Electeds, Advocates Push for NY HEAT Act to save NYers $75/month

Lawmakers must act now to protect families from the crush of summer heating costs

SYRACUSE, NY (05/26/2023) (readMedia)-- On Friday, elected officials and advocates gathered outside the State Office Building in Syracuse to demand the New York State Legislature pass the NY HEAT Act before the end of session. The bill will cap energy bills at 6% for low- and middle- income families, saving them an average of $75* per month. These households are the most impacted by volatile gas prices and high energy bills, paying three times more of their income on energy bills than other families. With summers getting hotter due to climate change, these families are facing even higher costs to stay cool. And utilities are proposing rate hikes just in time for the scorching summer ahead: lawmakers must pass NY HEAT to make energy more affordable for all families.

The NY HEAT Act will also save local families big by ending the 100-foot rule which forces every day New Yorkers to subsidize the expansion of the gas system – a price tag that amounts to $200 million annually. The NY HEAT Act will enable utilities to invest in clean, neighborhood scale electrification projects rather than spending more money to expand the climate crushing gas system. We have to act now: in March, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned the planet is quickly approaching a critical threshold for global warming. We must take quick, drastic action to curb the combustion of gas and other fossil fuels to prevent the worst effects of climate change.

Watch the presser here.

"Right now, everyday New Yorkers are being forced to subsidize the unnecessary expansion of gas infrastructure, and utilities are proposing even higher rates just in time for what's bound to be a scorching summer. To make matters worse, Albany lawmakers did nothing to relieve outrageous energy costs for the most impacted families. The legislature must act now to address these issues by bringing the NY HEAT Act for a vote before the end of session. This bill will save low- and middle- income New Yorkers $75/month. That's money for groceries, rent, and medicine. No one should have to choose between cooling and eating," said Renee Vogelsang, New York Director at Frack Action.

"Too many New Yorkers are struggling with their gas bills as high fuel prices make it unaffordable to heat homes. I'm fighting to pass the New York Home Energy Affordable Transition (NY HEAT) Act to tackle this issue and provide much-needed relief (A.4592-A). This legislation would save families money by capping utility bills at 6% of the income of low- and moderate-income households'. Additionally, the bill prevents utility companies from building new natural gas hookups to generate electricity. As New York transitions to more safe, affordable, and sustainable forms of energy, the NY HEAT Act will protect families' well-being, rather than the profits of fossil fuel suppliers," said Assemblymember Al Stirpe.

"Our members, even folks on our board, know what it is like to live paycheck to paycheck, and one utility bill from an unusually hot summer or cold winter month can be financially crippling. With a cap at 6% of income for low-and-moderate households, having to choose between eating or freezing to death in the harsh Upstate New York winters can become a thing of the past for those with the most need. Let's make this happen for everyone who has ever had to face the dehumanizing decision of having to choose between eating and having energy in their home," said Sam Eschenbrenner, Syracuse Cooperative Federal Credit Union.

55 percent 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.

"The legislature has less than three weeks to pass the NY HEAT Act," said Chet Guenther, CNY Community Outreach Director with NYPIRG. "Passing the NY HEAT will enable a timely transition to lower-cost, neighborhood-scale clean energy projects that will save all customers money."

"Gas utilities like NYSEG and National Grid are spending hundreds of millions of dollars each year on building new gas pipelines," said Lisa Marshall, Director of Advocacy and Organizing, New Yorkers for Clean Power. "They're hiking up our rates to pay for them. This is an absurd waste of our money which should be used to invest in the sustainable home energy technologies of the future such as heat pumps and thermal energy networks. Worse still, the households paying the most, relatively speaking, are those least able to pay, seniors on social security and single moms struggling to keep food on the table. The NY HEAT Act will save us all money while putting us solidly on a path to clean heating and cooling."

"It seems like every few months, another utility announces another exorbitant rate hike," said Jessica Azulay, Executive Director of Alliance for a Green Economy. "Will Albany pass the NY HEAT Act and finally get these exorbitant bills under control? Or will they let the most vulnerable New Yorkers spend another year having to worry about paying rising gas prices every time we turn on the heat?"

"Thermal Energy Networks will deliver equitable and affordable heating and COOLING, utilities can rely on the same UNION workforce that has maintained our gas systems and easily transition entire neighborhoods to an efficient system that will provide heating and COOLING. The NY HEAT act will allow for all technologies such as Thermal Energy Networks to provide affordable and cost effective heating and cooling for everyone no matter what income level or location. The time is now, the technology is ready, pass the NY HEAT act," said Kevin Moravec, President Barney Moravec, Inc, Van Hee Mechanical, Board Member NY-GEO.


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 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 area for low-income families and 200% of the federal poverty level income of $27,180 for a one person household.