Ryan hopes ‘pause’ will enable lawmakers to come up with a plan for natural gas ban

March 20, 2023

Originally published by WBEN Radio Buffalo.

Buffalo, N.Y. (WBEN) – One thing that just about everybody seems to be able to agree on in New York State politics is that there is some level of confusion or misunderstanding about the proposed ban on natural gas and fossil fuels included in Governor Kathy Hochul’s budget.

“There’s been a whole heck of a lot of confusion on this issue,” said Senator Sean Ryan, a Buffalo Democrat, on the WBEN Hardline show Sunday.

Ryan is not suggesting scrapping the controversial plan, but he is looking to slow down and hit what he terms the ‘pause button’ to allow the initiative to become more clearly defined, particularly when it comes to costs and options for consumers across New York. “We need to take our time to put a program in place, one that consumers will readily go to.”

Ryan is among some Democrats who are asking for more clarity and for more specifics on the costs consumers would face if the plan were to be implemented, requiring new buildings to not rely on natural gas heating and appliances beginning in 2025 and for larger buildings in 2030 and the rest in 2035. “There’s no answer on it, and that’s why we’re pushing the ‘pause’ button.”

Hochul has recognized the pushback by some lawmakers and is aware of polling showing the concept is strongly disapproved among a majority of voters in upstate New York.

Ryan is not pushing back on the goal of shifting away from fossil fuels in addressing climate change, but rather focusing on how and when it is being done. “If the answer is, we’ll tell you later, I think you lose people then.”

Senator Ryan tells WBEN that in order to get consumers to buy-in to a new way of heating and cooking, they need to be shown there’s another good system available that will meet all their needs and do so at a lower cost.

“I think a consumer would switch in a second to any other power source if it costs less money,” Ryan said. “Nobody has a brand loyalty to a heating source, they just want to make sure their house is heated, that it’s reliable and at low cost.”

As lawmakers continue their struggle to sift through the proposed spending plan, including the energy issues included within it, Governor Hochul insists her timeline remains in place and she is ready to sign a ban if it crosses her desk. Hochul was unavailable for questions from WBEN and other reporters during an appearance at the Buffalo St. Patrick’s Day parade Sunday.

For his part, Senator Ryan is hoping a pause in the timeline will help clarify expectations and answer questions from concerned residents who aren’t ready to shift away from natural gas toward electric and a statewide grid that is proven not to be ready to support the loads that would result from the proposed state mandate.

Ryan said consumer buy-in will result from an ‘economic transition’, given time.

“At one point we all had coal burners in our basement,” Ryan said, and adding, “Then a lot of people went to oil, then they went to natural gas.”