‘Enough is enough’ Construction trade groups suing NYC over ban on gas in new construction

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New York Construction News staff writer

Gas and construction trade groups are heading to court in an attempt to block New York state’s ban on gas stoves and furnaces in new buildings.

Arguing the law violates federal rules for how gas appliances are regulated, groups filed the case against New York in federal court. The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York last month.

“Hundreds of plumbers on Long Island rely on new construction to feed their families and pay their mortgages,” Jimmy Russo, president of the Plumbing Contractors Association of Long Island said in a news release. “This illegal law has basically ripped the rug out from underneath them. It’s not about ‘what if’ things turn negative. We are already seeing new construction leave Long Island.

“We are in full support of a green economy, but we should talk about how to transition without ruining lives. Our message to the lawmakers who passed this bill without thinking of our 600 members and their families on Long Island: enough is enough.”

The ban was announced by Gov. Kathy Hochul earlier this year, to prevent installation of fossil-fuel equipment in new buildings. It’s set to take effect in 2026 for structures of seven stories or less and in 2029 for larger buildings. The law would not apply to existing buildings.

The suit, filed on behalf of “businesses and workers who will feel the effects of this law” seeks to declare the ban invalid and block its enforcement on the grounds that it is preempted by federal energy law, the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA).

Plaintiffs named include: Mulhern Gas Company; Plumbing Contractors Association of Long Island; National Association of Home Builders; New York State Builders Association; National Propane Gas Association; New York Propane Gas Association; Northeast Hearth Patio & Barbecue Association; Holmes Mechanical; Master Plumbers Council of New York; IBEW Local 1049; Plumbers Local 200; IBEW Local 97; and TWU Local 101.

They are asking a judge to rule that the state’s ban is unenforceable under federal law and for it to be blocked before it takes effect.

“Our clients are strong supporters of the State’s climate goals, but the ban puts our clients and their members at risk,” said Sarah Jorgensen, counsel for plaintiffs.  “A mandate banning gas now is not reasonable or affordable, when New York’s grid is already overburdened.

“And regardless, New York must comply with the law.”  Courtland Reichman, counsel for plaintiffs and RJLF’s Managing Partner, also noted that “a patchwork system for national energy policy is unworkable. Nationally uniform standards on energy use and energy efficiency are the best way to promote conservation goals while ensuring energy security, domestic supply, and consumer choice.”

The state’s law contains exemptions for emergency backup power equipment and for commercial food establishments, laboratories and car washes. New York City is set to begin phasing in a separate set of rules for all-electric new construction next year.

According to the lawsuit, the new law’s “unintended consequences of this illegal law are widespread and could negatively affect residents and communities from Niagara to Riverhead, including:

  • Forcing businesses to downsize, close or move out of New York
  • Sparking layoffs and reduced hiring needs
  • Triggering a significant increase in energy prices
  • Exacerbating the State’s housing affordability crisis
  • Jeopardizing the reliability of an already overburdened electric grid

“There won’t be a ‘just transition’ to a greener economy for NYC’s blue-collar utility workers if this rushed ban on gas appliances and service goes into effect. New York will be destroying good union jobs that sustain working families in neighborhoods across the outer boroughs today and will be needed to sustain them the future,” said Constance Bradley, president, TWU Local 101. “And the truth is New York’s electrical grid is not even close to being prepared for this forced changeover to an all electric NYC and state.

“Until the grid has the capacity to run an all-electric New York, this is simply not good policy. In fact, it is a betrayal of working New Yorkers.”

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