Advocates Fight FF Industry Lies W/ Facts on NYHEAT, Big Oil Superfund, AEBA, Release Oil Industry Secret Memo
AM Pat Fahy, Dr. Robert Howarth, Earthjustice, NYPIRG, Food & Water Watch, NRDC, AGREE call on Gov and Leg to stand with New Yorkers not industry
ALBANY, NY (03/30/2023) (readMedia)-- With New York on the brink of enacting a first-in-the-nation statewide ban on fossil fuels in new construction, the fossil fuel industry is pulling out all the stops to defeat three bills: the All Electric Buildings Act (S562A), the NY Home Energy Affordable Transition (NY HEAT) Act (S2016) and the Climate Change Superfund Act (S2129).
This week, City Limits reported that the American Petroleum Institute sent a memo – included as an attachment with this release – to NYS legislators attempting to kill the Climate Change Superfund Act, since it would make their member organizations pay for climate damages they caused. And New York Focus just reported that the industry is using shady tactics to manipulate their consumer base against NYHEAT, a bill that would significantly curtail its growth and gut the 200M/year taxpayer subsidies it relies on.
Elected officials and advocates held a press conference to highlight the fossil fuel industry's massive spending and lies. The group released the American Petroleum Institute's secret memo.
"The fossil fuel industry's lobbying will result in a scorched planet that will be unlivable. All they want is to make as much cash as possible without any accountability. But the NYS legislature represents New Yorkers, not wealthy multinational fossil fuel companies, and New Yorkers are getting stuck with the $100 billion bill for this climate mess they didn't make. The Governor and Assembly must follow the Senate's lead and include the All-Electric Building Act, NY HEAT, and Climate Change Superfund Act in the final budget," said Blair Horner, Executive Director of NYPIRG.
"The fossil fuel industry is pulling out all the stops to convince New Yorkers that up is down and day is night. They want us to believe that New York taxpayers and businesses should pay billions of dollars every year to clean up Big Oil's mess, and that New York ratepayers should pay hundreds of millions of dollars every year to subsidize expanding the footprint of fracked gas in our state. And, of course, they want us to believe their biggest lie of all: that a clean energy future won't save New Yorkers money while giving us cleaner air, thousands of jobs, and a future free from climate catastrophe. New Yorkers don't need more fossil fuel lies, they need real solutions – that's what we're providing with All-Electric Buildings, NY HEAT, and the Climate Change Superfund Act," said Senator Liz Krueger.
"It's time to make the polluters pay by enacting the Climate Change Superfund Act. The fossil fuel companies made record profits last year - more than anytime in history - on the backs of people who will suffer the consequences of climate change. They have known for many years that their products are the primary cause of climate change and they covered it up. It's time for them to clean up their mess," said Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz.
"It's no surprise the fossil fuel industry is fighting to undermine New York's climate plan when they receive $200 in million gas expansion subsidies every year, and can block us from healthier and cleaner heating solutions that might make them less money. Governor Hochul and the Assembly must include the NY HEAT Act in the final budget so that everyday New Yorkers are no longer forced to foot the bill for the expansion of the outdated gas system that's harming our health and our environment," said Jessica Azulay, Executive Director, Alliance for a Green Economy.
"The fossil fuel industry has been lying to us since the '70s. Their latest efforts to spread disinformation are business as usual - they would rather spend millions on lobbying and ads to protect their profits than invest in a clean energy future for New Yorkers. Now, the worsening extreme weather and rising temperatures that this industry caused is costing us, and killing us. Now is the time for the Governor and legislature to stand up to the lies and pass NY HEAT," said Richard Schrader, New York policy director at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
"As New York stands poised to ban fossil fuels in new buildings, the fossil fuel industry is throwing millions of dollars at a desperate, last-ditch misinformation campaign. Spending millions to prop up outright lies isn't a new tactic – it's been the fossil fuel industry's playbook since the fight to ban fracking nearly ten years ago. New Yorkers are too smart to fall for this nonsense. The truth is we must drastically slash emissions now, and buildings are the politically popular place to start. It's time for our elected leaders to listen to people over polluters and pass a gas ban in the budget," said Alex Beauchamp, Food & Water Watch Northeast Region Director.
"Rather than embracing the future, oil & gas interests have been working overtime to weaken or kill New York's climate law. Their propaganda campaign is well funded and well coordinated. It is alarmist and is based on misleading claims, exaggeration, and disinformation. But the truth is, the climate law's implementation will cost less than if the State took no actions, the scoping plan from the Climate Action Council gives the State a leg up on getting federal subsidies, and heat pumps work extremely well in the coldest of climates, with far greater efficiency and at lower cost than using fossil fuels. I ask that New Yorkers embrace the climate law and reject the disinformation campaign of big oil & gas," said Dr. Robert Howarth, Biochemist at Cornell University and Member of the Climate Action Council.
