WE ACT Applauds New York State Senate for Including Energy Affordability in One-House Budget

Welcomes New York State Assembly Support of Energy Affordability But Concerned About the Efficacy and Urgency of Its Approach

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 12, 2024
Contact: Chris Dobens, 718-679-8542, chris@weact.org

 

ALBANY, NY — Both the New York State Senate and Assembly released their one-house budgets today. The Senate’s proposal has the full New York Home Energy Affordable Transition (NY HEAT) Act, including exciting language to cap energy bills at 6 percent of household income – a bold move to address the energy burden felt by millions of New Yorkers, including the 1.4 million disadvantaged New Yorkers who struggled to pay their energy bills this winter. The Assembly has shown their desire to cap energy burdens at 6 percent by codifying this promise and proposing $200 million in funding for the energy affordability programs, like last year. However, we are disappointed to see the State Assembly fail to include the full version of the NY HEAT Act, which has stronger language on affordability that can realistically get households to energy affordability and and would eliminate the 100-foot rule, stopping utilities from building unnecessary gas infrastructure and forcing New Yorkers to pay them at more than $200 million every year.

“We thank the Senate and Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins for listening to the concerns New Yorkers have about energy affordability and including a recommendation that aims to provide a 6-percent cap for low-income utility-paying customers,” said Sonal Jessel, Director of Policy at WE ACT for Environmental Justice. “We also thank Speaker of the Assembly Carl Heastie for stating the importance of energy affordability for low-income New Yorkers. However, we are concerned about the process proposed by the Assembly, as we do not see it achieving the stated goal of a 6-percent cap as the provisions in the NY HEAT Act would. Forming another working group and developing another report seems more like a delaying tactic to appease the fossil fuel industry whereas the language in the NY HEAT Act will provide a far more effective solution to address energy affordability. We would rather see the Assembly join their Senate colleagues – who thankfully put both elements of the NY HEAT Act in their budget, including the 100-foot rule – in negotiating with the Governor to ensure that funding for the full NY HEAT Act is in the State’s final budget.”

It is important to note that the cost of energy doesn’t impact everyone equally. Disadvantaged New Yorkers – particularly people of color and low-income – face the greatest burden because they are required to spend, on average, a disproportionate amount of their household income on energy bills. On top of that, they are more likely to live in older, less energy-efficient homes that require more energy to heat and cool – raising their energy bills even higher. And the situation will only get worse as the climate crisis brings even more extreme weather to our state.

“Energy affordability remains a huge concern for New Yorkers. The Senate has shown leadership in addressing the problem, and the Assembly has shown an interest in doing so, albeit in a flawed way,” added Jessel. “We now urge both houses to pressure the Governor to put the full NY HEAT Act in the State’s budget, to ensure that New Yorkers of color and low-income don’t have to make the hard choices between paying their utilities bills or putting food on the table. Doing so will not only address the concerns millions of New Yorkers have about energy affordability, but it will also help keep New York on track to meet its climate goals.”

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WE ACT for Environmental Justice is a Northern Manhattan membership-based organization whose mission is to build healthy communities by ensuring that people of color and/or low-income residents participate meaningfully in the creation of sound and fair environmental health and protection policies and practices. WE ACT has offices in New York and Washington, D.C. Visit us at weact.org and follow us on FacebookTwitter/X, and Instagram.

 

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