On Day Five of the Smoke Bomb, State Assembly Fails to Protect New Yorkers from Climate-Killing Fossil Fuels

NY HEAT Act Dies in the “People’s House” as New Yorkers Choke on Poisonous Smoke


June 10, 2023
Media Contact: Claire Wixted, 914-819-3473, claire@pythiapublic.com


ALBANY, NY – After five days of wildfire smoke enveloping the Northeast, the State Assembly failed to pass the NY Home Energy Affordable Transition (HEAT) Act, leaving New Yorkers to choke through another hot, broke summer. The Senate passed the bill on Tuesday.

“Black and brown families are exposed to disproportionate amounts of air pollution every day, which contributes to adverse health impacts ranging from asthma to heart disease and even premature death. They will face greater health impacts from living in a shroud of toxic smoke for the past five days from wildfires fueled by the climate crisis, all while the Assembly and Governor continue to stand with the oil and gas industry instead of passing the NY HEAT Act, which would reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and save New Yorkers up to $75 per month on their energy bills,” said Annie Carforo, Climate Justice Campaigns Manager at WE ACT for Environmental Justice and a member of the Better Buildings New York coalition. “We thank Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins and Senate Sponsor Liz Krueger for standing with New York’s communities of color, who will bear the greatest consequences from the Assembly’s inaction.”

NY HEAT, which garnered memos of support from more than 100 organizations, finished the legislative session with 64 Assembly co-sponsors, and was an end of session priority for the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislative Caucus, but Assembly Leadership refused to bring it to a vote.

During the “Smoke Bomb”, NYC hospitals saw almost double the asthma-related emergency room visits as the previous week, a visceral reminder that the climate emergency is also a health emergency. NY HEAT would accelerate New York’s transition off the climate-killing fossil fuels that increase greenhouse gas emissions and cause public health and environmental crises like this fossil-fueled fog. It would also save low and middle income families money – up to $75/month – on their energy bills by capping them at 6% of income. 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 New Yorkers $200 million annually by ending the 100-foot rule, which forces every day New Yorkers to subsidize the expansion of the gas system.

NY HEAT could also redirect money that would otherwise be spent on replacing old gas pipes that will become obsolete well before they’re paid off by ratepayers. Up to $150 billion of New Yorkers’ money would instead go toward neighborhood-scale, clean electrification projects to make homes healthier and more comfortable. – In fact, a new report from the Building Decarbonization Coalition shows that as New York electrifies heating and hot water, 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 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 nearly all buildings by 2050.

Background on the NY HEAT Act
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 percent of income on electricity bills for low- and middle-income families to ensure energy stays affordable.

Crucially, the NY HEAT Act will do away with the unfair 100-foot rule, which sticks everyday New Yorkers with the bill for gas hookups in new buildings totaling $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.”

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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.

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