, but only when we work together and acknowledge the real-world implications of policies and the work to physically achieve them, can we deliver a positive outcome as a community and for the future of Cambridge.
Call to Action:
- Email the City Council with your concerns NOW — firstname.lastname@example.org — and copy both the City Clerk’s office — email@example.com and Council Aides — firstname.lastname@example.org
- Attend the Ordinance Committee Meeting on Tuesday, July 26th at 1:00 at City Hall
- See full details and stay informed: https://www.harvardsquare.com/beudo-resources/
Thank you and best regards,
David Maher, CEO Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, Patrick Barrett, Co-Chair, Central Square BID
Jason Alves, Executive Director, East Cambridge Business Association, Denise Jillson, Executive Director, Harvard Square Business Association and B. Kimmerman, Director of Government and Community Relations, Kendall Square Association***
***The KSA has indicated that the 2035 date could be feasible if the amendment provides full use of global carbon credits and establishes a local carbon credit framework. To-date, these mechanisms have not been incorporated.
Posted: July 11th, 2022
Recently, Cambridge City Councillor Quinton Zondervan and Councillor Patty Nolan have proposed to accelerate the zero-carbon emissions date for Cambridge residential condo owners and tenant buildings from 2050 to 2035. This is contrary to existing state law which sets such date at 2050, as well, there is a national and industrialized country goal of 2050. The name of this ordinance is the Building Energy Use Disclosure Ordinance (BEUDO). What this means is that starting as soon as 2025, condo buildings and apartment buildings and their owners would be assessed fines by the city if they haven’t reached certain emission goals. To avoid said fines, buildings would have to remove all existing HVAC units and replace or install ab initio inferior and not technically suitable heat pump technology. This technology requires large scale retrofitting of a building infrastructure, individual unit construction issues, and condensers for AC where the placement of these condensers is a major problem for most multi-unit buildings.
Individual condo owners will be financially responsible for large scale retrofitting costs as will apartment building owners who will be able to pass on costs to tenants. In addition, tenants may have to vacate while retrofitting takes place. If retrofitting doesn’t take place, fines will be assessed every year.
Thus far only a handful of condo owners and tenants know about this because of the lack of notice by the city. This proposal will negatively affect property values for condos owners especially.
To date, there has only been one public comment meeting which took place on June 22.
The Ordinance Committee of the council is planning a NO PUBLIC COMMENT meeting on July 26 at 1:00 pm. at city hall.
You can help by doing this:
Contact City Council at email@example.com and the City Clerk at firstname.lastname@example.org, or testify at BEUDO hearings to express your concerns about this proposal to jump ahead to 2035 when the rest of the state and country are targeting 2050.
Insist on a more inclusive, thorough, and realistic process that does not jump ahead to 2035 for BEUDO.
Posted: July 11th, 2022
What is BEUDO and why is everyone talking about it?
BEUDO is the Building Energy Use Disclosure Ordinance which applies to commercial building buildings over 25,000 square feet and residential condo buildings with 50 or more units. It requires property owners to keep track of and publicly report annual energy use in their buildings. The concern is the release of harmful greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions into the environment.
It was always understood that BEUDO would need to be amended to lay out specific carbon-emission reducing goals for buildings (percentages and timeframes). Although many property owners were involved in drafting such an amendment with City staff, residential condo owners were not part of that process. Cambridge, like Boston, the State and the industrialized world, recommended 2050 as the deadline for net-zero emissions from buildings.
However, in February of 2022, two City Councillors decided to propose additional amendments that would significantly accelerate the carbon reduction percentages and timeframes — and introduce penalties for not meeting these more aggressive goals. Councillors Zondervan and Nolan, stated publicly, that they wish to make Cambridge first in the nation regarding zero emissions by 2035.
These Aggressive Amendments will Impact Owners and Tenants.
