Governor and Assembly Put Fossil Fuel Interests Ahead of Working-Class New Yorkers in FY25 Budget

 

The New York State Assembly Once Again Blocks Crucial Climate Legislation that Would Lower Energy Bills and End Wasteful Subsidies to Fossil Fuel Companies, Leaving Working-Class New Yorkers Burdened by Energy Debt and Air Pollution

 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 18, 2024
Contact: Chris Dobens, 718-679-8542, chris@weact.org

 

ALBANY, NY — As Earth Day approaches, Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Assembly continue to hide behind pledges of climate leadership while failing to deliver meaningful action for New Yorkers. Both the Governor, and the Assembly, led by Speaker Carl Heastie, walked away from the New York Home Energy Affordable Transition (NY HEAT) Act, which would have reduced our use of fossil fuels, ended wasteful ratepayer subsidies to expand gas infrastructure, and made energy bills more affordable for those who need it the most – including the 1.4 million New Yorkers who struggled to pay their energy bills this winter. While the Senate stood as climate champions for a second year in a row, passing the full NY HEAT Act outside of the budget and fighting for its inclusion, our Assembly members refused to compromise on this critical and widely popular piece of legislation.

“We thank the Senate and Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and our 75 Assembly sponsors who fought so hard, for acting on the concerns New Yorkers have about energy affordability by championing the NY HEAT Act, which would cap utility bills for low-income customers, amend the obligation to serve to allow for the expansion of non-gas alternatives, and eliminate the 100-foot rule to stop utilities from building unnecessary gas infrastructure and forcing New Yorkers to foot the bill,” said Annie Carforo, Climate Justice Campaigns Manager at WE ACT for Environmental Justice. “But Governor Hochul and the 75 Assembly members who refused to sponsor NY HEAT have once again held the financial interests of fossil fuel companies in higher regard than the people who call this state home.

“This budget clearly demonstrates that many of our leaders in Albany are indifferent to the health and well-being of working-class people and shamelessly support corporate interests. Besides NY HEAT, WE ACT has been advocating for housing solutions to prevent the displacement of our uptown neighbors and allow for equitable building decarbonization in our state. We are frustrated to hear of a housing deal filled with handouts to the real estate industry despite an increasingly dire affordability crisis, along with the inclusion of language that rolls back tenant protections for rent-stabilized housing and offers a version of good cause eviction that is so riddled with loopholes that it will fail to accomplish its intended goal, which is to protect tenants from unreasonable rent hikes and retaliatory or discriminatory evictions. Albany’s continued reluctance to meaningfully address the climate and housing crises will leave more and more working-class New Yorkers in untenable and unaffordable conditions, sparking even broader economic and public health crises.”

It is important to note that New Yorkers living in disadvantaged communities – 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 and rent. On top of that, they are more likely to live in older, poorly maintained and 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 makes weather events more extreme.

The same is true of the air pollution and the health impacts of burning fossil fuels like fracked gas. Studies have shown that people of color are consistently exposed to higher rates of air pollution. And, according to a study by the Environmental Protection Agency, people who identify as Black or African American are 40 percent more likely to live in communities with the highest projected increases of mortality from extreme heat, the deadliest impact of climate change.

“Energy and housing affordability remain top concerns for New Yorkers, especially those of color and low-incoming who are disproportionately burdened by both,” added Carforo. “It’s unconscionable that Albany would side with corporate interests in this year’s budget given the urgency of these crises. This is despicable politics at play, and working-class New Yorkers and those struggling to get by will not forget that the Assembly and the Governor once again sold them out.”

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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 Facebook, Twitter/X, and Instagram.

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