Senator Mario R. Mattera speaks during a press conference to...

Senator Mario R. Mattera speaks during a press conference to oppose a proposed ban of the use of clean-burning natural gas, propane, and oil in new construction as has been proposed as part of the state budget, outside Smithtown Town Hall Friday, March 25, 2022. Credit: Barry Sloan

Building permits for new homes and offices less than seven stories tall that include gas or fuel oil heat would not be approved after 2024 under a proposal in the State Senate’s budget bill, but opponents are mobilizing.

The measure would mandate that buildings only could use electricity for all heating systems in an effort to pave the way for new heat-pump or geothermal energy systems.

The Senate bill also would make all new construction across the state, including buildings above seven stories, electric-only by 2027.

Proponents say the measure is needed to begin the transition from greenhouse gas-emitting fossil fuels, as required by state climate law.

Opponents say the Senate bill calls for a transition sooner than is feasible.

Opponents also say a cost-benefit analysis hasn't been done, and that it's not known whether state utilities can handle the added demand for electricity. 

A bipartisan group of officials from local and state government, along with building groups and unionized National Grid gas workers, protested the measure at a rally in Smithtown Friday.

Rich Schaffer, chairman of the Suffolk County Supervisors Association, said at the event that in rolling out next-generation power technologies, "diversification is important. You can't jam one item down everybody's throat."

Schaffer is the Babylon Town supervisor.

The 2024 start date in the Senate bill is three years earlier than Gov. Kathy Hochul calls for in her state budget.

The state Assembly budget bill does not include the language, but "there's huge pressure to get it done," an Assembly source told Newsday.

A budget deal is due April 1.

The Senate bill says by January 2024, municipalities may only issue permits for new buildings seven stories or less that are “all electric.” 

That would mean new buildings could not use gas or propane.

"A restaurant is significantly different than a single family home" in its need for natural gas for cooking, Mitch Pally, chief executive officer of the Long Island Builders Institute, told Newsday.

Pally said his group's primary objection to the Senate bill is that a full cost-benefit analysis of the 2024 transition hasn't been done. 

"Without that, you can’t figure out how it can be done and how much it will cost businesses, and whether the utility has capacity to do it," Pally said. 

A spokeswoman for Hochul said the governor's executive budget "includes bold initiatives to embrace this once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest in our future, and we look forward to continuing to work with the legislature to finalize a budget that serves all New Yorkers.” 

State Sen. Mario Mattera (R-St. James), who is leading legislative opposition to the bill, said the Senate measure would “cost jobs and increase energy costs at a time when our residents need economic growth.”

Asked when a proper transition to all-electric could occur, Mattera told Newsday, "I feel at least a couple of decades, in my eyes." 

LIPA declined to comment on the Senate proposal but said, "generally, the requirement for all-electric new construction is consistent with … plans to meet the state’s climate goals."

LIPA said, "we continue to encourage heat pumps in new construction," which the utility called "beneficial for both the contractors and the homeowner."

Patrick Guidice, business manager for Local 1049 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which represents some 2,000 National Grid gas workers and as many PSEG Long Island workers, argued the 2024 transition is too quick.

“People need time” to transition to all-electric buildings, Guidice said.

“We may get there 10 or 15 years from now. To rush through this, not preparing people to be able to economically transition their lives to a carbon-free environment,” could lead to missteps, Guidice said.

Michael Murphy, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers), did not respond to a request for comment.

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