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GOP, Dems Find New Energy Sparring Ground

State Republicans and Democrats are headed for a showdown over how new buildings are powered and kept warm.

Democrats are backing the All Electric Building Act that would prohibit local governments from approving the construction of new buildings that are not all-electric starting in 2023. Republicans have countered with legislation that would prohibit local governments from enacting such bans.

THE DEMOCRAT

PROPOSAL

Brian Kavanaugh, D-New York City, introduced S.6843 earlier this year but amended the proposal in late October. His proposal, which is co-sponsored by fellow Democrats Michael Gianaris, Brad Hoylman, Liz Krueger and Zellnor Myrie prohibits cities, towns or villages from issuing a permit for new commercial, residential or mixed-used buildings after Dec. 31, 2023, unless an all-electric building is proven to be unfeasible.

The bill also prohibits building or construction permits that convert all-electric buildings or projects into mixed-fuel buildings if the proposal is submitted after Dec. 31, 2022. Finally, it directs the state Public Service Department, Division of Housing and Community Renewal, Department of State and NYSERDA to report to the governor and legislature by Feb. 1, 2023, regarding electric rate designs or policy changes to make sure the All Electric Building Act doesn’t diminish affordable housing production or make electricity too expensive for customers in all-electric buildings.

“Electrification has been proven to be a vital and cost-effective tool in reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” Kavanaugh wrote in his legislative justification. “According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, buildings account for 285 of the United States’ energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, corporations seeking approval for infrastructure to transport and distribute natural gas in New York have emphasized that the rationale for creating such infrastructure is based in part on projected increased demand for natural gas from customers in new buildings. Requiring all-electric buildings for new construction will eliminate this rationale and help achieve the greenhouse gas emission reduction goals established in the New York State Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) and further New York’s record as a leader in combating climate change.”

THE REPUBLICAN PROPOSAL

S.7467 would amend the state General Municipal Law to prohibit municipal corporations from adopting local laws, ordinances, regulations or policies that prohibit certain utility services from being delivered based on the type of source of energy.

“New Yorkers pay among the highest energy rates in the nation,” Ortt wrote in his legislative justification. “Heating costs can eat up a substantial part of a family’s budget, especially during the long upstate winter months. While a clean environment is something that we can all support, the reality is that many forms of”green” energy are substantially more expensive, and less reliable than traditional sources.”

Ortt’s legislation is backed by Republicans Fred Akshar, Patrick Gallivan, Mario Mattera, Ken Oberacker, Thomas O’Mara, Ed Rath and Dan Stec.

“It is the intention of this legislation to assure that consumers have the right to choose the energy source that is most appropriate for their needs and their financial situation,” Ortt wrote. “By prohibiting municipalities from adopting local laws that would ban certain energy sources, we guarantee an open market with the option of more affordable products.”

BACKGROUND

Democrats and Republicans have sparred over energy policies for years, with the energy plans for new buildings just the latest sparring ground.

Earlier this year, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced his intention to ban natural gas hookups in new buildings by 2030. San Francisco and Berkley, both in California, have similar bans. Municipal bans in Arizona, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Mississippi and Missouri have been met with state-level legislation banning such bans.

Additionally, Republicans have railed against early proposals that could increase taxes on gasoline by 55 cents per gallon as part of the Climate and Community Investment Act (S4264/A.6967).

“The proposal by Democrats to raise gas taxes by an estimated 55 cents a gallon has a terribly disproportionate impact on rural upstate New York, where residents must rely on personal vehicles to commute to work, get groceries or take their children to daycare or other activities. At the same time they are proposing a huge tax increase on those who drive their own vehicles, the Democrats are more than happy to subsidize the New York City subway system by over $3 billion annually to avoid even a modest increase in subway fares needed to cover the actual costs of the system. It is grossly unfair that rural residents, who pay for all the costs of owning, maintaining, insuring and operating their own cars, should face such a huge tax increase while their urban neighbors receive a huge transportation subsidy,” Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown, said during a news conference earlier this year.

Democrats, meanwhile, argued against a Public Service Commission rate increase for National Grid users, saying the approved agreement violates the state’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.

Ten state Senators and 15 state Assembly members signed a letter Sept. 17 asking Hochul to review the Public Service Commission’s tentative approval of the rate increase. They argue customers will pay for portions of a pipeline in North Brooklyn and new projects in Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island that are in opposition to the CLCPA. Senators opposing the increase are Brian Kavanaugh, Julia Salazar, Diane Savino, James Snaders, Andrew Gounardes, Jabari Brisport, Joseph Addabbo, Roxanne Persaud, Liz Krueger and Brad Hoylman. Assembly members opposing the agreement are Charles Barron, Leroy Comrie, Emily Gallagher, Maritza Davila, Alicia Hyndman, Latrice Walker, Robert Carroll, Jo Anne Simon, Marcela Mitaynes, Phara Souffrant Forrest, Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, Linda Rosenthal, Zohran Mamdani, Ron Kim and Judy Griffin.

“In their order, the PSC correctly acknowledged that New York’s groundbreaking climate law, the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) applies to rate cases, but then shockingly said that National Grid’s gas sales growth plan and rate hike complies with the CLCPA despite having performed no greenhouse gas emissions accounting. Community organizations introduced significant evidence in the case that shows National Grid’s projects disproportionately harm disadvantaged Black and Brown working class communities and that the company’s overall rate plan goes in the wrong direction on greenhouse gas emissions, yet this evidence was ignored,” the lawmakers’ letter states.

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