21 Mar

NYSSBC Speaks at Javits Center, NYC

NYSSBC coordinated a panel for BuildingsNY, the largest gathering of property owners, managers, designers, architects, and others building trade professionals. Thousands attend this two-day event at the Javits Center: 655 W 34th St, New York, New York 10001.

Our panel covered current and pending policies at the City and State level that impact businesses in the building trade. We discussed the role of independent businesses in New York State policy advocacy and took a deep look at Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency policies relevant to New York City buildings.

Speakers from RIGHT to LEFT (in presenting order) listed below:

John Ciovacco (moderator) is the President of Aztech Geothermal, LLC, an engineering-driven, design-build contractor of innovative renewable heating & cooling systems. He serves as a resource to building owners, construction companies, engineers, architects and investors regarding the latest renewable and energy efficiency technologies, government incentives, and financing options. John is an IGSHPA Accredited Geothermal Installer, a Building Performance Institute (BPI) Certified Contractor, and Certified Green Professional with the NAHB.

Bob Rossi is the Executive Director of the New York State Sustainable Business Council (NYSSBC), an alliance of business organizations and businesses committed to advancing a vibrant, just, and sustainable economy in the state. Bob draws from his experience in academia, small business, and the nonprofit sector. He has been involved in several business startups in software, manufacturing, and green building and helped launch nonprofits including the Green Resource Hub, which promotes sustainable lifestyle and supports green business.  Most Recently, Bob founded the CommonSpot, a coworking space and social enterprise incubator in Ithaca, NY.

Bob Wyman is a renewable energy consultant and geothermal heat pump (GHP) advocate. He is currently engaged with clients who seek to dramatically increase the adoption of GHP. He also advocates for clean energy solutions in New York City such the elimination of No 6 and No 4 heating oil and the recently passed requirement that GHPs be considered for all new and retrofitted municipal buildings. Prior to engaging full time with the GHP industry, Bob spent 40+ years in the software industry making significant contributions in the areas of electronic mail, office automation, hypertext, digital rights management, multimedia publishing, and both retrospective and prospective search technologies.

Samara Swanston, J.D., has been practicing Environmental Law for more than twenty five years. She is currently the legislative counsel to the Environmental Protection Committee of the New York City Council and an Adjunct Professor at the Pratt Institute Graduate School for Urban Planning and the Environment. She was the environmental counsel to the Town of Babylon and the County of Suffolk where she litigated Long Island Pine Barrens v. Town of Brookhaven et al., the largest environmental lawsuit in state history, and was the first drafter of the legislation creating the Long Island Pine Barrens Maritime Reserve Act. Samara also was a Superfund attorney for the Environmental Protection Agency and then a manager for the Superfund program of the Department of Environmental Conservation. Samara has written numerous, extensively cited law review articles. She was also the first drafter of the local law to require coordination between the state and city for construction projects that require state wetlands or coastal erosion hazard area permits. Among other legislation, she recently wrote two local laws to promote the use of geothermal energy.

Cecil Scheib, PE, CEM, LEED AP is Chief Program Officer at Urban Green Council. With 25 years experience spearheading sustainability projects in the built environment, he leads Urban Green’s policy, research, and education initiatives. As Managing Director of the Building Resiliency Task Force for the City of New York, he led an effort to consider how to best rebuild after Hurricane Sandy in order to prepare New York City for future extreme weather events. Previously, he was Director of Energy and Sustainability at New York University, cutting energy use and greenhouse gas emissions by 30% in five years. He was the lead author on NYU’s Climate Action Plan and Energy and Water Design Standards for new construction. NYU received AASHE STARS Gold and the highest rating of any institution in the Operations category. He holds a BS in Civil Engineering from Stanford University and a Professional Engineer’s license from New York State, and is a Certified Energy Manager and LEED Accredited Professional.

09 Mar

New Community Solar Regulations are Bad for Small Business

The verdict on VDER is in and a new fight for EQUITY and RENEWABLE ENERGY begins.

