New York officials address misinformation surrounding Hochul’s climate plans and gas bans

ALBANY — State officials sought to tame flames of misinformation about Gov. Hochul’s plans to address climate change Tuesday during a budget hearing centered on New York’s environmental initiatives.

Amid a national uproar over potential bans on gas stoves, Doreen Harris, president and CEO of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, said the state is working to set the record straight.

“We are not taking away gas stoves, as one example of perhaps misinformation we need to correct,” Harris told lawmakers during the hearing. “We are going about this in a measured and deliberate way ... this is a very rational, thought-out plan.”

Hochul has taken heat in recent weeks for including several ambitious climate-friendly proposals in her $227 billion budget blueprint.

Specifically, Republicans have raised concerns about a potential ban on the sale of fossil fuel-burning heating equipment beginning in 2030, as well as a requirement that new residential and commercial buildings go all-electric over the next decade.

The governor’s office insists that the fossil fuel phase out does not include gas stoves as New York works towards achieving emission reduction goals established by the 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.

Republicans repeatedly raised concerns about the costs associated with Hochul’s proposals, which include prohibiting the sale of any new fossil fuel heating equipment by 2030 for smaller buildings and 2035 for larger buildings, along with related fossil fuel systems for all buildings.

Sen. Mario Mattera (R-Smithtown) said he’s heard from New Yorkers who are “frightened” about the state “shutting the gas off” and he raised questions about the cost of retro-fitting homes and overhauling the electric grid.

“My question is who is going to pay for this?” he asked. “Who will be paying for this retrofit, who’s going to be paying for the grid? Again ... I am for renewable energy, but who is going to be paying for this?”

Harris, who was joined by Department of Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos and acting president and CEO of the New York Power Authority Justin Driscoll, noted that state and federal investments will help New York transition to renewable energy and end reliance on polluting fossil fuels.

Hochul’s plan also calls for new smaller buildings and homes built to be fossil fuel-free by 2025 and larger buildings being all-electric by 2028. Exemptions for commercial kitchens, laboratories, laundromats, hospitals, crematoriums and critical infrastructure projects would be likely, the governor’s office said last month.

A similar law is already on the books in the city.

In 2021, the City Council banned gas hookups in new buildings for stoves, boilers and heaters as well as buildings that undergo gut renovations.

Under the law, starting this year, newly constructed buildings under seven stories will not be allowed to use gas for cooking or heating. The same rule will apply to larger buildings beginning in 2027.

“We have to tackle buildings. They are the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in our state,” Harris said during Tuesday’s hearing. “What you see today, I would say, is a rational and safe and well thought-out approach to begin the process of addressing our buildings.”

Environmental advocates endorsed many of the state’s plans as well as Hochul’s sweeping proposal to build 800,000 new units of housing in the New York over the next decade, with a focus on transit hubs.

“Broadly speaking, rezonings that emphasize smart growth, transit-oriented development are climate-smart and we encourage you to include it in the final budget,” Patrick McClellan, policy director for New York League of Conservation Voters, told lawmakers.

The governor also wants to set limits on annual pollution for statewide with a proposed cap-and-invest program that would force polluters to buy allowances for greenhouse gas emissions.

Hochul’s budget plan outlines that proceeds would be reinvested into clean energy and enforcement but leaves the bulk of the program to be designed by NYSERDA and the DEC.

Sen. Tom O’Mara (R-Elmira) critiqued the governor’s green-minded plans for being short on details.

“I think we’re all very supportive of clearing up our emission in this state,” O’Mara said. “But I just can’t help feel that we’ve put the cart before the horse on a lot of these initiatives.”

“And we really have nothing but targets,” he added.