Enviro Advocates Outline Specific Goals Ahead of Gov's Budget Proposal
ALBANY, NY (01/30/2023) (readMedia)-- On Wednesday, Governor Hochul will release her executive budget proposal. In anticipation, the Better Buildings NY coalition released the following statement:
"The Governor has stated clear commitments to all-electric new buildings, a guarantee that low- and moderate-income families participating in EmPower+ pay no more than 6% of their income on energy, and a pair of $200 million subsidies to help New Yorkers pay high utility bills and make affordable housing efficient and emissions-free. These proposals will save New Yorkers money, support public health and fight climate change, but we're looking for specific provisions in the budget, namely the All-Electric Buildings Act and the NY Home Energy Affordable Transition (NY HEAT) Act. New Yorkers can't afford to keep spending billions of dollars to subsidize gas infrastructure, while fossil fuel companies drive up energy prices forcing families to choose between eating and heating. We can have the affordable, clean energy future we deserve if the Governor acts now and includes these proposals in her executive budget," said Betta Broad of the Association for Energy Affordability, a member of the BBNY coalition.
Advocates are looking for the Governor to include in her executive budget proposals key provisions in both bills that would:
1) Eliminate the costly utility gas subsidy that makes consumers spend $200 million a year to expand outdated, inefficient energy infrastructure known as the "100ft rule."
2) Allow utilities to invest in neighborhood-scale electrification instead of spending billions on new gas pipes.
3) Guarantee that low- and moderate-income families across the state pay no more than 6% of their income on energy.
The All-Electric New 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.
Last week, 200 advocates and 25 NYS legislators and called on Governor Hochul to uphold her State of the State commitments by including the All Electric Buildings Act (S562A), the NY Home Energy Affordable Transition (NY HEAT) Act (S2016) and the Energy Efficiency, Equity, and Jobs Act (S2469 of 2022) in her Executive Budget, and for the Assembly's support. Before this effort, 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 New 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 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.
Last year, the All-Electric Buildings 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.