The fossil fuel industry is using their customers' personal data to target them with tactics designed to kill bills that would facilitate New York's energy transition. New York Focus reported that a top oil heat lobbyist announced on an industry webinar that "We're one of the few industries that have keys to our customers' homes." The industry uses their customers' mailing addresses to send leaflets to households with their energy bills. National Fuel's robocall campaign enlisted their own customers – using their customers' phone numbers on file – to lobby their legislators against building electrification. The industry spends millions to spread fear and misinformation about these bills, like the particularly pervasive myth that gas stoves will be ripped from kitchens.
Similarly, the American Petroleum Institute sent a memo to NYS legislators (attached) urging them to remove the Climate Change Superfund Act from the final budget because the legislation imposes costs on actions that were technically legal, and it discriminates against oil companies. But the Climate Change Superfund Act is modeled on existing superfund legislation that holds polluters accountable for the environmental damage they're responsible for. It assesses the largest greenhouse gas emitters to pay $3 billion annually for the next 25 years to offset the expected tens of billions of dollars in expected climate damages that will otherwise have to be paid fully by state taxpayers and ratepayers. Those assessments will not be passed on to ratepayers or taxpayers. Experts estimate it will cost NYS $100 billion in the next decade alone to clean up and prevent climate damages. The Superfund Act is a drop in the bucket for top Big Oil companies, who earned a record-breaking $376 billion in 2022 alone, decades after they began deliberately hiding what they knew about the climate catastrophe they were driving.
This kind of spending and lobbying from the fossil fuel industry isn't new. Last year, the All-Electric Building Act enjoyed support from Governor Hochul, Senate leadership and environmental groups, but a campaign financed by the fossil fuel industry that spread disinformation and lies derailed the bill. The industry set up a front group called New Yorkers for Affordable Energy to preserve the status quo. A report from Little Sis reviewed the organization's tax filings which show that its mission is "to expand natural gas service." The group is meant to have the appearance of a grassroots coalition, but it was founded and is run by fossil fuel executives. From the report: "The coalition is backed by a range of fossil fuel companies and lobbying groups, including utility companies National Fuel and National Grid; pipeline companies Williams, Enbridge, and Millennium Pipeline; and the American Petroleum Institute. Other backers include corporate lobbying groups like the Business Council of New York State, regional chambers of commerce like the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, and fossil fuel industry trade groups like Independent Power Producers of New York and Energy Coalition New York."
Nationwide, the fossil fuel industry is heavily involved in misinformation efforts against necessary legislation like this. The New York Times reported recently about the Propane Education Research Council sponsoring HGTV star Matt Blashaw. Blashaw calls propane - which contributes to climate change and is the most expensive heating fuel- "an energy source for everyone."
Background (All-Electric Building Act & NY HEAT)
The All-Electric Building Act will ban gas hookups in new buildings across New York State, requiring them to be all-electric with appliances like energy efficient heat pumps for heating, cooling, and hot water, and modern induction cooktops. In 2021, New York City passed its own version of the All-Electric Building Act, banning fossil fuel heating systems in new buildings across the city starting in 2024.
The NY HEAT Act (formerly the Gas Transition and Affordable Energy Act) ensures that New York State will be able to meet the crucial climate justice and greenhouse gas emission reduction mandates set forth in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act for buildings without sticking everyday New Yorkers with the bill for misguided expansion of the gas system. It will allow gas utilities to invest in safer, cheaper, neighborhood-scale non-pipe alternatives to new gas infrastructure to protect New Yorkers from spiraling bills and enable zero emissions alternatives to the gas system. It also puts a price cap of 6% of income on electricity bills for low- and middle-income families to ensure energy stays affordable.
Crucially, the NY Home Energy Affordable Transition Act will do away with the unfair 100 foot rule, which sticks everyday New Yorkers with the bill for gas hookups in new buildings totalling $1 billion in added costs to utility bills for New Yorkers over just five years. It will also allow utilities to redirect the $150 billion that it will cost to complete planned gas pipe replacements over the next 20 years, and instead invest in neighborhood-scale building electrification.
