ALBANY — State lawmakers on energy and environmental committees mixed it up with policymakers, and experts in power generation Thursday at a hearing legislation that would put New York on the path of having all-electric requirements for new building construction.
Assemblyman Chris Tague, R-Schoharie, was among Republicans who contended the timetable for implementing the plan is unrealistic and could deter people and businesses from moving into the state.
Tague stated at the Assembly hearing he believes there should be a "proven solid plan before we start mandating all these actions.
"Are we moving too fast with this whole plan, and should we slow down a little bit, and make sure that we get the proper infrastructure in place" before proceeding? he said.
Doreen Harris, the president of the New York State Energy Research Development Authority, said New York's buildings are its largest single source of carbon emissions and the energy used to heat that space is the largest contributor to those emissions.
She noted Gov. Kathy Hochul has a goal of having 2 million "climate friendly homes" in the state by 2030.
Updating heating systems in houses would cost $17,000 on average for a house valued at about $350,000, Harris said, citing research on the metrics of retrofitting them and making them energy efficient. But she noted the costs are expected to come down as the scale of the push expands.
Assemblyman Mike Lawler, R-Pearl River, was openly skeptical of the affordability of the effort, as he said he "conservatively" estimates New York now has some 4 million homes using natural gas. Lawler suggested the push to all-electric buildings in the state for residential housing would cost as much as $68 trillion.
While Harris could not provide a cost projection, she said she disputes the figure used by Lawler. The assemblyman responded that it was "extremely alarming" the chief of NYSERDA could not offer an estimate of how many houses in New York are now heated with natural gas.
Democrats in both chambers of the Legislature are proposing the All-Electric Building Act. Under that bill, new buildings less than seven stories could not have heating systems using fossil fuels as of 2024. The mandate would extend to taller buildings beginning July 1, 2027.
Harris said the push for all-electric construction is vital to reduce emissions that contribute to global climate change.
But statements in support of the legislation drew pointed retorts from Assemblyman Robert Smullen, R-Fulton County, who noted that greenhouse gas emissions in New York are dwarfed by the emissions from China and India, where coal plants remain common despite environmental concerns.
Smullen suggested later that the use of heat pumps in Adirondack towns would yield less benefits than they would on Long Island. He suggested that any push for all-electric buildings in New York be phased in by region rather than impose the same broad mandate on all parts of the state at once.
The legislation comes on the heels of New York City moving last December to become the nation's largest city to enact a prohibition on new construction.
The bill states corporations seeking approval to have infrastructure for the transport and distribution of natural gas in New York emphasize the need for meeting increasing demand for customers in new buildings.
"Prohibiting the use of fossil fuels in new construction will eliminate this rationale and help achieve the greenhouse gas emission reduction goals established in the New York State Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) and further New York's record as a leader in combating climate change," the bill states.
Republicans also said they were concerned state bureaucrats have not adequately informed the estimated 20,000 Amish residents of New York about the proposed mandates, suggesting those residents do not live in all-electric houses.
In response to Tague, Harris said the enforcement of the all-electric mandates would be handled by local building code officials.