New York must pledge to electrify and repeal its $200M home-heat ‘tax’
3 minutes of reading
Anshul Gupta | Special to the USA TODAY Network
There was not much fuss. No years of boasting about being “ambitious” and “leader of the nation”. Just like that, one fine day, Governor Jay Inslee tweeted that Washington became the first state in the nation to require electrical space and water heating in all new buildings. Amid a steady stream of similar announcements from health- and climate-conscious cities and municipalities, it’s natural to wonder: Where is New York State, with its “nation-leading” “most ambitious” climate law?
There is an inherent inconsistency in framing the necessity of climate action as an ambition in the first place. It’s like the fire alarms are going off in the apartment complex and we had the ambition to decide to call the fire department. At some points. Once there is consensus among all residents. Remember that some are hard of hearing and don’t hear the alarm, some are too short-sighted to see the flames, and viral misinformation planted by arsonists has knocked out an entire wing’s ability to smell the smoke.
This is not leadership, let alone leadership of the nation. A state that New York must abandon.
Make no mistake, the law itself is world-leading—not only in its objectives, but in the fair and holistic approach to achieving those objectives with societal benefits that New York would not achieve with delayed funding and implementation. while global fossil fuel consumption declines. state economy and family budgets.
Falling behind other states in building decarbonization mandates could be particularly difficult for New York, as it leads the nation in climate-busting carbon emissions from buildings and the adverse health impacts of associated pollution. Buildings are also the nation’s leading source of greenhouse gases. At the same time, building electrification and energy efficiency is New York’s leading segment of growing clean energy jobs.
Every new fossil-fueled home is a missed opportunity for Gov. Kathy Hochul’s goal of two million climate-friendly homes by 2030, makes cleaning up the building stock more difficult in the future, exacerbates inequality and perpetuates harm .
Outdoor pollution from the burning of fossil fuels in buildings, responsible for thousands of deaths and billions in health care costs in New York, accumulates most easily in denser neighborhoods with residents of relatively modest means. Similarly, smaller dwellings suffer from higher concentrations of indoor pollution from leaks and gas flaring associated with a host of health risks.
Continuing to build on fossil fuels also adds to energy burdens and in turn takes a bigger bite out of lower incomes. New York gas utilities add tens of thousands of new customers each year, creating unnecessary demand that puts pressure on supply prices when it would be economical to build and heat new buildings with highly efficient and reliable heat pumps in the climate of cold. To make matters worse, state law allows utilities to recover most of the cost of meters and service lines for new gas customers from all ratepayers through delivery charges. This is akin to a tax placed on ratepaying households and small businesses to fund new free gas connections and distorts the economics of construction in favor of an uneconomical fuel.
The transition to all-electric new construction, a move endorsed by major energy providers such as LIPA and Con Edison that represent 60% of the state’s electricity customers, would begin an orderly, decades-long transition to a zero-pollution building sector in the meantime. that our energy infrastructure and workforce evolves together. This would signal young workers to avoid the gas distribution trade while supporting the professional lives of mid- and late-career workers. In suitable areas, community heating and cooling ducts would provide a path for union workers with plumbing skills to transition to an all-electric future. On the other hand, some companies’ misleading tales of pipelines carrying gas from human and animal waste mixed with hydrogen can be harmful to work.
A silver lining in other states taking an early lead in electrifying new buildings is the certainty that despite the intense fears of the gas industry, the sky will not fall. With a mid-2023 start, Washington is years ahead of New York. Ten Massachusetts municipalities poised to ban gas in new construction show that energy prices or cold weather are no deterrent. California is eliminating and Colorado is severely limiting gas connection subsidies that cumulatively add $200 million to New York’s heating bills each year.
Anshul Gupta is a coalition steering committee member of the New York State chapters of the Climate Reality Project, an international organization founded and led by former Vice President Al Gore.