May 1, 2023

Originally published by Energy In Depth. BY NICOLE JACOBS

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s recently announced budget deal includes the first statewide ban on natural gas appliances, blatantly disregarding the legislature’s previous rule to keep policy out of budget and removing residents’ say in the debate through the legislative process. In fact, the bill closes off the option for municipalities to opt out of the mandate, ignoring consumer choice, costs, and safety.

Bans in The Budget

Gov. Hochul called for the “nation’s most aggressive ban on fossil fuels in new buildings” in her 2023 State of State address, and after weeks of negotiations, the ban has manifested in the 2023-24 budget. If passed, the ban would prohibit fossil fuel equipment in new construction statewide that would include gas stoves in smaller buildings and single family homes by 2026 and in larger ones by 2029.

The move from the governor comes a year after legislators tried to force a similar policy through the state budget – and failed. State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D) “balked” at the idea of including policy in the budget at the time:

“As a general rule we didn’t include in our budget proposal. I know these [environmental] groups may not like the answer, but whatever we do on this issue—or any issue—is guided by the sense of the entire democratic conference.”

Other lawmakers have expressed similar concerns with bypassing the legislative process. Referencing December’s deadly blizzard in Buffalo, Daniel Ortega of New Yorkers for Affordable Energy told the Wall Street Journal:

“Natural gas is going to continue to be part of the bridge between what we have now, with the heavy use of fossil fuel, and what we are going to have in the future. Unless we are able to address reliability and affordability, none of this is going to work out.”

State Rep. Will Barclay (R-Pulaski),  Leader of the Assembly Republican Conference, argued proposed budgets with electrification mandates are an anti-free market effort that will hurt New Yorkers:

“We must keep all options on the table, including the possibility of energy-efficient, low-carbon buildings powered by an innovative combination of natural gas, nuclear, renewable energy, hydrogen and more. This is the type of all-of-the-above energy strategy that New Yorkers should embrace to keep costs affordable for property owners while keeping the state on track to meet its emissions reduction goals.”

His sentiments are shared by New York Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt:

“All we’re going to have is less people living here, higher taxes, less energy reliability. Our policy here in New York for a long time has been to export jobs and import energy. That is the New York energy policy. And, obviously, it’s been a bad one.”

And Dennis Elsenbeck, head of energy and sustainability at Phillips Lytle LLC and member of the state’s Climate Action Council, which penned the ban language in a December scoping planhas said:

“When you do simple gas bans, you place pressure on what you’re transitioning into and when you’re not considering that, it’s a death by 1,000 cuts.”

According to a Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA) analysis released in November, the ban of natural gas services will actually increase inequality, risk electricity reliability and could cost upstate New York households more than $27,800 each.

Further, a recent poll from Siena College Research Institute shows a majority of New Yorkers – 53 percent – are against the phasing out of natural gas.

New York’s Natural Gas Policies

The plan to ban natural gas is part of a whirlwind of activity surrounding the state’s energy planning.

Introduced in the midst of budget talks on March 27, a bill (S6030) sponsored by Energy Committee Chair Sen. Kevin Parker (D-21) called to change New York’s 20-year time horizon accounting method for greenhouse gasses to the international standard of 100 years. The current method, as well as the mandate to reduce emissions 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2030 and 85 percent by 2050 are key provisions outlined in the state’s 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA).

Last week someone in the governor’s office anonymously told Politico the truth about what these combined factors mean for consumers:

“We’re getting closer to the time when these costs would begin to show up for New Yorkers. New York has an outlier greenhouse gas emissions accounting methodology, and that emissions accounting methodology will drive additional costs to consumers as compared to the accounting methodology utilized by the rest of the world… To achieve the CLCPA statewide emissions targets, New Yorkers would be financially responsible for eliminating those inflated emissions and out of state emissions.” (emphasis added)

Sen. Parker similarly pointed out that the twenty-year time horizon increases the state’s climate goal costs, stating “something that works is better than something that’s fast”.

At first, Gov. Hochul’s office was supportive of the measure which would have relaxed restraints on the combustion of fuels like natural gas, but after environmentalists argued such a move contradicted New York’s Climate Action Council scoping plan approved in December that calls for an aggressively paced electrification push, she withdrew her support.

Bottom Line: New York continues to flout consumer choice and energy security by extending its electrification push to state budget discussions, altogether skipping the legislative process. Efforts to accelerate the phasing out natural gas – a trusted fuel source which a majority of New Yorkers rely on – insensitively pass along the price tag to constituents while adding greater pressure to an already-strained grid.