The Climate Action Council has delivered a sound and comprehensive plan for meeting the crucial targets of the 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which established the Council and charged it with putting together the plan. The question now is whether Gov. Hochul and the state legislature will step up and provide the necessary backing to ensure the plan’s success.
This year’s legislative session has been underway for too little time to reach any conclusions about the work of the General Assembly and State Senate, but the governor has laid out her priorities in the January 10th State of the State address, as well as in the proposed executive budget issued on February 1st. It’s a mixed record so far.
Hochul underscored once again her support for phasing out fossil fuel heating and appliances in new construction, a position she announced in last year’s executive budget. In addition, she backed the Climate Action Council’s call for a cap-and-invest program, a vehicle for funding climate action, and proposed modest programs to improve energy affordability.
But the governor’s actions fell short on several key fronts. Most important, she wants to push back the date for a phase-out of fossil fuels in newly-constructed small buildings to 2026 and to 2029 for high rise buildings.
These dates are one year longer than proposed in the final scoping plan and two years more than initially laid out in the draft plan. It’s a disappointing move, and flies in the face of mounting evidence that we need to speed up, not slow down, meaningful efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Fortunately, the state legislature has the opportunity to rectify the matter and restore the dates originally called for the in the draft scoping plan. The All-Electric Building Act excludes fossil fuel from new buildings, starting in 2024 with buildings under 7 stories and then 2027 for larger buildings.
The Renewable Heat Now campaign, which has brought together over 220 organizations (including TCCPI), strongly backs this approach, urging legislators to stick with the earlier dates. It also proposes the following:
- A funding package that includes a Green Affordable Pre-Electrification (GAP) fund, low interest financing, and additional funding for the NYSERDA’s Regional Clean Energy Hubs. Many homes in New York State have crucial health and safety issues, including mold, lead, gas, and/or carbon monoxide leaks. These issues must be remedied before an energy audit can be done to determine how to weatherize the home, save money, and make it electrification-ready. Families need financial and technical help to afford these critical retrofits addressing health and safety issues in existing buildings. This funding is necessary to ensure a just energy transition for all New Yorkers.
- The NY Home Energy Equitable Transition (HEAT) Act eliminates over $200 million per year in subsidies for new gas hookups, enables neighborhood-scale building decarbonization, and improves energy affordability by eliminating the costly “obligation to serve” gas regulation, and ensuring no household pays more than 6% of their income for energy.
- The Energy Efficiency, Equity, and Jobs Act deploys funding for cost-saving energy efficiency retrofits where they are most needed, removes health hazards from homes so they can undergo energy efficiency retrofits, and ensures that the workers hired for energy efficiency upgrades come from disadvantaged communities.
Another important bill, part of NY Renews’ Climate, Jobs, and Justice campaign (and also supported by TCCPI), would eliminate over $330 million of the most egregious state subsidies handed out each year to the fossil fuel industry. The Stop Climate Polluter Handouts Act preserves tax exemptions that help low- to moderate-income households, including a home-heating credit and an agricultural exemption for small- to mid-sized farmers.
Together these proposals will significantly strengthen the state’s climate action plan and correct some of the serious flaws in Gov. Hochul’s climate agenda. The next few weeks in Albany will be telling, so now is the time to make our voices heard.