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Op-Ed | Governor Hochul just signed a critical climate bill that you haven’t heard about

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Governor Kathy Hochul.
Photo by Dean Moses

This week, Governor Hochul signed the most important piece of climate legislation of the year into law– and you probably haven’t heard about it. The Advanced Building Codes, Appliance and Equipment Efficiency Standards Act of 2022 (the “Codes and Standards” Act) mandates stronger efficiency standards for appliances you use in your home: everything from air purifiers to computers to lightbulbs and more.

The benefit is if your appliances use less electricity, you spend less when you use them, and power plants emit fewer greenhouse gasses.

So, why is this so significant?

First, the cost savings for New York families will be tremendous. This summer, we’re experiencing continued increased utility costs, with electricity supply prices potentially rising more than 10% statewide. New Yorkers will be forced to make tough decisions between turning on their AC in scorching heat or using that money for other crucial needs. Codes and Standards improvements are a proactive step to get ahead of the problem rather than simply respond to it; the cheapest electricity is the electricity you don’t need to use.

By passing Codes and Standards and using more efficient appliances, New Yorkers will save $15 billion over the next 15 years on their utility bills – and $6 billion of those savings will be for low-income consumers.

The benefits of the bill extend beyond pocketbooks. The law is an important step to lowering greenhouse gas emissions in New York, which is required by the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), New York state’s landmark climate law passed in 2019. The CLCPA shapes the state’s energy, environmental and transportation policies for the next three decades and beyond.

Buildings have surpassed the transportation sector as the leading source of climate emissions statewide, responsible for over 30% of New York’s emissions. To adhere to the CLCPA and mitigate the worsening effects of our current and growing climate crisis, we must significantly reduce buildings’ greenhouse gas and air pollution emissions over the next 30 years. Passing new codes and standards will do just that – the greenhouse gas savings are equivalent to taking 3.7 million cars off the road for a year.

The bill also enables future building codes to align with the CLCPA and incorporate greenhouse gas savings and lifetime savings from efficiency measures, creating healthier, less polluting, more comfortable, climate-friendly homes into the future.

Oil and gas companies, desperate to maintain the unsustainable status quo, poured millions of dollars into false and deceptive advertising to defeat other critical climate legislation. We’re thrilled that despite their intense lobbying efforts, the State Legislature passed Advanced Codes and Standards, and that Governor Hochul has officially signed it into law. While most New Yorkers might not have this legislation on their radar, families across the state will feel the positive impacts in the near and long term.

New York State must move forward with additional legislation to decarbonize buildings. New York legislators will have multiple opportunities in the next legislative session, with bills such as the All-Electric New Construction Act, the Gas Transition and Affordable Energy Act and others. The Legislature and the Governor must continue to listen to the needs of everyday New Yorkers, reducing utility bills along with local air pollution, and addressing the existential threat of climate change, not the oil and gas companies.

Richard Schrader is the New York Legislative and Policy Director, Natural Resources Defense Council and Samantha Wilt is the Senior Policy Analyst, Climate & Clean Energy Program, Natural Resources Defense Council.

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