(The Center Square) — Gov. Kathy Hochul is pledging to make New York the first state to ban natural gas heating and appliances in new buildings as part of a broader effort to blunt rising energy costs.
Hochul used her state-of-the-state address Tuesday to highlight the new proposal, which would prohibit the use of fossil fuels by 2025 for smaller buildings, and 2028 for larger structures. Under the plan, New York would also ban the sale of any new fossil-fuel heating systems beginning in 2030, she said.
“Buildings are the largest source of emissions in our state, accounting for a third of our greenhouse gas output, as well as pollution that aggravates asthma and endangers our children,” the Democrat said in the first State of the State address since being sworn in for her first elected term.
She said the plan is part of a broader effort to “insulate our most vulnerable households from exorbitant energy bills, and to clear the path forward for a more sustainable future.”
“We are taking these actions because climate change remains the greatest threat to our planet, and to our children and grandchildren,” she said.
Hochul said the plan would also help the state meet its ambitious goals to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 85% over 1990s levels by 2050.
“Of course, we must do so thoughtfully,” she said. “In a way that prioritizes affordability, protects those who are already struggling to get by, and corrects the environmental injustices of the past.”
Hochul also pitched a new “cap-and-invest” program for the state that will target the biggest emitters of carbon emissions to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.
“Big emitters will have to purchase permits to sell polluting fuels,” she said. “The dirtier the fuel – the bigger the price tag.”
She said the program would drum up an estimated $1 billion the state would use to help homeowners cover utility bills, transportation costs, and de-carbonization efforts.
Hochul also used the speech to tout a plan to help low-income families retrofit their homes by adding insulation, upgrading appliances, and switching from fossil fuels to clean electric heating systems.
She said the “EmPower Plus” program would reach tens of thousands of households within a year. Homes that electrify will be eligible for a first-in-the-nation Energy Affordability Guarantee, a promise they will never spend more than six percent of their income on electricity.
To ease the burden on New Yorkers struggling with high electric bills, Hochul said the state will be providing at least $165 million in relief to more than 800,000 utility customers.
“We know that the key to long-term sustainability – for our wallets and our planet – is weaning ourselves from fossil fuels,” she said.
In her speech to lawmakers Tuesday, she also highlighted proposals to expand mental health services by adding 1,000 more beds and 3,500 housing units, improve public safety, and build at least 800,000 homes over the next decade to ease a housing crunch.
But the climate change proposals she outlined foreshadow an aggressive environmental agenda for her first full term as governor.
Last year, Hochul directed state regulators to make changes necessary to require all new passenger cars, pickup trucks and SUVs sold in the state to be zero emissions by 2035.
The move followed California’s ban on the sale of new gasoline-powered vehicles starting in 2035, which set a precedent for other blue states.