CITY HALL — The City Council passed an ordinance calling for large buildings to post data on their energy use online, over the complaints of aldermen who insisted it was "whacking it to people on the lakefront."
Some of those aldermen immediately responded with an ordinance amendment exempting residential properties, to be considered before next month's council meeting.
The Energy Benchmarking Ordinance basically calls on buildings larger than 50,000 square feet to post data on their energy use online at a city website.
"We can't afford not to do this," said Ald. Timothy Cullerton (38th). "Energy efficiency will pay for itself in the long run."
Yet Aldermen Brendan Reilly (42nd) and Leslie Hairston (5th) led opposition along lakefront neighborhoods with concentrations of high-rise condominiums.
"It's gonna need to be staffed," Hairston said, referring to the people who will compile the energy data and submit it to the city. "With all of these fees, we are putting people out of their homes.
"We need to stop whacking it to people on the lakefront," Hairston added.
Reilly conceded that the cost to carry out an energy audit would be minimal. But he said the public disclosure of energy data would compel inefficient buildings to make costly upgrades.
"I'd call it public shaming, frankly," Reilly said. "We shouldn't be a model for the most 'progressive,' read 'costly,' ordinance in the country."
"It seems it's never the right time to protect the environment," said Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th), who decried the "collective inaction" on climate change. "This is a market-based approach," he added, that would not require any upgrades by law. "If not now, when is the right time?"
According to Pawar, the ordinance would apply to 1 percent of the city's buildings, using 20 percent of the city's overall energy.
"The cost of compliance is modest. It's almost nonexistent," said Ald. Joe Moore (49th), who backed the ordinance in spite of having lakefront high-rises in his Rogers Park neighborhood. "Yet the benefits are huge."
"You've gotta lead when it comes to the environment," said Ald. Joe Moreno (1st), who attacked the "exaggeration and fear tactics" of those arguing against energy benchmarking.
Ald. Danny Solis (25th), chairman of the Zoning Committee, which originally approved the measure in July, drew attention to the "misinformation circulated about the ordinance," adding it simply calls for "transparency about our energy use."
Mayor Rahm Emanuel sponsored the measure and cheered its passage.
"This gives you information," Emanuel said. "We're informing you."
The ordinance passed by a 32-17 vote. Yet Reilly and Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) immediately proposed an amendment exempting residential properties. Uptown Ald. James Cappleman (46th) signed on as well, although in comments opposing the program he went in the other direction and said it should apply to all residences, from high-rise condos to single-family homes.
The Emanuel administration has estimated the cost of compliance at $1,000 over two years for most buildings.