ALBANY, NY (06/06/2023) (readMedia)-- This evening, the Senate voted to pass NY HEAT. NY HEAT will reduce utility bills by eliminating gas subsidies and capping energy bills at 6% for low- and middle- income families, saving them up to $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. Summers are getting hotter due to climate change, and all families are facing even higher costs to stay cool. With utilities proposing rate hikes, the legislature must act now to make energy more affordable for all New Yorkers.
The NY HEAT Act will also save New York families money by ending the 100-foot rule which forces every day New Yorkers to subsidize the expansion of the gas system to the tune of more than $200 million every year. There's no time to wait. In March, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned the planet is quickly approaching a critical threshold for global warming. We must take rapid, robust action to curb the combustion of gas and other fossil fuels to prevent the worst effects of climate change.
"As we head into a hot, expensive summer, we applaud the Senate for passing NY HEAT and taking the crucial step to protect New Yorkers from volatile energy prices. Now, it's up to the Assembly to finish the job and save low- and middle-income families up to $75/month on their energy bills, rather than letting them sweat it out. That's money that could go to groceries, medicine, and rent. Passing the All-Electric Building Act this year was historic, but that alone won't secure an affordable, energy future for the Black and brown communities most affected by climate change. The work is not complete without NY HEAT," said Annie Carforo, Climate Justice Campaigns Manager at WE ACT for Environmental Justice and a member of the Better Buildings New York coalition.
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 heating 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 up to $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 Yorkers leave the gas system for more cost-effective, climate-friendly alternatives, 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 delineated 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 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 metro area for low-income families and 200% of the federal poverty level income of $27,180 for a one person household.