Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

Why The NY HEAT Act Needs to Pass Now

Albany legislators need to pass the NY HEAT Act so the state can transition out of using gas.

Readers worried that the government will snatch away their gas stoves deserve some perspective on the New York Home Energy Affordable Transition Act, commonly known as the NY HEAT Act, which mandates a phased, managed transition from natural gas to electricity in New York state buildings.

The good news for residents of existing buildings is that they can keep their gas stoves for now. Without the NY HEAT Act, however, these users will incur massive utility price increases as a dwindling customer base shares the costs of expensive maintenance and upgrades to the state’s declining gas infrastructure. The only way to prevent consumer gas price shock while addressing climate change successfully is to pass the NY HEAT Act now as part of next year’s New York State budget. Moreover, projections show that New York residents could slash their utility bills by as much as 53% as a result of the NY HEAT Act, depending on their income and gas consumption. 

Anyone affected by Superstorm Sandy in 2012, the flood remnants of Hurricane Ida in September 2021, or the orange smoky skies of last summer probably knows that climate change promises many more of these events with devastating—and expensive--consequences. The only way to prevent the worst-case climate change scenario is to slash our dependence on fossil fuels ASAP. Mercifully, New York State has already passed some of the most aggressive climate change legislation in the country. New York’s flagship 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) sets goals for slashing carbon emissions 85% by 2050. 

The Climate Action Council tasked with determining how to achieve these goals found that natural gas consumption in buildings, electricity generation, and the industrial sector produces about 25% of current emissions and needs to be slashed dramatically. Unfortunately, decades-old state public service laws promote and subsidize natural gas expansionrather than contraction, and must be modified or repealed for the state to meet its designated emissions goals.  

For example, the law’s “utility obligation to provide gas service” makes gas service an entitlement for any resident who requests it, while the “100-foot rule” requires existing customers to share the cost of the new infrastructure needed to hook up new customers.  

Over the past five years, NYS gas utilities have spent more than $1 billion solely for the new infrastructure required by the 100-foot rule. Over the next two decades, gas utilities will likely spend a whopping $150 billion to replace more than 7,000 miles of aging, leak-prone pipes, according to Synapse Energy Economics. 

Meanwhile, even without the NY HEAT Act, the number of gas customers will decline, as new building owners, households, businesses, and residents increasingly favor electricity-- particularly with the passage of the All-Electric Buildings Law requiring new buildings to use electric heat and appliances starting in 2026. Even without the buildings law, however, this transition has already begun and is expected to continue. 

This is why gas customers should perhaps consider their utility bills rather than their gas stoves. Who else is going to pay for the new infrastructure required to keep the gas system running safely but the diminishing customer base left holding the bag? The result? Astronomical gas prices. 

This is not a viable scenario for gas customers. The only way to keep these costs down is to retire much of that pipe and transition gas customers to electricity in the most orderly way possible with the least financial impact. 

The NY HEAT act ends the subsidies for the gas system and gives the Public Service Commission the authority to plan that orderly transition, enabling much of the money that would have been spent maintaining and upgrading the gas system to instead be spent on electrifying gas customers, community by community. If done right, the transition will cost significantly less than simply keeping the gas system running. 

Much of that money could also be used to ensure that customers avoid massive utility bills and transition costs. In fact, the original NY HEAT Act mandates that utility costs cannot exceed 6% of income for low- and moderate-income households. With redirection of spending from the gas system to electrification and some allocations for energy efficiency measures, heat pumps, community solar, solar credits, and better energy grid utilization, this goal is readily achievable. 

Unfortunately, while Governor Kathy Hochul has included much of the NY HEAT Act in her 2025 state budget, she excluded the 6% cap requirement. Let’s hope that as the inevitable haggling between the governor and the NY State Senate and Assembly takes place, the entire NY HEAT Act will pass as part of the 2025 budget and that orderly transition can begin.

Leon Erlanger is a member of the Brooklyn chapter of the Citizens' Climate Lobby, a nonprofit.