Clean Air Communities (CAC) is a program, initiated by Northeast States Center for a Clean Air Future and Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCCAF/NESCAUM), committed to implementing air pollution reduction and energy efficiency strategies in low-income New York City communities that are disproportionately affected by air pollution. CAC is designed to serve as a national model for using market-based mechanisms to inspire and implement community-based clean air initiatives that advance environmental justice.
The primary objectives of CAC include:
- implementing strategies that achieve near-term reductions in local air pollution;
- designing market-based strategies to reduce pollution consistent with environmental justice principles;
- advancing long-term, sustainable models for funding clean air initiatives; and
- building a coalition of diverse partners with a mutual interest in reducing urban air pollution.
CAC was established in 1999 through a collaborative effort among Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), NESCCAF/NESCAUM, and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), with an initial donation of $5 million by Con Edison. In 2003, New York Power Authority donated $2 million to initiate the Queens Clean Air Project that is managed and implemented by Clean Air Communities. NESCCAF/NESCAUM staff provide program management, administration and staff support for CAC.
CAC created a volunteer Advisory Group, consisting of representatives from community-based environmental organizations, environmental and public health advocates, and local, state and federal regulators and political appointees. The Advisory Group provides input and direction regarding the program framework, assists with program outreach and communications, identifies potential clean air strategies and helps to design strategies that advance the goals of environmental justice. Participation on the Advisory Group remains open to additional members.
To date, CAC has administered $3.5 million to implement clean air strategies for selected community-based projects in New York City. With matching funds, leveraged funding, and in-kind contributions from project partners, the total value of CAC projects to date has exceeded $7.0 million. Over the long term, sustainable funding for CAC will be sought from corporations with an interest in improving local air quality as well as philanthropic donations. In addition, the emissions credits generated from the initial clean air strategies could be marketed to create an ongoing revolving fund to supplement future CAC initiatives. Once quantifiable pollution reductions have been achieved, project partners and the Advisory Group will collectively explore emission-trading options.
CAC issues Request for Proposals (RFP) to solicit emission reduction project ideas from community groups throughout New York City. The projects are required to demonstrate environmental and community benefits, technical feasibility, cost-effective emissions reductions, and to include education and outreach activities. Rigorous data collection and documentation are also required for funding. Projects that have been approved for funding by CAC's Steering Committee include: an advanced truck stop electrification project at Hunts Point Cooperative Market; one of New York City's largest commercial solar array installations on two buildings in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn; a boiler optimization and duel-fuel burner upgrade at the Queensview Housing Cooperative in Long Island City; and a diesel emissions reduction demonstration at 7 World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan.