ALBANY, NY (06/05/2023) (readMedia)-- Today, 70 local elected officials from across NYS are sending a letter to Albany leadership, urging them to pass NY HEAT before the end of session. NY HEAT will cap energy bills at 6% for low- and middle- income families – the households most impacted by volatile gas prices and high energy bills – saving them an average of $75* per month. With utilities proposing rate hikes and oil prices soaring, local lawmakers are calling on the State Legislature to act now to make energy more affordable for all New Yorkers.
The letter reads: "We, the undersigned local elected officials who collectively represent millions of New Yorkers across the state, ask for your support on the NY HEAT Act (S.2016 Krueger & May/A.4592 Fahy), critical legislation that will reduce energy costs for our constituents who need it most and support an affordable transition to a clean energy infrastructure system in New York."
Read the letter attached and below.
"Utility rate hikes that subsidize expanding gas service flies in the face of our climate goals and increases the financial burden on New York families. The NY HEAT act will advance our climate goals and keep costs down for New Yorkers, by capping utility bills at 6% of income for low and middle income families. Passing this act is an important step towards a just transition away from a fossil-fuel based economy," said NYC Comptroller Brad Lander.
55% of New York voters are "very concerned" about the cost of their home energy bills. Low- and middle- income New Yorkers are the most impacted by volatile gas prices and high energy bills, on average paying 9.3% of their income on energy bills – three times more than other households. NY HEAT capping utility bills at 6% would be a gamechanger for families across the state, saving them on average $75/month.* On top of these savings, the NY HEAT Act gets rid of the unfair 100 foot rule, which forces New Yorkers to pay for subsidized gas hookups, adding up to a whopping $200 million every year. Plus, NY HEAT could redirect up to $150 billion of New Yorkers' money toward neighborhood-scale, clean electrification projects – money that would otherwise be spent on replacing old gas pipes with new infrastructure that will become obsolete well before it's paid off by ratepayers. In fact, a new report from the Building Decarbonization Coalition shows that as New York electrifies, families who are left behind on the gas system could see their gas bills rise by thousands of dollars if we don't pass NY HEAT.
The final budget included the first-in-the-nation All Electric Building Act, which will require new buildings in New York to use efficient electric heating and appliances starting in 2026. But the work to clean up our buildings and save New York families money is not complete without NY HEAT. This bill would lay the legal and regulatory foundation for an affordable transition off fossil/methane gas as recommended in the state's Climate Action Scoping Plan. To reach New York's climate goals, and dramatically reduce air pollution, the state needs to electrify most buildings by 2050.
"Fortis/Central Hudson needs to take affordability more seriously and it needs to take the threat of climate change more seriously, and the NY HEAT Act will compel the company to do both," said Jen Metzger, Ulster County Executive.
"The NY Heat Act will help reprioritize fossil fuel infrastructure in New York State while working to lower bills. Here in the City of Kingston, I have prioritized removing fossil fuel systems from our City's municipal buildings because not only does it improve indoor air quality, but it allows us to move toward onsite renewable energy generation and storage for our energy needs," said Kingston Mayor Steve Noble.
"The budget failed to address energy affordability concerns for low-income New Yorkers most affected by volatile gas prices. Our existing gas based system is incredibly expensive for everyone. The NY HEAT Act would end the 100-foot rule which forces every day New Yorkers to pay $200 million EVERY YEAR to expand outdated gas infrastructure," said Albany County Legislator Sam Fein (D-6th District).
"NY HEAT represents a critical component to meeting the goals set forth in the CLCPA. Resources must be made available for all households in New York for the equitable transition off fossil fuels and onto renewable heating and cooling. Lawmakers in Albany must act now to keep energy clean and affordable," said Robin Wilt, Council Member, Town of Brighton.
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.
A new 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 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 area for low-income families and 200% of the federal poverty level income of $27,180 for a one person household.
Dear Governor Hochul, Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Heastie:
We, the undersigned local elected officials who collectively represent millions of New Yorkers across the state, ask for your support on the NY HEAT Act (S.2016 Krueger & May/A.4592 Fahy), critical legislation that will reduce energy costs for our constituents who need it most and support an affordable transition to a clean energy infrastructure system in New York.
This bill, recommended by the Climate Action Council, aligns public service law with the climate law, halts ratepayer subsidies for expanding gas service, allows utilities to invest in thermal energy networks and caps utility bills at 6% of income for low and moderate income households. This utility bills cap provision alone would put an average of $1,000 back into the wallets of low and middle income New Yorkers every year.
Additionally, the NY HEAT Act repeals the unfair 100-foot rule, which forces New Yorkers to pay for free/subsidized gas hookups for new customers to the tune of $200 million every year, on top of costly rate hikes currently being requested from utilities like National Grid.
A recent study found that gas infrastructure is costing rate payers $6 million per mile and undermining the Climate Law in New York that requires us to phase out nearly all gas use by 2050. NY HEAT is critical for the transition to a clean energy infrastructure system while reducing the cost burden on rate payers.
In Summary, the NY HEAT Act will:
We applaud New York's leadership in passing a law to go all-electric in new construction starting in 2026 and 2029. The transition to all-electric homes is critical if we are to meet our greenhouse gas reduction goals and protect public health.
Now, we must pass NY HEAT which is vital for making energy healthier, safer and more affordable for New York residents. We look forward to your swift action on this matter this session to help our municipalities and constituents.
Jen Metzger, County Executive, Ulster County
Brad Lander, Comptroller, New York City
Mary Lupien, Vice President, Councilor, City of Rochester
William Reinhardt, Legislator, Albany County
Katelyn Kriesel, Councilor, Town of Manlius
Maureen Cunningham, Councilor, Town of Bethlehem
Aviva Friedman, Councilor, City of Binghamton
Anne Koreman, Legislator, Tompkins County
Dan Aymar-Blair, Councilor, City of Beacon
Sam Fein, Legislator, Albany County
Heather Waters, Councilor, Town of Manlius
Heather McCarty, Councilor, Town of Newfield
Susan Hughes-Smith, Legislator, Monroe County
Rachel Barnhart, Legislator, Monroe County
Mark Witmer, Supervisor, Town of Caroline
Mercedes Vazquez Simmons, Legislator, Monroe County
Debra Gitterman, Trustee, Village of Philmont
Mary Bouchard, Councilor, Town of Ulysses
Claire Cousin, Supervisor, Columbia County
Kamal Johnson, Mayor, City of Hudson
Nick Page, Legislator, Dutchess County
Carolyn Delvecchio Hoffman, Legislator, Monroe County
Linda Hasman, Legislator, Monroe County
Elaine Denton, Councilor, Town of Manlius
Dan Lamb, Deputy Supervisor, Town of Dryden
Stanley Martin, Councilor, City of Rochester
Jared T Rodriguez, Trustee, Village of Sleepy Hollow
Ben Darfler, Trustee, Village of Trumansburg
Mary Kuhn, Legislator, Onondaga County
Steve Noble, Mayor, City of Kingston
Stana Weisburd, Trustee, Village of New Paltz
Kevindaryan Lujan, Legislator, Orange County
Robin Wilt, Councilor, Town of Brighton
Eric Stewart, Legislator, Ulster County
Jorge Guadron, Councilor, Town of Islip
Klaus Proemm, Trustee, Village of Canton
Catherine Parker, Legislator, Westchester County
Tom Wood, Councilor, Town of Plattsburgh
Genesis Ramos, Legislator, Orange County
Matthew Miller, Legislator, Albany County
Ramona Monteverde, Councilor, City of Newburgh
Phil Erner, Legislator, Ulster County
Debra Long, Councilor, City of Poughkeepsie
Tim Rogers, Mayor, Village of New Paltz
Megan Deichler, Councilor, City of Poughkeepsie
Joseph Wetmore, Board Member, Town of Lansing
Shahana Hanif, Councilor, New York City
Gale A Brewer, Councilor, New York City
Richard Shapiro, Trustee, Village of Saranac Lake
Alexa Aviles, Councilor, New York City
Lincoln Restler, Councilor, New York City
Nicola Armacost, Mayor, Hastings-on-Hudson
Mary Lambert, Trustee, Hastings-on-Hudson
Dave Long, Legislator, Monroe County
Erika Pierce, Legislator, Westchester County
Deborah Dawson, Legislator, Tompkins County
Shaun Abreu, Councilor, New York City
Carmen De La Rosa, Councilor, New York City
Antonio Reynoso, Borough President, Brooklyn
Vanessa Bertozzi, Trustee, Village of Rhinebeck
Sandy Nurse, Councilor, New York City
Diana Ayala, Deputy Speaker, Councilor, New York City
Beau Harbin, Legislator, Cortland County
Manna Jo Greene, Legislator, Ulster County
Lynn Ruggiero, Councilor, Town of Hyde Park
Pierina Sanchez, Councilor, New York City
Kathleen Kelley-Mackenzie, Councilor, Town of Caroline
Lynne Lekakis, Legislator, Albany County
Owusu Anane, Councilor, City of Albany
Merton D Simpson, Legislator, Albany County