In January, 200 advocates and 25 NYS legislators and called on Governor Hochul to uphold her State of the State commitments by including the All-Electric Building Act (S562A/A920), the NY Home Energy Affordable Transition (NY HEAT) Act (S2016/A4592) and the Energy Efficiency, Equity, and Jobs Act (S3126/A3996A) in her Executive Budget, and for the Assembly's support. Previously, 220 groups across New York State sent a letter to Governor Hochul, urging her to include the All-Electric Building Act, the NY HEAT Act, and other key energy affordability provisions in her executive budget.
Buildings account for a third of New York's greenhouse gas emissions, and 66 percent of likely New York voters support a statewide proposal to end fossil fuels in new construction. 55 percent are "very concerned" about the cost of their home energy bills. These proposals will help New York meet the Climate Act's requirement of reducing emissions by 40 percent by 2030 while also saving New Yorkers money.
A statewide analysis by Win Climate shows that, under the All-Electric Building Act, families from the warmest to the coldest parts of the state would see savings. Families living in new homes with cold-climate air source heat pumps would save an average of over $900 a year. Those living in new homes with ground source heat pumps would save over $1,100. In rural parts of the state with no natural gas distribution network where homes instead burn propane, new homes equipped with heat pumps could save over $3,670. Statewide, heat pumps in new construction could save households on average $13,975 over 15 years. Tax credits and rebates through programs such as NYS Clean Heat Rebates, the federal Inflation Reduction Act, and the NYS $5,000 geothermal tax credit make heat pumps affordable, and the newly expanded EmPower Plus, combined with other incentives can cover up to 100 percent of heat pump installation costs for low and moderate income families.
Getting off gas and going all electric over the next 30 years is a massive, net-positive jobs creator, creating more than 200,000 new jobs (more than doubling current employment) in the buildings sector. NY State has passed legislation backing utility thermal networks for district heating and cooling with dramatic energy savings.
Background (The Climate Change Superfund Act)
The Climate Change Superfund Act (S.2129 Krueger/A3351 Dinowitz) assesses the largest greenhouse gas emitters to pay $3 billion annually for the next 25 years to offset the expected tens of billions of dollars in expected climate damages that will have to be paid by state taxpayers and ratepayers. It's modeled on the existing toxics superfund law (which deals with land and drinking water contamination) that makes polluters financially responsible for the environmental damages that they have caused. These costs wouldn't fall back on consumers, according to an analysis from the think tank Institute for Policy Integrity at NYU Law.
2022 was a record profit year for big oil, with the top companies' combined profits reaching an astounding $376 billion. Those record profits allowed them to deliver unprecedented returns to shareholders while doing little to address the climate crisis they knew was coming, but did all they could to undermine climate action. Starting in the 1970s, scientists working for Exxon made "remarkably accurate projections of just how much burning fossil fuels would warm the planet." Yet for years, "the oil giant publicly cast doubt on climate science, and cautioned against any drastic move away from burning fossil fuels, the main driver of climate change."
Big Oil is at fault for climate change, and it can certainly afford the costs - which are uniquely necessary - and expensive - in New York. A new report from Rebuild by Design "Atlas of Disaster: New York State'' identifies the impacts of recent climate disasters across New York State at the county level, for the years 2011-2021. The data shows that every single county in New York has experienced a federal climate disaster between 2011-2021, with 16 having five or more disasters during that time. In that decade, more than 100 New Yorkers died as a result of climate-driven disasters. In 2022 that number grew exponentially when Winter Storm Elliot in Buffalo killed 39 people.
In a separate report, Rebuild by Design estimated that the climate costs to New York could be $55 billion by the end of this decade. Furthermore, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimated that it would cost $52 billion to protect NY Harbor alone. And while storms get worse, sea levels are rising and groundwater poses a higher risk of flooding - and we don't even know how much yet. Clearly, New York is facing staggering – and growing – climate costs.
The Climate Change Superfund Act isn't just necessary – it's popular. According to a poll from Data for Progress, 89% of New Yorkers support fossil fuel companies covering at least some of the cost for climate damages. 200+ groups including key labor unions such as DC37 sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Heastie urging them to include the bill in the one house budgets. In their letter, the groups write that the fossil fuel industry should be subject to the state's climate costs since their "decisions led to global warming; justice requires that they-not New York's other taxpayers-be financially responsible for the tragically enormous climate crisis impacts that they created."
Last year, a federal proposal to make polluters pay championed by U.S. Reps Bowman and Nadler (and U.S. Senator Van Hollen, MD) received support from over 40 members of the House of Representatives. But the proposal didn't make it through Congress, and NYS now has the opportunity to step in where the federal government has failed and be the first legislative body to enact such legislation. Three other states - Maryland, Massachusetts, and Vermont - are also considering similar legislation to make climate polluters pay.