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Don’t raise the N.Y. HEAT Act: We have to be honest about energy costs

The failure of climate-related items to pass in the “Big Ugly” of the New York State budget was no accident. Reason prevailed among pragmatic lawmakers, and reality set in that the New York Home Energy Affordable Transition Act (NY HEAT) would have placed New Yorkers at risk and wreaked havoc with reliability and affordability.

However, advocates have regrouped and are waging a media campaign, arguing that NY HEAT is necessary to “save New Yorkers billions every year,” trying to confuse the public and pressure lawmakers into passing this horrendous piece of legislation. We cannot let ideology and a radical climate agenda override facts and real progress.

Unfortunately, false and misleading claims about the cost savings that New York ratepayers would realize under the NY HEAT Act are everywhere. Those perpetrating this narrative conveniently ignore the costs to New Yorkers that will come with a mandated conversion to an all-electric future for the state. These advocates also sell their drastic, one-size-fits-all solution as the only path forward.

The fact is, there is a more balanced approach that addresses pollution and environmental concerns without threatening safety, reliability, and affordability. The balanced approach clearly works: our state is already one of the greenest in the nation, ranking seventh in renewable-sourced electricity generation. Much of the credit goes to hydroelectric power, which supplies 21% of New York’s total in-state power generation.

While the HEAT Act would end the 100-foot rule requiring utilities to connect new customers within 100 feet of an existing gas pipeline, it should be noted that utilities are already taking steps in this direction. They are proposing provisions that would allow them to voluntarily make determinations on new service connections based on relevant factors.

While we all recognize the value in pursuing a cleaner energy future, we must acknowledge that utilities have a legal and moral obligation to replace aging pipe infrastructure to ensure safe, reliable service to all their customers and the communities they serve. Claims by advocates that the maintenance of natural gas infrastructure is a burden on ratepayers that would disappear under the HEAT Act are disingenuous, at best.

The reality is that ratepayers already subsidize the maintenance of all utilities — electric, water, and sewer. Utility maintenance costs will not disappear if the HEAT Act is enacted. Additionally, many of the cost estimates being cited for critical maintenance of gas infrastructure are grossly inflated, which only serves to further mislead the public.

The real factors fueling utility rate increases are largely driven by government. More than 70% of the bill for the average ratepayer is the result of the following: federal and state pipeline safety mandates, property tax increases, expanded energy efficiency programs, supports for low-income customers, state-mandated purchases of costly wind and solar energy, increases in the cost of capital, supply chain shortages and inflation.

The replacement of pipes, while a regulatory mandate, is not a major driver — and those costs are just a fraction of what’s to come once the impacts of renewables and new transmission lines hit customer bills later this decade.

Finally, NY HEAT Act advocates are conspicuously silent about the fact that electrifying homes is many times more expensive than pipe replacement, and residents often bear those costs on their own.

According to a recent analysis, electrifying just one co-op in Brooklyn took four years and cost nearly $1 million. Even with rebates, that comes out to $40,000 per apartment, and residents are now responsible for the full cost of heating their homes, rather than sharing costs with the entire building. The cost to operate those electrical systems to heat homes will cost more on a monthly basis than to heat that same home on natural gas.

The reality is that the most fervent advocates of New York’s aggressive climate agenda believe that no cost is too great to address the climate crisis. That is why they misrepresent the facts and mislead New Yorkers into believing a transition to all-electric will save them money. The truth is that New Yorkers are in for a far costlier and less reliable energy future if proposals like the HEAT Act are adopted.

Borrello represents the 57th state Senate District which includes Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Genesee and Wyoming counties, as well as a portion of Allegany County. He is also a member of the Senate Energy Committee.


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