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Help NEHPBA Fight Gas Bans in New England and New York

22 September 2020

As you create your budget for 2021, the NEHPBA Board needs your support, once again, in continuing our very successful and effective campaign to fight on your behalf against gas and fossil fuels bans in the Northeast. We hope that you can once again assist in funding our regional lobbying efforts.

As you know, we have hired O’Neil & Associates, a prestigious lobbying firm with whom we have been very effective in fighting Energy Zero (Net-Zeo/Electrification/Gas Ban) Issues. This has been a valuable and worthy expense to forward our progress. We are asking all members as well as HPBA to help us fund this cause for continuing the fight into 2021. You may or may not know that several members, including dealers, manufacturers and distributors, have agreed to funding help. As you know, there is great concern with the relentless initiative to ban natural gas and fossil fuels in our region. With the help of our lobbying firm we have so far been very successful.

 Here is some insight into a few of our winning campaigns: 

  • Board of Building Regulations & Standards, MA (BBRS) - State Wide NetZero Building code – Testified at Public Hearing and submitted written comments. Got BBRS to “stay” the vote in Nov 2019, pushing it off until May 2020.
  • A Members-Only webinar with David Ismay, Undersecretary of Climate Initiative to Governor Baker – the highest government official we have ever had the ear of one-on-one for a conversation re the path to Net-Zero.
  • MA Attorney General Healy voted against the Brookline, MA city-wide gas ban – Submitted written testimony on behalf of our members and initiated a letter-writing/email campaign to the MA AG in July 2020.  
  • MA S.2842 State-Wide Gas Ban Legislative Amendment we had overturned through a phone call/email campaign by our members.
  • Overturned MA amendment 61 to House Climate Bill removing language about improving greenhouse emissions through the use of biomass/wood/proper forestation – email writing campaign for members to Massachusetts House of Reps.
  • Board of Building Regulations s & Standards, MA (BBRS) - State Wide NetZero Building code – Again testified at Zoom Public Hearing and submitted written testimony. Convinced BBRS to vote against and overturn this building code in May 2020, removing this completely from the agenda going forward.
  • Presently, we are writing a comment letter on behalf of our members to be submitted to the Conference Committee regarding the Massachusetts Climate Bill.

We are also working on a "Save Our Natural Gas and Propane" campaign hopefully in combination with Propane Gas of New England (PGANE) and HPBA, we are publishing regular press releases on “energy diversity and security”, Joel Etter (NEHPBA President) and I will be participating in a podcast with O’Neil & Associates on this subject in October, and we are closely monitoring legislation in CT regarding greater accountability in the utility sector, natural gas legislation in NY, as well as licensing legislation in VT.

NEHPBA has joined the Mass Coalition for Sustainable Energy (MCSE) and The Empowerment Alliance. NEHPBA had a hand in writing and editing the MCSE letter to the conferees regarding the MA Climate Bill.

We will continue the fight for Clean and Affordable Energy. Please join us. We appreciate any donation either monthly or a one-time sponsorship. https://nehpba.org/donation#!form/Sponsorship

Thank you for your Support. Please let me know if you have any questions at all. I am available via phone and email anytime.



Widespread Power Outages Across New England Highlight Importance of Energy Diversity

6 August 2020

August 6, 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

NEHPBA: Preserving access to natural gas and other fuel sources is critical for emergency readiness in major weather events

Sudbury, MA – The Northeast Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association today said that widespread power outages being experienced across New England highlight the critical nature of energy diversity and the risks of over-dependence on electric power for household and commercial heating, cooking and cooling.

More than 220,000 households were without power in Massachusetts following Tropical Storm Isaias late Tuesday night, while approximately 50,000 lost power in New Hampshire. Rhode Island reported over 100,000 households without power after the storm, and a staggering 700,000 homes were still without power Thursday morning across Connecticut, leaving work crews scrambling to restore service and state officials furious at utility response times.

“Tropical Storm Isaias is a summer weather event, but it’s a vivid illustration of how huge sections of the power grid can be knocked out in a matter of minutes at any time of the year,” said Joel Etter, President of NEHPBA and Senior Wholesale Account Manager for Hearth & Home Technologies. “Winter Nor’easters, blizzards and ice storms are something we are all too familiar with in New England. When the grid goes down in those conditions, over-reliance on electric power can be dangerous.”

