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Activists push state lawmakers to pass New York Heat Act

Governor Andrew Cuomo's office

Local lawmakers and environmental activists are encouraging the New York state legislature to pass the New York Heat Act.

They rallied outside of the state office building in Syracuse recently to get their message across.

Jessica Azulay from Alliance for a Green Economy had a message for state lawmakers.

"When the next rate hikes come in, we're going to be asking, 'Where were you? Why are we still seeing these rate increases?'" she said.

Supporters of the bill say it would save middle and low-income families an average of $75 per month by capping energy bills at six percent of their income.

The bill would also get rid of the 100 ft. rule that requires utilities to hook up new gas customers at no charge as long as the building is within 100 feet of an existing gas main.

Assemblyman Al Stirpe (D-Syracuse), who co-sponsored the bill in the assembly, said that’s a key part of the legislation.

"We need to give people a reason to stop and think that maybe there's a different way to do this, and if they're not going to be charged for that hookup, they're never going to think of a different way to go,” he said.

Sen. Rachel May (D-Syracuse), who co-sponsored the bill in the Senate, agrees.

“This is common sense policy,” she said. “We have a lot of policies in New York state that were written by the fossil fuel industry to make it necessary for everyone to have, in this case, gas pipes to their buildings. It’s a huge giveaway to them at the expense of rate payers in New York state.”

Chet Guenther from NYPIRG said passing the bill would be an important step toward helping New York state meet its climate goals.

"There is no more time. Archaic laws propping up the fossil fuel industry have tied us to an action for too long,” he said.

The legislative session ends on June 8.

Jessica Cain is a freelance reporter for WRVO, covering issues around central New York. Most recently, Jessica was a package producer at Fox News in New York City, where she worked on major news events, including the 2016 presidential conventions and election. Prior to that, she worked as a reporter and anchor for multiple media outlets in central and northern New York. A Camillus native, Jessica enjoys exploring the outdoors with her daughters, going to the theater, playing the piano, and reading.