Health Professionals, Lawmakers, & Advocates Release New Report; Call on Gov. Hochul to Pass NY HEAT Act

For more information contact: Marissa Solomon, 734-330-0807, [email protected]

New report by Concerned Health Professionals of NY and Physicians for Social Responsibility shows the many negative health impacts of burning fracked gas in homes, illustrates urgent need for NY HEAT Act to get off gas and protect marginalized communities

ALBANY, NY (10/19/2023) (readMedia)– Doctors and scientists, along with lawmakers and advocates, released a major new report this morning at a press conference. The report presents the mounting evidence showing that burning fracked gas in homes for heating, hot water, and cooking has a detrimental impact on human health and the climate, with environmental justice implications as low-income communities of color are at particular risk. With the launch of this new report, the group called on Governor Hochul to commit to including the NY HEAT Act in next year’s budget.

Read the report here.

Biologist and lead author on the report, Sandra Steingraber, PhD, said, “Gas-fired stoves and furnaces represent the terminus of a fracking pipeline that begins at the wellhead and ends in our kitchens and basements. All along this pipeline are toxic air pollutants–including carcinogenic benzene–environmental injustice, and health harms. The good news is that, with the right policies, we have all the technology we need to stop burning fossil fuel in our homes, electrify home appliances, and protect children’s health.”

“Children and families should not have indoor air pollutants piped into their homes from combustion heat and cooking appliances,” said Dr. Kathleen Nolan, a pediatrician and president of the New York Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility. “We have worked for decades to reduce indoor exposures to second-hand tobacco smoke only to encounter very similar contaminants, such as benzene, formaldehyde, and carbon monoxide, being produced by the indoor burning of fuel oils and so-called natural gas. The NY HEAT Act phases in clean, odorless, safe forms of indoor energy and phases out the use of combustible contaminating oils and gasses. Rather than continue down the mistaken paths of the past, we should take the opportunity now to begin our transition to cleaner and healthier forms of indoor energy.”

“For decades, Black and Brown communities in New York have felt the impact of climate change by living with worsening air quality and health inequities as a result. This is why the Legislature and the Executive must pass the NY HEAT Act next session. This bill will support our transition to cleaner electric appliances, which will improve indoor air quality in our homes and help our community save money on utilities,” said State Senator Gustavo Rivera, NYS Senate Health Committee Chair.

“So often legislation that makes good climate sense and economic sense are also firmly centered in environmental justice. Children in my district have higher rates of asthma, they breathe in more toxic fumes on average, and to top it off they have compromised access to health care. We desperately need the NY HEAT Act in next year’s budget, not just so we can take steps towards meeting the climate goals we have set for New York State, but also so we can intervene in an urgent public health crisis that is negatively impacting the health of children in neighborhoods like mine,” said State Senator Jessica Ramos.

“The NY HEAT Act is not just a climate bill; it is a beacon of hope for affordability, justice, and timely action. By capping utility bills at 6% of income for low and moderate income households, it ensures that no one is burdened by exorbitant energy costs. Empowering the Public Service Commission to achieve climate justice targets, this legislation paves the way for equitable and sustainable solutions. By eliminating ratepayer subsidies for gas system expansions and promoting neighborhood-scale alternatives, the NY HEAT Act manages infrastructure costs while prioritizing the well-being of New Yorkers. It is a crucial step towards a cleaner, fairer, and more resilient future for our state,” said Senator Nathalia Fernandez.

“In recent years, our communities have experienced record-breaking storms, increased rates of childhood asthma, and heightened levels of carcinogens that will persist unless we take bold action. Including the NY HEAT Act in our State Budget is essential to help the state achieve our climate goals and ensure that outdated gas pipelines no longer seriously impact the health of our neighborhoods and cities across the state,” said Assembly Member Kimberly Jean-Pierre.

“This report adds to the growing body of evidence that burning fracked gas in homes poses a significant threat to public health, especially in communities of color and low-income which are already exposed to disproportionate amounts of air pollution,” said Annie Carforo, Climate Justice Campaigns Manager at WE ACT for Environmental Justice. “That is why we urge Governor Hochul to include the NY HEAT Act in next year’s budget. This legislation will help expedite our transition away from this harmful source of air pollution while helping the state’s most vulnerable families save money on their utility bills.”