NEHPBA is part of a cross-section of industry associations and advocates fighting to maintain energy diversity in the marketplace – as special interests support initiatives to ban natural gas, complicate regulations around propane and wood-burning fuel products and limit choices for home-heating systems. The industry is working together with other businesses as well as consumers to ensure natural gas continues to be available in New England and the Northeast as part of a complete range of energy choices.

Banning new natural gas connections or curbing existing use dramatically will hurt Americans when costs of living are already high. The over-reliance on electric power for heating and cooking exposes households to higher risks when major weather events knock out the grid.“New England households need diverse energy choices to maintain financial stability, and to protect families when the region’s electric power infrastructure sustains massive failure– as we are seeing today,” said Karen Luther, Executive Director of NEHPBA. “It happens in the summer and it happens in winter. It happened this week and it will happen again.”


About the Northeast Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association

Since 1985, the Northeast Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (NEHPBA) has represented the interests of the hearth industry in the Northeast.  NEHPBA was originally incorporated in January 1985 as the Northeast Solid Fuel Alliance (NESFA) in recognition of the unique demands of business in the Northeast. In June of 1992, NESFA members voted to become the first affiliated member of the national Hearth Products Association (HPA) and became the Northeast Hearth Products Association (NEHPA). In 2002, NEHPA became the Northeast Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (NEHPBA) in conjunction with the merger of the national HPA with the Barbecue Industry Association to become the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA), thus recognizing the diversification of the modern industry.  The NEHPBA name has remained since 2002.


Economic Benefits through the Direct Use of Natural Gas

22 July 2020

Over 69 million American households rely on natural gas utilities to provide energy to appliances inside their homes. Another 5.7 million more commercial and industrial businesses are supplied through the same local gas utilities to meet their daily needs. This feat is made possible by hundreds of thousands of individuals employed by gas utilities and their extended supply chains. However, job creation and economic development don’t end with the actions of utilities or by producers. Through this service, job opportunities exist across the entire U.S. economy through the direct, indirect, and induced effects of supplying energy to homes and businesses.

In addition to the 138 thousand individuals employed by natural gas utilities, companies that supply these utilities create associated natural gas jobs too, and the grand sum of all employed individuals encourages additional economic activity through the consumption of goods or services by individuals. These companies also provide a critical intermediate service for other businesses to operate. This analysis will determine both the total impact on employment from the natural gas direct use supply chain as well as to uncover the extent to which utility jobs stay local.

Based on the findings from the REMI model, in 2018, over 3.4 million jobs were connected to the direct use of natural gas. These jobs added $408 billion to GDP and paid $152 billion in personal income. The model also indicated a strong relationship between natural gas utilities and the local economy, with as much as 83 percent of all employment remaining local. Also, the prospects for new sales and the more specific inclusion of converting electric homes to natural gas have positive economic growth beyond the potential savings sustained by individual households. 

Want to be part of the solution and part of the conversation? Contact Northeast HPBA.

Click here for the full report.

AGA.org


Say "NO" to a Massachusetts Net Zero Building Code!

28 May 2020

Once again the Massachusetts Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS) is holding a vote that could pass a State-Wide Net Zero stretch code (now called "EZ" stretch code for "Energy Zero"). Please sign and submit this letter to the chair of the BBRS and help stop this new building code from passing and having a dramatic effect across Massachusetts!

There is a lot of support for this from environmental advocates and this type of policy has already passed at the city level in Brookline, MA. This means it's even more important for our industry to stand up and make our opposition heard. 

Click the link and fill out the form to send an email opposing this effort. 


US State Regulators Hear Notes of Caution on Municipal Gas Ban Movement

14 February 2020

John Crouch, HPBA Government Affairs, sent me this article and I found it interesting. It's long, but I've highlighted the sections that I found the most pertinent and interesting. Can common sense prevail? We'll see....

Washington — State regulators were served a strong dose of skepticism Sunday about municipal bans on natural gas hookups in new buildings from parties concerned about the consumer costs and the wisdom of setting key energy policies outside the state utility regulation construct.

Depending on how widespread it becomes, the wave of bans, as well as other incentives for building electrification, could have broad implications for the residential fuel mix and the future of gas distribution infrastructure and demand.

