Ulster County Exec + Advocates Urge Albany Pass NY HEAT to Save NY Families $75/Month
Lawmakers must act now to protect families from the crush of summer heating costs
KINGSTON, NY (05/26/2023) (readMedia)-- On Friday, May 26th, Ulster County Executive Jen Metzger and advocates called on the state legislature to pass the NY HEAT Act before the end of session. Over the past 7 years in Kingston alone, Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp. has spent $71 million to replace old gas pipes with new ones that will last 85+ years. The NY HEAT Act would enable this money to be redirected into clean, modern, neighborhood scale electrification projects rather than spending more money to expand the fossil 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.
The NY HEAT Act would also cap 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. And with summers getting hotter due to climate change, families are facing even higher costs to stay cool. On top of that, the NY HEAT Act will create huge savings by ending the 100-foot rule which forces everyday New Yorkers to subsidize the expansion of the gas system, costing us $200 million every year. There's no time to wait: a new report from the Building Decarbonization Coalition shows that costs for those who stay on the gas system could rise by tens of thousands per household without this crucial legislation.
"Albany leadership claims affordability is a top priority in the fight against climate change, but the budget didn't do nearly enough for low- and middle- income families with the highest energy burden. With a hot summer ahead, energy bills are only getting higher. The NY HEAT Act will save low- and middle- income families up to $75/month: money for groceries, medicine, and rent. It's time to stop subsidizing the expansion of the gas system and enable a timely, least-cost, equitable transition to clean heating technologies," said Betta Broad, Director of Advocacy and Organizing at the Association for Energy Affordability and Campaign Director, New Yorkers for Clean Power.
"Fortis/Central Hudson needs to take affordability more seriously and it needs to take the threat of climate change more seriously, and the NY HEAT Act will compel the company to do both," said Jen Metzger, Ulster County Executive.
"Existing customers are paying the hundreds of millions of dollars gas utilities spend every year on new gas infrastructure, and billions more are being spent on replacement of leak-prone pipes which are set to become stranded assets. With major headways we made in this year's budget to meet New York's climate goals, such as the passage of the transformative Build Public Renewables Act and the historic All Electric Buildings Act, we must now act urgently to update our public service law to reflect the priorities of our climate law, which is what the NY HEAT Act does. This legislation makes several revisions to New York's utility regulation to ensure that decisions are made with consideration to renewable targets, environmental justice, and utility justice, including the capping of low and moderate income households' energy bills to 6% of their income. I have heard my constituents say that utilities are setup to never fail at the cost of ratepayers who pay, and they are right. It's time we make our energy system work for us. We must pass the NY HEAT Act this session," said Assemblymember Sarahana Shrestha.
55 percent of New York voters are "very concerned" about the cost of their home energy bills. Currently, the average low- and middle- income household in NYC spends 9.3% of their annual income on energy. The NY HEAT act will cap energy bills at 6% of household income for these families, saving them up to $75 per 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 for new customers to the tune of $200 million every year. Plus, it could redirect up to $150 billion by enabling neighborhood-scale electrification projects, money that would otherwise be spent replacing old gas pipes with new gas infrastructure that will become obsolete well before it's paid off by ratepayers.
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 decarbonize buildings is not complete without NY HEAT. This bill will 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 NY Heat Act will help reprioritize fossil fuel infrastructure in New York State while working to lower bills. Here in the City of Kingston, I have prioritized removing fossil fuel systems from our City's municipal buildings because not only does it improve indoor air quality, but it allows us to move toward onsite renewable energy generation and storage for our energy needs," said Kingston Mayor Steve Noble.
"Thermal Energy Networks will deliver equitable and affordable heating and COOLING to NYers. Utilities can rely on the same UNION workforce that has maintained our gas system to carefully transition entire neighborhoods to a cleaner, efficient system that provides both heating and COOLING. The NY HEAT act will allow for all technologies to compete fairly on a level playing field while New York transitions to the most efficient, affordable and cost effective heating and cooling for everyone no matter what income level or location.There's no time to waste. The technology is ready and waiting. Let's pass the NY HEAT act," said John Rath, NY-GEO Director of Operations.
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 will 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.