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Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie isn’t ruling out passing NY HEAT this year

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie meets with reporters at the State Capitol in Albany on April 16, 2024.
Karen DeWitt
New York Public News Network
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie meets with reporters at the State Capitol in Albany on April 16, 2024.

Despite the backing of a majority of lawmakers, the recently approved New York state budget did not include what environmentalists call a key anti-climate change provision.

Advocates blame the state Assembly for killing the NY HEAT bill, but Speaker Carl Heastie said Wednesday that he’s not ruling out passing it before the session ends.

The measure would rescind what’s known as the 100-foot rule, which requires that utility ratepayers subsidize gas hookup installations within 100 feet of a home or business. It also caps utility bills for low-income New Yorkers and makes it easier for gas companies to help customers convert to energy-saving devices like heat pumps.

Lisa Marshall of New Yorkers for Clean Power said the measure is key to meeting the state’s Climate Protection Act goal of net zero emissions by 2050. But she said the Assembly leadership prevented it from becoming part of the budget.

“The Assembly is where climate bills go to die,” Marshall said.

Liz Moran with Earthjustice agreed.

“The Assembly ultimately didn't come to the table in good faith on this,” Moran said. “There is a disturbing trend we're seeing with the Assembly.”

Moran said while the Assembly backed the initial Climate Protection Act, it has not approved bills that would help fulfill its goals.

Gov. Kathy Hochul backs NY HEAT, and the state Senate has approved it several times. The bill has 76 sponsors in the Assembly, a majority of its 150 members. All are Democrats.

Marshall blamed political donations by a sole utility company for the failure of the bill to win passage. National Fuel Gas Company, based in western New York, also extracts natural gas in Pennsylvania through hydrofracking. Fracking is banned in New York, but fracked gas can be legally sold in the state.

Other major New York-based utilities, which sell both gas and electrically generated power, support NY HEAT.

“You can't exactly say that correlation equals causation,” Marshall said. “But we can draw some inferences from that.” 

Moran said it’s hard to prove that there’s a relationship, but she said National Fuel’s opposition seems to be a factor.

“This is a scenario like many where it's hard to squarely blame it on one thing,” she said. “However, there's documented evidence that National Fuel has been an outspoken opponent to this legislation.”

The groups said they are not giving up on the measure and will push for it to be approved before the session ends in June.

Heastie, speaking Wednesday afternoon, said he has not ruled out passage of NY HEAT in his house before the 2024 session ends.

“There was an agreement between the governor, the Senate and the Assembly that we would keep talking,” Heastie said, “and hopefully we can come to an agreement by the end of the session.”

Moran said last year, June was marked by distinct signs of climate change, including record heat waves and smoke from Canadian wildfires, and that could happen again this year, right when Assemblymembers are deciding whether to vote on the bill.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for the New York Public News Network, composed of a dozen newsrooms across the state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.