New York’s Public Service Commission (PSC) regulates the value of distributed energy resources (VDER) such as community solar. The PSC — which has 3 people plus 2 empty seats — voted today to approve the regressive VDER regulations, which they claim achieve “a major milestone in the Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) initiative by beginning the actual transition to a distributed, transactive, and integrated electric system.”

The problem is the new regulations place greater power in the large utilities and grossly undervalue the energy created by community solar systems making those systems even more difficult for YOU to finance. Most small businesses and low-to-middle income people NEED the community solar option if they want to invest in clean renewable energy. We need a regulatory framework that sparks a revolution of shared solar across the state. We are ready for it!

More to come on how we can push for incentives that help level this playing field. How else will we achieve our Clean Energy Standard of 50% by 2030? The true path is FORWARD.

Check out the NY Energy Democracy Alliance’s response here: http://bit.ly/2lLOSKN

01 Dec

Reckless Advance of Spectra AIM Pipeline

The time has come for our state and national leaders to step in and put an immediate stop to the further development of the Spectra AIM (Algonquin Incremental Market) gas pipeline — recklessly located within 105 feet of vital structures at the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant and not much more than 1,000 feet from the reactor itself.

It is surprising — to say the least — that approvals were granted for a commercial enterprise that puts an aging nuclear facility — already considered an environmental risk — in unnecessary danger. For if the pipeline were to explode, as Spectra’s line in Pennsylvania did last April, the entire plant could be engulfed — with catastrophic consequences — according to Physicians for Social Responsibility.

The $876 million AIM expansion of the existing Algonquin pipeline system, which runs through New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island to eastern Massachusetts and transports close to 3 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day, will move some 342 million cubic feet more. It calls for adding a 42-inch pipeline that will traverse the Hudson River between Stony Point in Rockland County and Buchanan in Westchester County, home to Indian Point.

Had we understood the implications sooner, we might have had more leverage with state and federal authorities in arguing to stop further development of the pipeline. However, while it is late in the game, it is not too late. It can’t be, because public safety is at stake, particularly among more vulnerable populations. That’s why so many members of the New York State Sustainable Business Council have joined the struggle against the pipeline.

Gas pipelines have a spotty track record for safety, at best, and the consequences of a rupture at Indian Point are horrific to contemplate (there were 143 gas transmission line incidents in the United States in 2015, according to the Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration). Of course, there ought to be extensive emergency protocols, safety and evacuation plans in place before Spectra AIM goes into operation. There are not.

The nuclear plant’s required evacuation plan covers a 50-mile radius and includes much of New York City. It makes no provisions for a gas explosion. Residents as far west as Port Jervis, as far north as Rhinebeck and as far east as Danbury, Conn. would be affected.

The Spectra AIM fracked gas pipeline epitomizes federal regulators’ ongoing disregard of the risks to climate, public health and the economy associated with the gas and oil industry’s fossil fuel extraction and infrastructure. These regulators have routinely ignored the continual protests of ordinary citizens, elected officials —including our own governor, national organizations such as Physicians for Social Responsibility, New York’s Riverkeeper and others calling for thorough independent risk, safety and health assessments.

So far, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has not listened, and plans to allow the AIM pipeline to be operational in a matter of days or weeks.

The time has come for our state and national leaders — including U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and President Barack Obama — to amp up the pressure on FERC by speaking out loudly and without delay, demanding a stop to the AIM pipeline now and an immediate implementation of a national energy policy that expresses an undeniable commitment to clean, renewable energy and rejection of further fossil fuel development.

We must avoid the temptation of further fossil fuel development: Its economic gains are proving to be short-term and its losses infinite. This is imperative to our survival.

Ajax Greene is president of On Belay Business Advisors and chairman of the New York State Sustainable Business Council.

22 Sep

Introducing our New Director: Bob Rossi

We are excited to announce our new Executive Director, Bob Rossi, who will be leveraging his experience in business startups and nonprofit development to grow NYSSBC and to serve as your go-to connection for policy advocacy that builds a just and sustainable economy in New York State. As we welcome Bob, we also salute our former ED, Laura Ornstein, as she begins her graduate career at UNC Charlotte focusing on GIS and Urban Planning.