"My experience has been that the city councils aren't necessarily the source of balanced information, just and reasonable cost estimates, all the things that are part of the utility regulatory framework that makes determinations on the capital infrastructure investments," said Timothy Simon, a former California Public Utility Commission member.

Simon, who currently represents several local distribution companies, was among panelists urging caution about the bans during a staff gas subcommittee meeting at the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners winter policy summit.

While residential energy use makes up only 7% of California's carbon dioxide emissions, "it's gaining the ire and the attack of city councils across my great state," he said. The "real culprit" in his view is transportation, which makes up 41% of CO2 emissions and is concentrated around big rig diesel trucks. Those trucks "generally don't run through Bel Air and Beverly Hills, he said. "They generally are running by black and brown communities that are in industrial sections near ports of entry and other areas."

Beginning with a ban in Berkeley, California, municipal gas bans have spread through California and appeared in the Boston area and Washington state.

AARP VIEW

Bill Malcolm, senior legislative representative from AARP, said that while his group does not favor one type of fuel over another, it has raised questions in several states about rate impacts for low and moderate income residents.

"I just checked the numbers and natural gas is now at $1.85/MMBtu, and just to put that in perspective, in 2012 it was actually $12/MMBtu," he said. "So where is the new power for the new load going to come from?" he said.

In Connecticut, for instance, AARP filed comments questioning whether incentives to install electric heat pumps over gas furnaces would benefit ratepayers and whether it would drive up peak power demand, he noted.

PUC ROLE

What role state regulators will play in the debate is "the multi-billion question that will most likely be settled by the courts," said Andreas Thanos, a Massachusetts regulator who chairs the NARUC gas staff subcommittee, when reached by email.

While PUCs grant the franchise allowing an LDC to go into a town or city, municipalities are using their bylaws to implement the bans. "So the PUCs will most likely not weigh in on the issue until the courts decide," he said.

Dianne Solomon, a New Jersey Board of Public Utilities commissioner, said she also sees a movement by states to empower their departments of environmental protection to "get into this space, take it out of the hands of the utility regulators and suggest that all projects going forward would have to have some environmental impact."

Several state regulators suggested green groups have had the more effective messaging thus far.

"I have heard a lot from the environmental advocates, Sierra Club and what have you, saying why we should have the natural gas bans," said Greer Gillis, a member of the Public Service Commission of the District of Columbia, adding it was important to get the views aired in the room out into the mainstream.

Judith Schwartz, a former utility commissioner from Palo Alto, where a municipal "reach code" encouraging all electric construction was adopted, contended "while the intentions are good, the reality of what [gas bans] are doing is minimal." During the winter "you have natural gas and imports making up the shortfall of every single hour of the day," she said.

Still, speaking from the audience, David Kolata with the Citizens Utility Board of Illinois, said he believed the issue was more complicated than the dialogue Sunday suggested.

"It's pretty clear that in every blue state, we're going to need to deliver a plan" that keeps the increase in temperatures due to climate change under 2 degrees Celsius, he said, with the modeling showing the need to decarbonize electricity, heating and transportation.

"Given that, how do we think about this from a consumer advocate point of view, where money spent on natural gas right now and natural gas infrastructure could very well be stranded?" he said.

spglobal.com


The True Cost of Electrification in New England, New York, and Across the Nation

5 February 2020

We are seeing an increasing number of jurisdictions seriously talking about converting their communities to all-electric homes. These efforts are failing to consider key issues.

1. Many communities reference solar energy as a viable option for homes without discussing the challenges. Solar electricity generation is great during the day, but without widespread electrical storage, taking advantage of that electricity is difficult. We don’t often see mention of the associated cost of not just the solar panels, but also necessary electrical storage.

There must be a discussion about the demand curve of electricity. This curve shows the modest demand for electricity in the day (people getting ready in the morning), the demand drop-off during the middle of the day (people are away from home, but solar is plentiful, weather permitting), and then the steep ramp-up in electricity demand in the evening (people return home, preparing meals, heating homes, etc.). The fluctuations of the demand curve will become steeper with a higher demand for electricity brought on by all-electric homes. Storage options will help mitigate this demand, but they are expensive, and history has shown that most people who opt for solar do not add storage, usually due to high costs.

