A call for Gov. Kathy Hochul to push the legislation through in budget negotiations comes as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change announces a new warning about fossil fuels. But sources say the bill will be excluded from the week-late spending plan, forcing lawmakers to hammer it out in the remaining months of the legislative session.
Environmentalists are planning to protest Thursday following news that a measure to ban gas hookups in new construction across the state starting in 2024 has been left out of the forthcoming budget deal—Gov. Kathy Hochul’s first since taking office.
A legislative staffer close to the negotiations confirmed its absence from the final budget plan, which is a week past the state’s April 1 deadline, but added he is optimistic the bill will pass this legislative session. Hudson Valley news site The River was first to report on the exclusion late Wednesday.
The proposed legislation, the All-Electric Building Act, follows a similar law passed by the New York City Council under former Mayor Bill de Blasio in December.
New York would be the first state to pass such a policy. The bill has gained widespread support, with more than 600 people who have spoken out in favor of it over the past two weeks, according to the nonprofit Food & Water Watch. Advocates have staged press conferences over Zoom and held rallies outside Hochul’s office.
“This is a policy that would advance multiple goals,” organizer Eric Weltman of Food & Water Watch told City Limits. “It will clean the air. It will create good green jobs. It will move us off of fossil fuels at a time when gas prices are skyrocketing.”
On Thursday, organizers with Food & Water Watch, along with New York Communities for Change and other environmental organizations, plan to protest at the office of State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who they say has been “balking” at the inclusion of the bill in the budget.
“As a general rule we didn’t include policy in our budget proposal,” said Michael Whyland, the speaker’s press secretary, in an email to City Limits. “I know these 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.”
The legislation will be left instead for lawmakers to hammer out over the remaining months of the legislative session, which ends in June.
But advocates argue a report released earlier this week on the impact of fossil fuels signals a “now or never” urgency to reduce carbon emissions. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a consortium of scientists from 195 nations, released the third part of its Sixth Assessment Report focused on climate change mitigation. The panel found that greenhouse gas emissions must peak no later than 2025 and be reduced by nearly half by 2030 in order to prevent global warming from exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures.
“Even if we do this, it is almost inevitable that we will temporarily exceed this temperature threshold but could return to below it by the end of the century,” the report’s authors wrote.
Buildings are notorious for being hefty contributors to greenhouse gas emissions; the United Nations Environment Programme estimates that the construction and operations of buildings contributes 38 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions.
Notably, New York has the most building emissions of any state, according to a report by RMI.
The pollutants from buildings not only contribute to climate change and global warming but also can impact the health of surrounding communities. Researchers at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health examined data from 2017 and found that 1,940 New Yorkers died prematurely due to particulate matter related to burning fossil fuels in buildings, according to a study published last year.
READ MORE: Low-Income Housing in NY Burns Fossil Fuels More Than Other States, Study Finds
“The All-Electric Building Act is exactly the kind of legislation the IPCC report calls for,” said Annie Carforo, of WE ACT for Environmental Justice, at a virtual press conference Tuesday, “phasing out fossil fuels and electrifying our buildings, the primary source of the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.”
Critics of the gas ban bill, however, claim the legislation would increase utility costs for consumers and that cleaner alternatives, like heat pumps, are less reliable than natural gas.
The Real Estate Board of New York is supportive of the Governor’s proposal that requires the building codes be updated to establish that new construction be all-electric beginning in 2027, not 2024, according to a spokesperson with the organization. “This proposal appropriately balances the need to reduce emissions from buildings with the ability of the development and supplier community to efficiently accomplish this goal,” he said.
State Assembly Member Emily Gallagher, who sponsored the bill in the Assembly, joined environmental groups at a virtual event Tuesday urging the governor to consider following New York City in implementing the statewide legislation.
“We can’t let the decisions of our past dictate our future,” Gallagher said. “Fossil fuels and their money must become unwelcome in New York.”
*This story was updated since original publication to clarify REBNY’s position on the proposal.