Since we began just a few short years ago, so much of our success can be attributed to Laura’s incredible talent and dedication. For the past two years, Bob worked with Laura as a volunteer for NYSSBC. This working relationship plus their efforts together over this transition month have laid important groundwork for our continued growth and success. Thank you, Laura and Bob!!

Laura & Bob

Right out of the gate, Bob will be heading to the 5th annual Sustainable Business Summit in Washington, DC next week hosted by the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC). If you wish to join the Summit, contact Bob (bob@nyssbc.org) or click here: bit.ly/SustyBiz16; there are tickets still available and discounts for members of NYSSBC!

At the Summit in DC, Bob will be representing YOU.  We invite you to wish him success and to post your questions or ideas to our Facebook post here.

For NYSSBC, Bob brings many assets to the table. He has nonprofit development experience most notably through his work in co-founding the Green Resource Hub and the Sustainable Enterprise & Entrepreneur Network (the SEEN), a local “triple bottom line” business community, of which Bob later served as Director.  Bob’s experience in starting and growing a business network and strengthen its value for the network members will clearly inform his work as your new Director.

Bob can also speak from the business perspective as he has been involved in several business startups in software, manufacturing, and green building.  Most Recently, Bob founded the CommonSpot, a coworking space and social enterprise incubator — a place designed to help other businesses startup and thrive. As we — the staff and steering of NYSSBC — are spread across New York State, the CommonSpot in Ithaca is our new home. Centrally located (or “centrally isolated” as Ithacans like to say) in the middle of New York State, it is where we can all convene as we did last month for our retreat. In addition to Bob’s wealth of experience and beautiful energy, he has the dedication to bring NYSSBC to the next level.

None of our current success would be possible without people like you; sustainable and equitable business owners, customers, workers and movement builders. We invite you to join us in this period of growth and find ways to participate. Please don’t hesitate to email Bob (bob@nyssbc.org) with any questions, concerns, ideas or offers. Look for future posts from Bob with opportunities to get involved. We’re looking forward to it.

So, here’s a big “thank you” to Laura Ornstein and a big “welcome” to Bob Rossi.  Here’s to a bright future of our State and the future of a sustainable and equitable economy!

21 Aug

Policy Update: NYSSBC 2016 Legislative Session Priorities

Policy Update: NYSSBC 2016 Legislative Session Priorities

On May 9, 2016, NYSSBC convened business leaders at the State Capitol from across the state for the 3rd Annual Albany Sustainable Business Summit. Attendees were briefed on NYSSBC’s priority issues (listed below), heard about next steps for the victorious Paid Leave campaign, had time to connect over shared interests, and met with state legislators and staff to make the business case for policies promoting a sustainable economy. Read more details on the event here.

Updates on Priorities:

Tax Incentives for Geothermal Energy

As a sustainable alternative to natural gas, geothermal heating & cooling is essential for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and combating climate change.  Parity with solar incentives is being aggressively sought before federal incentives expire at the end of 2016.   While both of the bills (see below) passed the Senate & Assembly unanimously in 2015, they were vetoed by the Governor saying he was waiting for a renewable heating and cooling plan from NYSERDA, the state energy agency,which is still unpublished.  The effort is focused now at the close of 2016 on the tax credit bill being signed.


  • Geothermal Tax Credit S.6249 (Ortt, R-Lockport)/A.9925 (Ryan, D-Buffalo)
    Geothermal Tax Credit (S.6249/A.9925) establishes a tax credit for the purchase and installation of geothermal energy systems.


Bill Status: On the way to victory! Both the Senate and Assembly passed S.6249/A.9925. Legislation has been delivered to Governor Cuomo to sign into law.  

Take Action:  Call or write Gov. Cuomo and ask him to sign the geothermal tax credit now. Learn more.