The new amendments would accelerate the City’s net-zero date from 2050 to 2035 with prescriptive reduction deadlines leading up to 2035. This goal is impossible to meet with existing — and even anticipated —carbon reducing technologies.
The amendments go further and introduce severe penalties on property owners, including condo owners or their Trusts, who don’t meet the prescribed timeframes. Since the deadlines will be impossible to meet, owners will have to pay the penalties. Owners of tenant buildings will have have no choice but to pass some of these significant costs on to their tenants, as will condo owners who rent to tenants.
Why would it be so Hard to Meet the Amendment Requirements?
In order to meet the 2035 net zero emissions deadline, building owners would have to switch over to electrification from natural gas or other fossil fuels systems. It will be very costly and time consuming to retrofit building energy systems, and it is possible that condo owners and tenants would have to move out while the renovations take place.
Retroftting an entire condo building of 50, 60, or more units to accommodate primitive heat pump technology will be very costly. Many condos do not have the space on all inside exterior walls for heat pump systems and the cabling and wiring to accommodate this technology would have to run across living rooms, dining rooms or bedrooms through the building infrastructure to outside connections. These outside connections, in turn, hook up to condensers – needed for the AC, those suitcase looking things with large fans on their exterior.
For condo buildings the choice of where to place condensers is a nightmare. They can be placed on the side of buildings – one for each unit- attached to the brick or wooden façade; they can be placed on balconies rendering them uninhabitable in summer due to the velocity of the fan and noise. Owners cannot maintain enclosed balconies as the condenser needs sufficient circulating air to vent. Condensers can also be placed on the roof with its attendant stress and noise problems.
If condo buildings can’t accomplish the required retrofits by 2025 in order to reduce GHG emissions in the prescribed timeframes, they will have to pay the proposed penalties and/or purchase offset credits. All of which will be paid for condo owners.
What are the Required GHG Reductions and Deadlines?
The proposed BEUDO (Zondervan) amendment requires each building to reduce emissions by 20% by 2025, and then to further reduce GHG emissions by 8% annually beginning in 2025 until all 2 emissions are subject to the penalty fee by 2035. If you fail to make those year-over-year reductions, you will be charged an annual penalty.
What Exactly will it Cost?
Building owners will be charged $234 per shortfall metric ton of emissions if they don’t meet the amendment’s proposed deadlines. Additional information about penalties will be forthcoming.
Are these Kinds of Penalties Legal?
A municipality is permitted to charge fees related to the administration of a certain law, but that’s it. A city can’t charge fees for its own use that are not related to the execution of that law. Otherwise, it’s considered a tax — which is illegal. In order to vindicate the rights of residents, legal action may be required.
Why are People Advocating for Something that is Impossible to Achieve?
The short answer is that it’s a very complex topic. Of course, everyone in Cambridge — residents, advocacy organizations, public officials, property owners, tenants — all want to combat climate change. That’s why many interests have been working together on a several sustainability related initiatives, including the original BEUDO. It should be noted that it appears that residential condo owners have not been part of these discussions. The challenge for most people is that the intricacies of the topic are challenging to understand. Most building owners hire technical experts to guide the development of their net zero plans.
So, is the Shift to 2035 a Flawed Argument?
Yes, it is. The desire to switch over to electrification is flawed because the electric grid would not be able to handle the new capacity, and unfortunately, the electric grid relies on natural gas, so switching over will not actually reduce carbon emissions for at least another decade when improvements will make it a cleaner energy source. There are ways to achieve the 2035 date, such as through the use of verifiable emission-reducing carbon credits, but the amendment-sponsoring Councilors are opposed to that mechanism. Even if they were receptive, why should condo owners have to foot that bill in addition to retrofitting their buildings, changing their individual HVAC systems to inferior heat pump technology and possibly paying fines to the City. It should be stressed that condo owners and tenants alike have been left out of the city’s deliberations in this regard. There are real questions regarding notice to those whose private properties will be severely impacted.
Posted: July 19th, 2022