Advocates of All-Electric Building Act take Speaker Heastie to task for ‘failing New York’

Heastie demonstration
Advocates of a failed gas ban bill are calling out Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie for “failing” to fight for the bill’s inclusion in the state budget.
Photo courtesy Pete Sikora, NYCC

Advocates for a gas-free New York rallied outside state Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s Gun Hill office on Thursday, after a proposal to ban fossil fuel heating in new buildings did not cross the finish line during final state budget negotiations.

Proponents of the gas ban on new construction to fight climate change cite that it would cut air pollution to reduce childhood asthma, create jobs, and lessen New York’s reliance on fossil fuels amid volatile and rising gas prices. It’s shocking for some, given that electric buildings saw strong support from leadership in the state Senate and from Gov. Kathy Hochul herself, as a means to decarbonize the statewide economy by 2050.

The proposed legislation, the All-Electric Building Act seemed to be a sure thing to make the state budget, but two legislative sources in Albany told the Bronx Times that the bill will indeed be axed from the budget. The All-Electric Building Act follows a similar law passed by the New York City Council in December.

“As a general rule we didn’t include policy in our budget proposal. 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,” Michael Whyland, spokesperson for Speaker Heastie, told the Bronx Times.

A United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report has dispelled the urgency of climate change solutions, including immediate building electrification. New York emits more building pollution than any other state, with buildings accounting for fully one third of New York’s climate-warming greenhouse gas pollution, and the indoor air pollution of fossil fuels in New York buildings cause an estimated 1,940 premature deaths every year.

New York would’ve been the first state to pass a gas ban policy, according to the nonprofit Food & Water Watch.

Starting in July 2023, the bill would have fined companies found to be in violation $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second offense and $300 for additional offenses within the same year.

“Speaker Heastie failed New York today,” said Alex Beauchamp, Food & Water Watch Northeast Region director. “New Yorkers will not stand by as the fossil fuel industry buys off our elected officials. We will continue to fight hard for a statewide gas ban that will fight climate change, keep us safe and healthy at home, and usher in a new green economy for our state. New York can and must lead on this issue, and it’s up to Gov. Hochul and legislative leaders to drown out industry lobbyist lies and ensure that the mounting calls for action from all corners of the state are answered. We need a gas ban now.”

At Thursday’s demonstration outside the Speaker’s office in the Bronx,  protestors believe Heastie and Hochul opted to take the side of oil and gas lobbyists.

“Oil, gas and real estate industry lobbyists are probably popping some champagne corks that they delayed this practical and cost-effect action to reduce pollution from fossil fuels just a little longer,” said Rachel Rivera, a member of New York Communities for Change who was among 14 people arrested last week at a protest for the bill. “It’s low-income and Black and Brown people, like me, who get hurt the worst by the climate crisis. We need good jobs, cleaner air and lower utility bills, which this legislation would deliver.”

Reach Robbie Sequeira at [email protected] or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes.