State Budget Fails to Address Energy Affordability Burden of LMI Families
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 12, 2023
Media Contact: Claire Wixted, 914-819-3473, email@example.com
ALBANY, NY – On Friday, May 12th, Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas, WE ACT for Environmental Justice, and Ruth McDaniels, an impacted resident, held a press conference to demand that the New York State legislature pass the NY HEAT Act before the end of the legislative session. Low-income households are the most impacted by volatile gas prices and high energy bills, paying three times more of their income on energy bills than non-low income households. The final state budget leaves families in the lurch by failing to address these energy affordability concerns. But the NY HEAT Act is an opportunity for the legislature to correct course. The bill will cap energy bills at 6 percent of household income for low- and middle-income families saving the average low-income family $75 per month, among other cost-saving measures.
“Governor Hochul and the state legislature failed to protect low-income families from sky-high volatile energy prices in the budget. Now, the New York State legislature must make it up to them by passing the NY HEAT Act to cap energy bills for low- and middle-income New Yorkers at 6 percent. That’s $75 in monthly savings for the average low-income household that can go towards groceries, medicine, and rent – nobody should be forced to choose between these basic necessities,” said Sonal Jessel, Director of Policy at WE ACT for Environmental Justice.
“The climate crisis continues to pose an existential threat to New Yorkers across our city and state. Utility costs are skyrocketing, and New Yorkers already struggling to make ends meet are wondering if they will be able to afford to cool their homes in the coming months. Communities of color and low-income communities like the ones I represent in Queens have suffered for too long from our inaction. Not only would the NY HEAT Act redirect State money from costly gas investments toward sustainable, renewable energy, it would also save low and middle income New Yorkers a significant amount of money on utility costs by capping energy bills at 6%. I’m thrilled that the All Electric Buildings Act was included in our final enacted budget, but New York’s transition from fossil fuels won’t be complete until we pass the NY HEAT Act. I join the call of many of my colleagues and advocates today for the legislature to pass, and the Governor to sign into law, the New York HEAT Act before the end of the legislative session,” said New York State Assembly Member Jessica González-Rojas.
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 New York City spends 9.3% of their annual income on energy. 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 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 York electrifies, 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 decarbonize buildings is not complete without NY HEAT. This bill would 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.
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 New York State 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.