Assembly Member Shrestha to Gov Hochul: We Cannot Delay Climate Legislation, Commit to NY HEAT Now

Climate change supercharged storms shut down Amtrak, washed away HV roads, and killed one Orange County resident

RHINECLIFF, NY (07/14/2023) (readMedia)-- After climate change-supercharged torrential rainfall shut down Amtrak service, washed away Hudson Valley roads and bridges, and killed an Orange County resident, Assembly Member Sarahana Shrestha and advocates held a press conference to call on the Assembly to commit to passing the NY HEAT Act and push Governor Hochul to include it in the 2024 executive budget.

Watch the press conference here.

"For every 1.8°F the atmosphere warms, it holds an estimated 7% more moisture," said Assemblymember Sarahana Shrestha. "That means, accelerating climate change creates intense rainfalls, increases the frequency of severe storms, and subjects areas previously not considered a flood zone to severe flooding, like we saw in the Hudson Valley. New York State made a breakthrough this year by passing critical climate legislation such as the Build Public Renewables Act and the All-Electric Buildings Act, but we don't have time to waste on passing other important climate legislation, such as the NY Heat Act. I urge the Governor to consider the urgency of the climate crisis and include the NY Heat Act in next year's Executive Budget."

"The NY HEAT Act includes determined and impactful initiatives to fight the climate crisis now. Most notably, it removes the 100-foot subsidy that incentivizes gas line expansion, and also will protect ratepayers with low incomes from shouldering too much of the transition costs to sustainable energy sources. This summer's severe, climate-change fueled storms and record-breaking heat are telling us to enact this legislation in a hurry," said Senator Peter Harckham, Chair of the NYS Senate Environmental Conservation Committee.

"Our reliance on fossil fuels is already having devastating, material impacts on our lives and livelihoods. This week's flooding destroyed roads, shut down transportation for days, and took at least one life. We need real climate action, which means stopping the expansion of the dirty fracked gas system that's causing climate change and supercharging storms. Governor Hochul and the NYS Assembly must commit to passing the NY HEAT Act now to save money and save lives," said Amber Ruther, Organizing Coordinator at Alliance for a Green Economy, a member group of the Better Buildings NY Coalition.

Governor Hochul and the Assembly left Albany earlier this summer with the NY HEAT Act still on the table, which would accelerate New York's transition off the fossil fuels that supercharge weather events like storms, extreme heat, and wildfires. The bill passed the Senate and already has 65 co-sponsors in the Assembly.

The torrential rainfall with 9 inches of rain in over 24 hours shut down Amtrak and Metro North service for 72 hours. Roads including Route 218 are still closed, and more severe storms are expected through Tuesday. The damage from the flooding is estimated to cost over $35 million. Governor Hochul called weather emergencies like this "our new normal," and called on New Yorkers to use "every bit of our power" to "fight the ravages of climate change." But she has not yet committed to fighting the ravages of climate change by curbing New York's dependence on fossil fuels and putting NY HEAT in the 2024 executive budget.

"NY HEAT would have been a game-changer to further energy affordability and address climate change in New York State. In the absence of this law, fossil fuel companies are spreading misinformation about renewable energy and continuing to expand their reach throughout the state, making it harder for us to take the action our communities need to thrive now and in the future. And they are using ratepayer dollars to do it, which is completely unacceptable. I want lower costs and cleaner air for my constituents. NY HEAT must be a priority in the future - there is not a moment to waste," said Assembly Member Dana Levenberg.

"Climate change is exacerbating more rapidly than previously predicted. We are truly in the global climate emergency and need to act accordingly by transitioning away from fossil fuels to a renewable energy economy with storage and efficiency. Not sometime in the future -- now! Passing NY HEAT is an urgently needed climate solution for New York," said Ulster County Legislator Manna Jo Greene.

"As mothers and others who care about the environment, we need our leaders to pass the NY HEAT Act so we can start building the world we want our children and our children's children to live in. Now is the time to expand energy efficient and renewable energy options for all New Yorkers, but especially low-income families who bear the brunt of high energy costs, spending three times more on energy bills than other families. The NY HEAT Act will cap utility bills for low and middle income families at 6% of their income, saving families up to $75 a month! That's more money to spend on food, rent, and medicine," said Caroline Fenner of Mothers Out Front Dutchess County.

"New York Geothermal Energy Organization members include drillers, installers, laborers, engineers, designers, and HVAC professionals. We know geothermal heating and cooling is the most efficient and pollution free way to heat and cool buildings. Now we need a level playing field, free from the 100 foot rule that provides subsidized gas hook-ups, to make this technology the most affordable and equitable. The NY HEAT act will do just that," said John Rath, Director of Operations for NY-GEO.

"Climate change isn't a hypothetical. It isn't something just for future generations to worry about. Climate change is happening right here and right now. Last week's torrential rain and subsequent flooding turned roads into rubble, shut down train tracks, and tragically, took at least one life. The NY Legislature and Governor Hochul must pass the NY HEAT Act. The bill will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and cap utility bills. It will save lives and save New Yorkers money. Let's get it done!" said Daniel Atonna, Political Coordinator of For the Many.


The New York State Assembly failed to bring the NY HEAT Act to a vote during the 2023 legislative session, despite the fact that the bill has 65 co-sponsors in the Democratic conference. The Senate passed the bill.

The NY HEAT Act would accelerate New York's transition off the climate-killing fossil fuels that increase greenhouse gas emissions, and cause public health and environmental crises like this fossil-fueled flood and the ongoing air quality crisis due to unprecedented wildfires in Canada. It would also save low and middle income families money – up to $75/month – on their energy bills by capping them at 6% of income. That's a significant savings for families that already spend three times more of their income on energy bills than other households. The bill would save all New Yorkers $200 million annually by ending the 100-foot rule that forces every day New Yorkers to subsidize the expansion of the gas system. 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.

A report from the Building Decarbonization Coalition finds that every new mile of a gas pipeline costs customers an average of $6 million - that's $60,000 per customer on that line! But a new memo from Alliance for a Green Economy shows how NY HEAT would redirect money NYS is already spending on costly gas investments toward climate-friendly solutions, while saving money for hardworking New Yorkers.

Last year, NY HEAT (formerly known as the Gas Transition and Affordable Energy 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 still 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."

About Better Buildings New York (BBNY)

BBNY is a network of organizations working for the equitable decarbonization of homes and buildings in New York State. We are committed to environmental justice and a just transition to all-electric homes and buildings.

*$75/month savings calculated using 9.3% average energy burden in the NYC metro area for low-income families and 200% of the federal poverty level income of $27,180 for a one person household.