Solar will be limited in its practicality depending on location and climate. In sunnier areas with clear lines of sight, solar is a good option for supplementing energy. In snow country, poor weather, or limited visibility (trees, nearby buildings, etc.), solar does not produce at optimal levels, if at all.

2. Electricity is not known for its resiliency during winter storms or other emergency situations. Without storage, if the power goes out, you have no power to heat, cook, or bathe if you depend on grid electricity, which the vast majority of consumers do. With natural gas or propane, you have much better resiliency for an energy source. Even if the gas-burning central furnace won’t run during a power outage because it relies on electricity to run the fan, your gas fireplaces, gas stovetops, and gas hot water heaters all continue to operate.

3. Related to the last point, we must think about the expected increased electrical rate costs. If everyone moves to a single fuel source, the demand is higher, which in-turn will very likely increase the cost. The electricity generated during the day via solar has minor value, as electricity is not in demand then. With most utilities having moved, or moving, to a Time Of Use (TOU) billing model for electricity, the highest energy in demand (during the evening) will also be the most expensive.

4. One of the primary reasons to move to all-electric homes is to lower carbon dioxide emissions. However, unless the electricity is coming directly from a renewable resource (solar panels, wind, hydro, etc.), it will be coming from a central power plant. Central power plants have very low efficiency rates – far lower than most residential furnaces or room heaters. On average, the highest efficiency rate for a natural gas-burning power plant is about 43%, with coal, oil, and nuclear efficiencies being even lower (31-33%)1. When you consider that residential gas-burning furnaces operate at a minimum of 80-82% efficiency, and then only as needed, it’s clear that fewer emissions are created from homes heated with natural gas than all-electric homes which draw from central power plants.

There is a bias evident in this effort to promote electrification. We’ve seen articles that say that 45% of carbon dioxide emissions are from electricity and heat in Canada, but if you look closer at the data, we find that only 6% is from homes using natural gas. The rest is from industrial, manufacturing, municipal and commercial. These sources will certainly be affected by changing to electrification, but the impact will be seen and felt differently. Focusing on converting homes to all-electric is an expensive proposition for the homeowner and not necessarily the best choice for the environment.

Studies show that electrification will cause price increases. It could be the increased cost to buy a new home due to new technologies will drive even more people out of the homebuyer market with five-figure increases. But electrification will also raise the cost for an average household by between $750 and $910 per year, just based on normal use of electricity from the grid.

Consumers deserve to be able to make their own decisions on how they heat their homes and cook their meals. Electrification not only removes that consumer choice, but also could shut the door to new and promising technological advances like renewable natural gas.

It’s time for everyone to understand the full cost of electrification.

For more information, contact NEHPBA.

HPBA


Gas is in the Past After Brookline, MA Special Town Meeting

21 November 2019

Fossil fuels are out following the second night of Brookline’s special Town Meeting.

Town Meeting members  passed Article 21, which will prohibit the use of fossil fuel infrastructure in new construction and significant renovations in town.

“This warrant article is not the whole answer, but it represents a start” in reaching Brookline’s stated 2050 carbon neutral goal, said Town Meeting member Cornelia van der Ziel.

“When you’re in a hole, the first thing is to stop digging,” State Rep. Tommy Vitolo said; this warrant article takes away the shovel, he added.

The bylaw passed overwhelmingly, with 210 votes in favor.

“This is a historic day for the community of Brookline and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” TMM, architect and article co-sponsor Lisa Cunningham said in a Mothers Out Front press release following the vote.

She added, “I hope this demonstrates to parents and citizens across the country that they also have the power to move their communities to a clean energy future.”

The bylaw does include some exemptions, allowing fossil fuel infrastructure needed for backup generators, restaurant kitchens and medical offices, among other uses.

The action was urgently needed, co-petitioner and architect Kathleen Scanlon said in the same Mothers Out Front press release.

“We cannot install new gas infrastructure that will last 30 years, past the time that we have committed to achieving zero emissions,” Scanlon said. “This decision will move us away from new oil and gas infrastructure when it’s convenient and possible to do so. It’s a step in the right direction for Brookline and for our climate.”

Town Meeting picks up again on Thursday, Nov. 21. 


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