About the Report

The ninth edition of the Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking was released this morning by Concerned Health Professionals of New York (a program of the Science and Environmental Health Network) and Physicians for Social Responsibility (winner of the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize). By bringing together and analyzing evidence comprehensively, the report provides an assessment of the state of the fracking industry and its impacts. This new addition (page 95-97 and 560-564 of the Compendium) presents the detrimental impacts of fracked gas after it is sent to its final destination – stoves and furnaces in homes. Major findings include:

  • Gas-fired appliances create many indoor pollutants including corrosive nitrogen dioxides, deadly carbon monoxide, and the carcinogens formaldehyde and benzene for which there are no safe levels of exposure
  • According to the U.S. EPA, air inside homes with gas stoves has average concentrations of nitrogen dioxide that are 50-400 percent higher than the air inside homes with electric stoves. These levels of air pollution can easily exceed health guidelines and would be considered illegal outdoors (like on a busy roadway). Nitrogen dioxide exposure is a proven cause of childhood asthma.
  • A 2013 study found that children living in a home with a gas stove have a 42% increased risk of current asthma and a 24% increased risk of lifetime asthma. A 2022 investigation building on this research found that 13% of childhood asthma cases in the U.S. are attributable to the use of gas stoves. In New York, 18.8% of childhood asthma cases are attributable to gas stoves.
  • Nitrogen dioxide exposure from gas stove emissions is an environmental justice violation. Asthma is the leading chronic disease among U.S. children, with Black children nearly three times more likely to suffer asthma than white children.
  • Evidence suggests that communities of color and low-income communities are disproportionately harmed by gas stove emissions especially among households with smaller, older, less-ventilated living spaces that often rely on the dangerous practice of using gas ovens for supplemental heat.
  • Both the American Medical Association and the American Public Health Association have recognized the links among gas stoves, nitrogen dioxide pollution, and increased respiratory illnesses in children and have called for a transition away from gas stoves and toward electric home appliances.

About the NY HEAT ACT

The NY HEAT Act will help get New York off climate and health-destroying fossil fuels, and stop New Yorkers from having to pay for expanding and replacing the unhealthy, polluting, expensive, and outdated fracked gas pipeline network that’s contributing to childhood asthma, other forms of respiratory illness, and exposure to carcinogens with no known safe levels, such as benzene.

The NY HEAT Act would save low and middle income families money – up to $75/month – on their energy bills so they don’t spend more than 6% of their income for energy. That’s significant savings for families that already spend three times more of their income on energy bills than other households. The bill would save all gas customers in New York $200 million annually by ending the 100-foot rule, which forces every day New Yorkers to subsidize the expansion of the gas system. It will also allow utilities to redirect an estimated $150 billion that it will cost to complete planned gas pipe replacements over the next 20 years, and instead invest in neighborhood-scale building electrification that will free rate payers from volatile price spikes driven by reliance on fossil fuels. By ending the 100-foot rule and other important provisions that would help New York get off gas, the NY HEAT Act would accelerate New York’s transition off climate-killing fossil fuels. This summer, New Yorkers felt the impact of climate change more than ever, experiencing public health and environmental crises like extreme heat, flooding, and wildfire smoke.

Extreme weather defined summer 2023 in New York. Early September’s three-day heat wave sent temperatures 20 degrees higher than usual. Every month this summer, June through September, set records as the hottest respectively, with July as the planet’s hottest month on record. 2023 is now poised to be the hottest year in recorded history. Heat kills about 350 New Yorkers each year, with Black New Yorkers more than twice as likely to die from heat as white residents. This number will likely rise as climate change worsens. And according to research covered in the New York Times, heat waves across the United States would have been ‘virtually impossible’ without the influence of human-caused climate change.

It’s not just extreme heat costing New Yorkers’ lives and wallets because of climate change. New Yorkers choked on toxic air several times throughout this summer thanks to smoke from the Canadian wildfires. During the first ‘Smoke Bomb,’ NYC ERs saw double the usual amount of asthma visits. And earlier in July, Assembly Member Sarahana Shrestha held a press conference at the Rhinecliff Amtrak Station, demanding the Assembly pass the NY HEAT Act following the devastating flooding in the Hudson Valley. The torrential rainfall with 9 inches of rain in over 24 hours killed an Orange County resident. It also knocked out Amtrak and Metro-North service for three days and completely washed away highways, making it impossible for people to get to work. The damage from the flooding is estimated to cost over $35 million.

The NY HEAT Act passed the Senate at the end of last session, and momentum around the bill, which now has 74 co-sponsors in the Assembly, continues to build. Throughout August, more than 30 lawmakers participated in the “Hot, Broke Summer” ice cream tour across NYC, handing ice cream out to their constituents, talking about energy savings and climate change, and building support for the bill. Now, lawmakers and advodates are taking the NY HEAT Hot Chili Tour across the state, discussing energy savings and climate change over warm bowls of chili.

About Better Buildings NY

RHN is a network of organizations working to accelerate the adoption of ground-source (geothermal) and air-source heat pumps in New York to reduce the amount of fossil fuels used to heat and cool our homes and workplaces. We are committed to environmental justice and a just transition to all-electric homes and buildings.

About Concerned Health Professionals of NY

CHPNY is an initiative by health professionals, scientists, and medical organizations for raising science-based concerns about the impacts of fracking and its infrastructure on public health and safety. CHPNY provides educational resources and works to ensure that careful consideration of health and climate impacts are at the forefront of the fracking debate and fossil fuel policy decisions. In 2021, CHPNY became part of the Science and Environmental Health Network.

*$75/month savings calculated using 9.3% average energy burden in the NYC metro area for low-income families and 200% of the federal poverty level income of $27,180 for a one person household.