The NY HEAT Act Is the Answer to U.S. Climate Alliance Commitments
Advocates respond to Governor Hochul's commitment to eliminate climate-warming emissions from buildings
NEW YORK, NY (09/21/2023) (readMedia)-- This morning, Governor Hochul, with the U.S. Climate Alliance, announced new commitments to eliminate emissions from buildings and expand heat pump installations. Lisa Marshall, Advocacy and Organizing Director at New Yorkers for Clean Power, a member organization of Better Buildings New York issued the following statement:
"After this hot, flooded, and toxic air-filled summer, Governor Hochul's commitments with the U.S. Climate Alliance to eliminate carbon emissions from buildings is exactly what we need to face the climate crisis head on. Fortunately, the Governor has a bill sitting right in front of her that can get us there. The NY HEAT Act will get New York off the dirty, outdated fracked gas system that's driving climate change and save the families and seniors who need it most up to $75 on their monthly bills. In order to truly commit to an affordable clean energy future, Governor Hochul must put the NY HEAT Act in her executive budget."
The NY HEAT Act would save low and middle income families money – up to $75/month – on their energy bills so they don't spend more than 6% of their income for energy. That's significant savings for families that already spend three times more of their income on energy bills than other households. The bill would save all gas customers in New York $200 million annually by ending the 100-foot rule, which forces every day New Yorkers to subsidize the expansion of the gas system. It will also allow utilities to redirect an estimated $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 that will free rate payers from volatile price spikes driven by reliance on fossil fuels. By ending the 100-foot rule and other important provisions that would help New York get off gas, the NY HEAT Act would accelerate New York's transition off climate-killing fossil fuels. This summer, New Yorkers felt the impact of climate change more than ever, experiencing public health and environmental crises like extreme heat, flooding, and wildfire smoke.
Extreme weather defined summer 2023 in New York. Early September's three-day heat wave sent temperatures 20 degrees higher than usual. July and August were the planet's hottest months on record. Heat kills about 350 New Yorkers each year, with Black New Yorkers more than twice as likely to die from heat as white residents. This number will likely rise as climate change worsens. And according to research covered in the New York Times, heat waves across the United States would have been 'virtually impossible' without the influence of human-caused climate change.
It's not just extreme heat costing New Yorkers' lives and wallets because of climate change. New Yorkers choked on toxic air several times throughout this summer thanks to smoke from the Canadian wildfires. During the first 'Smoke Bomb,' NYC ERs saw double the usual amount of asthma visits. And earlier in July, Assembly Member Sarahana Shrestha held a press conference at the Rhinecliff Amtrak Station, demanding the Assembly pass the NY HEAT Act following the devastating flooding in the Hudson Valley. The torrential rainfall with 9 inches of rain in over 24 hours killed an Orange County resident. It also knocked out Amtrak and Metro-North service for three days and completely washed away highways, making it impossible for people to get to work. The damage from the flooding is estimated to cost over $35 million.
The NY HEAT Act passed the Senate at the end of last session, and momentum around the bill, which now has 70 co-sponsors in the Assembly, continued all summer. Throughout August, more than 30 lawmakers participated in the "Hot, Broke Summer" ice cream tour across NYC, handing ice cream out to their constituents, talking about energy savings and climate change, and building support for the bill.
In 2022 and 2023, NY HEAT was blocked by campaigns financed by the fossil fuel industry. In 2023, the utility National Fuel Gas used ratepayer money to finance a campaign against building electrification. And in 2022, a campaign financed by the fossil fuel industry that spread disinformation and lies derailed the bill. The industry has 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 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 zero emissions 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.