March 22, 2023 By Ramona du Houx Albany, New York. Today, With New York on the verge of becoming the first state in the nation to ban fossil fuels in new buildings by law, hundreds of advocates and dozens of legislators gathered at the Capitol to demand state leadership pass the All-Electric Building Act (S6843C Kavanagh/A8431B Gallagher) – included in both chambers’ […]
March 22, 2023
By Ramona du Houx
Albany, New York. Today, With New York on the verge of becoming the first state in the nation to ban fossil fuels in new buildings by law, hundreds of advocates and dozens of legislators gathered at the Capitol to demand state leadership pass the All-Electric Building Act (S6843C Kavanagh/A8431B Gallagher) – included in both chambers’ one-house budgets and the governor’s executive budget. Both advocates and legislators stressed the urgent need to electrify new buildings without any delay or loopholes. Speakers also highlighted that the work to get buildings off fossil fuels is not complete without NY HEAT (S2016 Krueger/A4592 Fahy).
The group applauded the Senate for including NY HEAT in its one-house and called on the Assembly and Governor to finish the job and put in the final budget. The group also called Albany lawmakers to electrify new buildings without any delay: January 1, 2025 for smaller buildings and 2028 for tall buildings, with no exemptions for commercial buildings.
“New Yorkers deserve clean air, affordable energy bills, and a future free from the disastrous impacts of the climate emergency, and that means we must start now to transition our building stock away from poisonous fossil gases, toward clean, reliable electricity. The first step is to stop digging — stop building homes that are locked-in to expensive, climate-destroying fossil gas, and change our statutes and regulations that force ratepayers to subsidize the expansion of the gas system. This is the year we must take bold action to address the climate emergency,” said Senator Liz Krueger, sponsor of NY HEAT.
“The New York HEAT Act is vital to meeting our state climate mandates, reducing more than a third of our total carbon emissions by decarbonizing our building stock, and protecting low and middle income ratepayers,” said Assemblymember Patricia Fahy, sponsor of NY HEAT. “We are not going to meet our ambitious climate mandates laid out in the CLCPA unless New York establishes a clear, long-term strategy for decarbonizing its building stock while moving aggressively to transition itself off a reliance on fossil fuels and related infrastructure by amending the state’s public service law. By developing a statewide gas service transition plan aligned with the state’s climate and emission reduction targets, and ending more than $200M in ratepayer subsidization of fossil fuel infrastructure on NY utility bills every year, we are more likely to meet these aggressive-and vital-goals in the years to come.”
“Over 100 cities and counties across the U.S. have taken action to move off fossil fuels to all-electric homes and buildings for good reasons: it saves lives and money while leading to energy sustainability. Electrification eliminates harmful indoor and outdoor pollutants and decreases smog; and electrification infrastructure in new homes and buildings is less costly to install, leading to more affordable housing. New electric-based technologies to heat and cool our buildings are a must if we want to seriously fight the climate crisis,” said Senator Pete Harckham, Chair, Senate Environmental Conservation Committee.
Together, the All-Electric Building Act and NY HEAT will cement New York as the global leader in fighting climate change, and help New York meet the Climate Act’s requirement of reducing emissions by 40 percent by 2030. Buildings account for an entire one-third of greenhouse gas emission across New York state. Every year, the state adds approximately 250,000 metric tons of climate-heating pollution from the tens of thousands of new homes and buildings that are dependent on gas boilers and furnaces, locking in decades of pollution and expensive utility bills.
Low-income households spend three times more of their income on energy bills than those living above the poverty line, and 55 percent of New York voters are “very concerned” about the cost of their home energy bills. But both NY HEAT and the All-Electric Building Act will save New Yorkers money.
“New Yorkers overwhelmingly recognize and are concerned that burning fossil fuels like natural gas is a major contributor to climate change. Our buildings are the largest single source of these climate change-causing greenhouse gas emissions. New Yorkers are also increasingly concerned about the cost of their energy bills. One of the biggest causes of rising taxes are escalating natural gas prices. Changing the way we construct and power buildings moving forward by passing the All-Electric New Buildings Act just makes sense – it saves money for New Yorkers, is better for the environment, and has the potential to create thousands of clean-energy jobs,” said Assemblymember Anna Kelles.
