Liu Proposes ‘Green Apple Bonds’ to Remove School Toxins

New York City Comptroller John Liu proposed issuing $407 million in so-called Green Apple Bonds to speed the cleanup of toxins in 772 schools.

The comptroller, a Democrat considering running for mayor in 2013, said the money raised by the general-obligation bonds would allow the city to remove light fixtures carrying polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, by 2015, six years ahead of the current schedule. The plan would also reduce the Education Department’s energy bills and cut carbon emissions.

“Our students should learn about PCBs in class but through their textbooks, not through first-hand exposure,” Liu, 45, said in a news release.

While the estimated debt service on the bonds would total $380 million through 2021, the cost would be more than offset by an estimated $719 million in savings from reduced energy consumption, lower interest rates and federal subsidies for energy conservation, Liu said. The improvements would cut the city’s greenhouse-gas emissions by 1.4 million metric tons through 2021, 47 percent more than the current plan.

The proposal adds to a plan announced last month by Liu, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn to accelerate spending on infrastructure, including bridges, roads, schools and libraries. As part of that plan, PCB removal would be sped up at 100 schools.

Cancer Cause

PCBs refer to a class of synthetic organic chemicals widely used as additives in oils, electrical equipment and hydraulic machinery. They have useful attributes such as fire resistance and low electrical conductivity. However, PCBs have also been shown to cause cancer and harm immune, reproductive, nervous and endocrine systems, according to the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection.

In July 2011, a group called New York Lawyers for the Public Interest filed a federal lawsuit against the city Education Department, alleging thousands of light fixtures were leaking PCBs in violation of U.S. law and endangering the health of students.

New York has committed $838 million over 10 years to replace fixtures and make schools more energy efficient, said Marge Feinberg, an Education Department spokeswoman, in an e-mailed statement.

“We have an aggressive, environmentally responsible plan and are always happy to hear new ideas,” she said.

New York City had $77.3 billion in gross debt as of June 30, or $9,378 for each of the city’s more than 8 million residents, according to its comprehensive annual financial report. About $42.3 billion of the total is general-obligation debt backed by city’s full faith and credit.

The mayor is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.

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