Geothermal Sales Tax Exemption (S.6250/A.9128-A) provides an exemption for the sale and installation of residential and commercial geothermal heat pump systems equipment.

Bill Status: Defeat. S.6250-A passed the Senate, but the Assembly failed to pass their version of the bill.

Updating the Hemp Pilot Program S.6960-A (O’Mara, R-Elmira)/A.9310-A (Lupardo, D-Binghamton)

Since the New York State Legislature passed legislation to create an Industrial Hemp Pilot Research program in 2014, farmers and research institutions have expressed tremendous interest in participating in the program and in the potential of industrial hemp as a major agricultural crop in New York State. As the program has moved forward, participants have expressed their desire to pursue the marketing and final products of industrial hemp. By adopting these changes, New York will be in the position to become a national leader in the growing industrial hemp industry once it is fully legalized by the federal government.

Bill Status: Victory! Passed both the Assembly and Senate; signed into law by the Governor August 18, 2016

Calling on Congress to Overturn Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission

The goal of this effort is to pass a resolution making New York the 17th state to call for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which in 2010 unleashed a flood of money into our political system by ruling that, contrary to longstanding precedent, corporations and unions are able to spend unlimited amounts of money to promote or defeat candidates. The District of Columbia and sixteen states, including our neighbors New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont, have passed resolutions calling on Congress to adopt a constitutional amendment overturning the Citizens United decision.

Status: Victory! A majority of legislators in both the Senate and the Assembly signed a letter urging the U.S. Congress to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (FEC) and McCutcheon v. FEC decisions. New York is the first state legislature with at least one chamber controlled by Republicans to call for a constitutional amendment to rein in uncontrolled spending in elections

Safer Chemicals: Child Safe Products Act S.4102-A (Boyle, R-Bay Shore)/A.5612 (Englebright, D-Setauket)

The Child Safe Products Act (A.5612/S.4102) will require the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) to publish a list of chemicals of high concern based on hazard (list adopted from Maine), and name a subset as priority chemicals (i.e. formaldehyde, lead, mercury, and arsenic). Children’s product makers will have to disclose which products contain priority chemicals and eventually phase the chemicals out in order to continue sale of such items in New York.

There was an end-of-the-session effort to get the disclosure component of the Child Safe Products Acts by having a separate bill, the Parents Right to Know Act, passed but neither the Assembly nor the Senate voted on it.

Bill Status: Defeat. A.5612 passed the Assembly on May 4, 2016 for the 5th year in a row. S.4102-A died in the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee.

Take Action: Join other businesses like Beauty Counter, Seventh Generation, EILEEN FISHER, and ABC Carpet & Home by signing onto NYSSBC’s campaign, Companies for Safer Chemicals New York, to demonstrate your support for improving disclosure of toxic chemicals and eliminating them from the market.

GMO Labeling S.485-B (LaValle, R-Port Jefferson)/A.617-B  (Rosenthal, D-Manhattan)

This legislation will require the labeling of genetically engineered seed, seed stock, and human food offered for retail sale in New York.

Bill Status: Defeat. S.485-B died in the Rules Committee. A.617-B died in the Rules Committee. Neither the Assembly nor Senate had a floor vote on the bills.

Support & Incentives for Employee-Owned Enterprise A.9618 (Ryan, D-Buffalo)

This bill will exempt members, directors, and executive officers of a worker cooperative from workers’ compensation coverage; will make employee-owned enterprises eligible for a “best value” awarding of public contracts; provide business and industry training to members of an employee-owned enterprise; create an advisory panel on the viability of increasing employee-owned enterprises in the State; and provide a 50% capital gains exemption for the sale of stock to an employee-owned enterprise.

Bill Status: Defeat. A.9618 died in the Labor Committee. A similar bill was not introduced in the Senate.

Take Action: If interested in being involved in NYSSBC’s work on cooperatives, please contact NYSSBC member Andrew Delmonte of Buffalo First! and Cooperation Buffalo (EMAIL).