NY HEAT puts a 6 percent income price cap on electricity bills for low and middle-income families. It also gets rid of the unfair 100 foot rule, which requires utilities to hook up new buildings to the outdated gas system and lets utilities charge ratepayers $200 million every year to do so. Plus, it redirects $150 billion for neighborhood-scale electrification. In fact, a new report from the Building Decarbonization Council shows that as New York electrifies, families who are left behind on the gas system could see their gas bills rise by tens of thousands if we don’t pass NY HEAT.
Under the All-Electric Building Act, families living in new electric homes statewide could save $1,000 each year on average compared to homes fueled by gas and propane, according to a report from WIN Climate. Families living in new homes with cold-climate air source heat pumps would save an average of over $900 a year, and those living in new homes with ground source heat pumps would save over $1,100. In rural parts of the state with no natural gas distribution network where homes instead burn propane, new homes equipped with heat pumps could save over $3,670. Plus, tax credits and rebates through the state and federal government can cover up to 100 percent of heat pump installation costs for low and moderate income families.
“Last November, New Yorkers made it abundantly clear that they want the legislature to take bold action to fight the climate crisis by passing the Environmental Bond Act with an incredible margin. Our directive is clear, which is why I’m proud that the Senate included the cost-saving, job-creating All Electric Buildings Act in our One House Budget. We urge the Governor to finish the job in the final budget, and deliver a transition to a green, union economy that does not stick working families with the bill for harmful and wasteful pipelines,” said State Senator Jessica Ramos.
Getting off gas and going all electric over the next 30 years is a massive, net-positive jobs creator, creating more than 200,000 new jobs (more than doubling current employment) in the buildings sector. And it’s better for our health: burning gas in our homes is highly polluting and causes severe respiratory illness. A new study shows that 19 percent of childhood asthma in New York can be attributed to gas stoves, and low income and public housing residents who often live in small and poorly ventilated dwellings bear a disproportionate burden of the impacts.
“We owe it to the next generation of New Yorkers to take bold action to clean up our environment. Electrifying our buildings is a critically important step toward our ambitious climate goals and I look forward to these bills’ passage this year,” said Assemblymember Deborah J. Glick.
These measures are popular. 57 percent of New Yorkers support a statewide proposal to end fossil fuels in new construction, according to the fossil fuel industry’s own poll. Other studies show 66% of New Yorkers support the proposal, and more than 100 advocacy groups have shared their support for NY HEAT.
“Together these two bills will save New York families money and help us make an affordable transition away from fossil fuels,” said Senator Lea Webb. “My constituents are tired of skyrocketing energy prices that are due in part to our utility companies passing along the cost of expanding our gas system to consumers. NY HEAT will put a 6% income price cap on electricity bills for low and middle income families, and it gets rid of the unfair 100 foot rule that requires utilities to hook new buildings up to gas lines and lets them charge New Yorkers $200 million every year to do so.”
“It is time for fossil fuels to become ancient history, and one way of getting to that goal is by including the All Electric Buildings Act in the final budget,” said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF-Manhattan), Chair of the Assembly Committee on Housing. “New York State and every locality across the country is staring down the barrel of a climate crisis that demands bold action. Setting rigorous deadlines for new buildings to be emissions free is critical to achieving the goals outlined in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act and will create new green jobs in the process. The next generation is relying on us to champion and foster a green, more livable New York State. If we’re serious about mitigating the climate crisis, we must make certain the All Electric Buildings Act is in New York’s budget.”
“All-electric homes would reduce energy consumption by 34%, reduce energy bills by $1000/year, and save thousands of dollars in upfront construction costs. That’s the part the fossil fuel industry really doesn’t want anyone to know. We know there’s a lot of money being spent against policies that make deep commitments to curb our carbon emissions, and this is one of them. But we also know that it’s this legislature and this Governor’s responsibility to take action now,” said Assembly Member Sarahana Shrestha.
Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon said, “New York is lagging behind on taking concrete actions to address the devastating consequences of climate change, which disproportionately impacts those who are low-income and families of color. This critical package of bills will stimulate clean energy job growth, incentivize energy-efficient alternatives to gas, and ensure that new buildings will be constructed free from toxic fossil fuels. Now is the time to prioritize the health of our State and transition to a clean energy future. Delaying action will have catastrophic consequences for future generations of New Yorkers.”
“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 heat their homes in the coming months. Communities of color and low-income communities like the ones I represent in Queens suffer the most from our inaction. It’s time for New York to break its addiction to fossil fuels. I’m proud to co-sponsor the All Electric Buildings Act in the Assembly and stand with the #GasFreeNY coalition in calling on Governor Hochul to include NY Home Energy Affordable Transition Act (NY HEAT Act), the Energy Efficiency, Equity, and Jobs Act, and the All Electric Buildings Act in her upcoming state budget,” said Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas.
State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal said, “We are hurtling towards a climate catastrophe. Unless we reduce carbon emissions by 45 percent by 2030, we will ensure the irreversible and disastrous effects of climate change. The All-Electric Building Act helps address the climate crisis since buildings account for 28% of energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. I’m proud to be a co-sponsor of this important legislation along with Senator Kavanagh and Assemblymember Gallagher and look forward to passing it in Albany.”
“To move the needle on climate change, and for the respiratory health of our children, it’s time to pass the All-Electric Building Act statewide. Phasing fossil fuel hookups out of new building construction will reduce our carbon emissions by an estimated four million metric tons annually. It will save lives, save on home heating expenses, and help New York meet its emission reduction mandates,” said Assemblymember MaryJane Shimsky.
“We need to have the courage to stand up to fossil fuel industry lies and push forward with building toward our renewable energy future,” said Assemblymember Dana Levenberg. There is no time to waste. The sooner we move away from outdated, dirty energy options, the sooner we’ll start seeing lower energy costs, lower asthma rates, and cleaner air and water.”
“Everyone agrees that the time to commit to All Electric in new buildings is now. Governor Hochul, the Assembly, the Senate and the Climate Action Council are all in favor of moving forward so that we do not make the mistake of using fossil fuel infrastructure in new construction. We need to work out the details so we can move ahead on the easiest part of the transition to a cleaner New York,” said Assembly Member Steve Otis.
“We have an obligation to leave our children a world that is safe to live in,” said Assemblymember Grace Lee. “A failure to invest in climate sustainable practices right now will jeopardize the lives of future generations, and we cannot hide from this fact. I am supporting legislation to eliminate environmentally-damaging practices in New York, including my co-sponsorship of the Electric Buildings Act to phase out fossil fuels in new buildings and support of the Climate Change Superfund Act to hold large emitters of greenhouse gasses financially accountable.
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% of income on electricity bills for low- and middle-income families to ensure energy stays affordable.
Crucially, the NY Home Energy Affordable Transition Act will do away with the unfair 100 foot rule, which sticks everyday New Yorkers with the bill for gas hookups in new buildings totalling $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.
The All-Electric Building Act will ban fossil fuel use in new buildings across New York State, requiring them to be all-electric with appliances like energy efficient heat pumps for heating, cooling, and hot water, and modern induction cooktops. In 2021, New York City passed its own version of the All-Electric Building Act, banning fossil fueled systems in new buildings across the city starting in 2024.
In January, 200 advocates and 25 NYS legislators and called on Governor Hochul to uphold her State of the State commitments by including the All-Electric Building Act (S562A/A920), the NY Home Energy Affordable Transition (NY HEAT) Act (S2016/A4592) and the Energy Efficiency, Equity, and Jobs Act (S3126/A3996A) in her Executive Budget, and for the Assembly’s support. Previously, 220 groups across New York State sent a letter to Governor Hochul, urging her to include the All-Electric Building Act, the NY HEAT Act, and other key energy affordability provisions in her executive budget.
Last year, the All-Electric Building 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.”