New York is on the verge of becoming the first state from Harlem to Hawaii with a law requiring new buildings to be constructed without fossil fuel systems.
A mandate that will go into effect for smaller buildings in 2026 and larger buildings in 2029. The all-electric new construction requirement, which is included in the final state budget legislation to be voted on this week, was hard won by a multifaceted and tenacious grassroots movement that overcame well-funded disinformation and lobbying campaigns by the gas, propane, and oil industries.
While celebrating the power of the movement that won the all-electric building mandate in the budget, the Renewable Heat Now Campaign is disappointed in Governor Hochul for needlessly delaying the effective date of the all-electric code and for failing to champion the NY Home Energy Affordable Transition (HEAT) Act in budget negotiations.
Even with the all-electric new construction mandate secured, the omission of the NY HEAT Act in the budget means that New Yorkers will see their gas utility bills rise to pay for the ongoing and expensive expansion and maintenance of the aging utility gas system.
National Grid on Friday, for example, filed a rate increase request last week to raise the bills of its New York City and Long Island gas customers by approximately $30 per month. The enormous increases would pay for over $1.3 billion in gas infrastructure investments proposed for 2024. Over $209 million would subsidize free gas hookups for new customers (despite New York City’s all-electric building mandate, which will go into effect at the end of this year), and almost $400 million is requested for the utility’s contentious “Leak Prone Pipe” replacement program. The economics and the science of the climate crisis make it clear that we should invest in modern thermal energy networks (TENs) and other neighborhood-scale renewable heating solutions rather than burning a toxic combustible fuel.
The Renewable Heat Now Campaign calls on the legislature and Governor Hochul to ensure that the NY HEAT Act passes this year to tackle these costs. NY HEAT will stop forcing existing gas customers to subsidize free new hookups costing hundreds of millions of dollars annually, and it would usher in new requirements for gas utilities to avoid expensive gas investments by providing more cost-effective and climate-friendly services to their customers. The bill would also reduce the energy cost burden for low and moderate income households more directly, by mandating that their energy bills be capped at 6% of household income.
“Governor Hochul needs to stop slow-walking the implementation of the Climate Action Coucil’s Scoping Plan that her own agencies developed and approved just months ago,” said Anshul Gupta of Renewable Heat Now Campaign and Senior Policy Analyst of New Yorkers for Clean Power. “That plan calls for phasing out fossil fuels in new buildings starting in 2025 as well as eliminating the requirement and subsidies for gas service to new customers.”
“Facing big spending from the oil and gas industry on disinformation campaigns to stall climate action, New York will pass a historic law to move new buildings off fossil fuels. We want to thank the bill sponsors and the thousands of young people and others that fought to make this law happen. Unfortunately, the Governor and legislative leaders deferred implementation until 2026, making it all the more difficult to meet fast approaching greenhouse gas emission reduction benchmarks. The NY HEAT Act must be at the top of Albany’s to-do list for the rest of the legislative session,” said Megan Ahearn, Program Director for NYPIRG.
The Senate included the NY HEAT Act in its budget proposal, but the Governor and Assembly did not, making its inclusion in the final budget an uphill battle, which was ultimately unsuccessful. Legislators now have until June 8 when the legislative session ends to pass the NY HEAT Act.
“New Yorkers are already struggling with high bills. If Albany leadership doesn’t pass the NY HEAT Act this year, they’ll be responsible for the sky-high gas bill increases that will keep coming for years,” said Jessica Azulay, Executive Director of Alliance for a Green Economy. “We have cleaner and more cost-effective alternatives to gas, yet year after year we see unnecessary gas investments with the excuse that they are required by law. Albany needs to change the law and require utilities to serve us with the modern, comfortable, and clean heating solutions we deserve.”
A recent study released by the Building Decarbonization Coalition found that gas infrastructure is becoming increasingly expensive, costing rate payers nearly $6 million per mile, once all costs are accounted for. A recent analysis by Synapse found that leak prone pipe replacements will cost NY gas utility customers $150 billion, which works out to an average of approximately $35,000 for every gas customer in the state. The NY HEAT Act would provide options for investing in more cost-effective neighborhood-scale decarbonization.
“The NY HEAT Act is the most important energy affordability bill being considered in Albany this year,” said Danielle Strle, a volunteer leader for Win Climate. “We simply cannot afford for legislators to go home before they pass this bill to get gas heating costs under control and ensure our gas utilities adhere to our climate law.”
“Year after year, communities across New York continuously exhaust themselves organizing against gross expansions of fossil fuels that are contrary to public safety and the CLCPA,” said Kim Fraczek, Director of Sane Energy Project. “Governor Hochul had the chance to include the NY HEAT bill in the state budget that would update our aged law to stop this insanity, but it is clear she chose fossil fuel lobbyists over us, so now it is time to turn up the heat in the legislature to pass this crucial law.”
“New Yorkers have faced unaffordable energy bills during and after the pandemic, and passing the NY HEAT Act is the single most effective way legislators have to address this. By failing to pass it, Governor Hochul has shown whose side she is on, and it’s not ratepayers,” said Adam Flint, Director of Clean Energy Programs for the Network for a Sustainable Tomorrow. “Legislators must show the leadership she is lacking by passing this bill before the end of the session, so New Yorkers do not go into yet another winter of investor-owned-utility-driven economic hardship.”
“We are in the midst of an accelerating climate emergency,” said Irene Weiser, coordinator of Fossil Free Tompkins. “We need to stop building new pipelines and put a plan in place to safely and strategically move people off of gas while ensuring that energy costs remain affordable to all. The NY HEAT Act mandates that such a plan is developed. It must be a top priority during the remaining legislative session.”
“Mothers Out Front is glad the All-Electric Building Act will be included in the budget, but disappointed the dates are later than those recommended by the Climate Action Council. There is no time to lose,” said Billii Roberti, Mothers Out Front New York Leadership Team member. “We are discouraged that the governor—a mother and grandmother—does not see the urgency in passing the NY HEAT Act. Gas bills are going up for families and making it harder for them to manage. We need to stop throwing good money after bad by allowing the gas utilities to continue to build out infrastructure and lure homeowners to connect to gas, a bridge to nowhere. We need an orderly transition off gas. Please enact the NY HEAT Act this session.”
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