NY HEAT Act Could Deliver Big Savings for Hudson Valley Families

AM Sarahana Shrestha, Sen. Michelle Hinchey, Ulster County Executive Jen Metzger, and Claire Cousin of the Columbia County Board of Legislators highlight new tool with advocates, residents to show energy savings for Hudson Valley families; Group urges Speaker Heastie to include NY HEAT in 2024 Budget as bill gains momentum in Legislature

KINGSTON, NY (02/15/2024) (readMedia)-- Today, Assembly Members Sarahana Shrestha, Sen. Michelle Hinchey, Ulster County Executive Jen Metzger, and Claire Cousin of the Columbia County Board of Legislators held a press conference with Hudson Valley residents and advocates to highlight a new calculator tool that shows New Yorkers how much they could save on their monthly utility bills if Assembly Speaker Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Stewart Cousins pass the NY HEAT Act (A4592B/S2016B) in this year's budget.

As Central Hudson begins phasing in nearly 20% gas rate hikes that would total up to $30 more each month by July 2024, NY lawmakers have an opportunity to deliver urgently needed relief by passing the HEAT Act, which would curb future rate increases and put a limit on household utility bills to 6% of a family's income. This would have a major positive impact on Hudson Valley families, according to a new one-pager from Win Climate:

  • Nearly 1 in 4 Hudson Valley residents are energy burdened, meaning they pay more than 6% of their monthly income on utility costs.
  • That's up to $162/mo in savings every month!

Governor Hochul embraced key parts of the HEAT Act in her Executive Budget proposal, the Senate passed the bill last year, and the bill has majority support from the Assembly. Advocates are calling on Assembly Speaker Heastie to include the full bill in the chamber's one-house budget.

See the calculator tool here.

Watch the presser here.

"Ratepayers across the state are getting hit with high energy bills, and that's not just on the supply side, it's also on the delivery side, which is what investor-owned utilities like Central Hudson are responsible for. Ulster County has the second highest energy burden in the Hudson Valley, with 32% of ratepayers paying more than 6% of their income on their bill. While I welcome the Governor's inclusion of parts of the NY Heat Act in her Executive Budget proposal, which would align utilities to our commitment of not investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure, we're rallying now to ensure that the 6% cap on utility bills is also included. In our Assembly district, Central Hudson's gas infrastructure exists primarily in the City of Kingston, where the average ??utility arrear has almost tripled since 2019, and our goal should be to get Kingston off gas and onto clean and affordable energy altogether," said Assemblymember Sarahana Shrestha.

"We are in a Climate Crisis, and expanding climate-damaging fracked gas infrastructure is both unsustainable and keeps us beholden to uncontrollable and unaffordable supply-side rate hikes. The NY HEAT Act is not just a climate solution; it's an affordability solution that will pave the way for an equitable clean energy transition and the utility relief people deserve. It's time we pass the NY HEAT Act, and I'll continue fighting for its inclusion in the State Budget," said Senator Michelle Hinchey.

"I was proud to help pass the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act when I was in the State Senate, and as Ulster County Executive I am committed to meeting the law's important goals for clean, affordable energy. But we simply cannot get there as long as utilities rely on business-as-usual practices that harm the environment and burden folks with unreasonable costs, like the nearly 20% rate hike for gas service proposed by Fortis-Central Hudson. I want to thank Senator Hinchey and Assembly Member Shrestha for championing the NY Heat Act, and thank Governor Hochul for incorporating some key provisions of this legislation in her 2025 Executive Budget. I urge the Governor and Legislature to work in earnest in the coming month to pass a budget that includes the NY Heat Act in full, holds utilities accountable, and puts our communities on a more sustainable and affordable energy path," said Ulster County Executive Jen Metzger.

"I don't have to tell you that we are in a climate crisis. But this moment is also a social Justice emergency. Quality of life is at stake. I know first-hand how expensive utilities can become, like so many working-class people, I've had my lights cut off multiple times. My kids suffer from asthma and have to rush inside when the air quality degrades. The climate crisis affects all of us, and we're running out of time. Fossil fuel lobbyists have the ear of too many politicians who are supposed to be looking out for our environment and working people. We need bold, immediate action to tackle the climate crisis and energy affordability, and that requires bold leaders who are willing to say we need to get the NY HEAT Act over the finish line as fast as possible," said Columbia County First Ward Supervisor Claire Cousin.

The NY HEAT Act will provide critical relief for Hudson Valley residents and New Yorkers statewide. According to a Siena Poll, 8 in 10 New Yorkers across party lines agree that the high cost of living in New York is a major problem. Higher energy costs, exacerbated by double-digit rate hikes not just from Central Hudson, but also from National Grid, ConEd, RG&E, NYSEG, National Fuel Gas, and O&R, only exacerbate the cost of living problem.

The NY HEAT Act will stop the expansion of the dirty, outdated, fracked gas system to protect the climate. In addition to cost savings detailed above, the bill gets rid of the unfair 100-foot rule, which forces New York families to subsidize new gas hookups to the tune of $200 million every year while accelerating fossil fuel-generated climate change that supercharges storms, floods, and wildfires – turning the sky orange and the air toxic – and drives deadly extreme heat and cold.

"Speaker Heastie must stand with Hudson Valley families struggling to keep up with mounting utility bills by including the NY HEAT Act in the Assembly One House budget. New Yorkers are currently funding climate chaos, and we've had enough," said Emily Skydel, Senior New York Organizer at Food & Water Watch.

"Every dollar spent on expanding the dangerous and destructive gas system is a ridiculous waste of money. We need to be investing in clean energy and energy efficiency solutions that will benefit people today while cutting emissions. The NY HEAT Act is the legislation that will start to move us in the right direction. The inclusion of this bill in the NYS budget should be the legislature's top climate and energy priority," said Betta Broad, Campaign Director of New Yorkers for Clean Power, and Director of Advocacy at the Association for Energy Affordability.

About Food & Water Watch

Food & Water Watch is a national advocacy organization that mobilizes people to build political power to move bold and uncompromised solutions to the most pressing food, water and climate problems of our time. We work to protect people's health, communities and democracy from the growing destructive power of the most powerful economic interests.

*Researchers calculated average monthly savings under the HEAT Act by using Census data to look at average utility bill costs against the average income of the second quintile of household income in different Hudson Valley community districts.