5 December 2023
Massachusetts, we need all hands-on deck to fight the Clean Heat Standard (CHS) in MA. We urge all companies with storefronts to download this flyer, print it, display it where you receive the most foot traffic and encourage your customers to scan the QR code to send the email when they come in. We can't fight this alone!
12 October 2023
Illegal Ban Could Devastate Businesses, Trigger Higher Prices, and Jeopardize the Electric Grid
Coalition of Businesses and Labor Say “Enough is Enough”
Plaintiffs Support the Transition to Greener Energy – But This Policy Is Tasked to the Federal Government, Not the States
Similar Law Struck Down in Berkeley, California
Albany, New York, (October 12, 2023) --- A coalition representing businesses and workers filed a lawsuit in Federal Court in the Northern District of New York today, accusing New York State of violating federal law by banning gas appliances and infrastructure in new buildings beginning December 31, 2025.
The suit seeks to declare the ban invalid and to block its enforcement on the grounds that it is preempted by federal energy law, the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA).
The suit is filed on behalf of businesses and workers who will feel the effects of this law. The plaintiffs 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.
The unintended consequences of this illegal law are widespread and could negatively affect residents and communities from Niagara to Riverhead. Those effects could include:
New York’s gas ban is preempted by federal law, is contrary to the public interest, and harms plaintiffs and the members they represent.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in California unanimously struck down a similar gas infrastructure ban in Berkeley, California. The court held that Berkeley’s ban on gas piping concerned the energy use of appliances covered by the federal Energy Policy and Conservation Act and was therefore illegal.
“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.”
"Tens of thousands of hard-working people in the national gas industry depend on their jobs. We embrace the goals of the CLCPA, and we support making the changes necessary to combat climate change. As a Business Manager, I am committed to advocating for the hardworking members of IBEW Local 1049. Their unwavering support and trust in me compel me to protect their invaluable jobs tirelessly. I am proud to safeguard their interests with utmost passion and dedication," said Pat Guidice, Business Manager, IBEW Local 1049.
“Hundreds of plumbers on Long Island rely on new construction to feed their families and pay their mortgages. 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,” said Jimmy Russo, President of the Plumbing Contractors Association of Long Island.
“Local 200 and its members lead Long Island in the installation of cutting-edge gas technologies, including those related to gas installations in homes, hospitals, and commercial facilities. Natural gas is an essential transitional fuel that will help our nation as we move to greener energy sources. Our energy economy is in transition and federal law has set the standards that are guiding our industry. New York’s gas ban will unnecessarily hurt New York workers by removing our members’ jobs at time when we are already leading the nation in the expansion of alternative energy for New York residents. Local 200 stands with our members and joins this action to ensure the energy transition is completed via a unified national program and not an ad-hoc, state-by-state basis,” said Richard Brooks, Business Manager, Plumbers Local Union No. 200.
“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. 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,” said Constance Bradley, President, TWU Local 101.
“My family has worked for the people of the Hudson Valley for over a century. We have worked in blizzards, heatwaves, and tropical storms to deliver, install, and service propane equipment. Now, we have no idea what the future holds. We agree that a greener economy is necessary, but we must figure out how to implement a smooth transition that does not unnecessarily raise costs and impose burdens on families,” said Rick Cummings from Mulhern Gas Co.
The case is Mulhern Gas Co. v. Rodriguez in the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York.
About Reichman Jorgensen Lehman & Feldberg LLP
Reichman Jorgensen Lehman & Feldberg LLP (RJLF) is an elite national trial firm that handles high-stakes commercial litigation, intellectual property, climate change litigation, and white collar disputes. From offices in Silicon Valley, New York, Washington, D.C., Austin, and Atlanta, the firm tries cases and argues appeals throughout the country. For more information, visit www.reichmanjorgensen.com.
28 August 2023
Presently, under the direction of MA Governor Healy, the Mass DEP is drafting a Clean Heat Standard which does NOT have to go through the state legislature to be implemented in 2024. This Clean Heat Standard will tax fuel dealers (including many hearth, and all propane and local oil dealers) on their GHG emissions. Take action now so you can have a voice in this decision.
The Clean Heat Standard (CHS) from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) would require heating energy suppliers to replace fossil heating fuels with electric heat pumps over time by implementing a tax on liquid fuel dealers (including renewable blends) and forcing them to purchase credits for GHG emissions; this is a tax on fossil fuels. The CHS plan does not have to go through the MA legislature, and it will increase your utility bill, while phasing out all liquid fuel, hearth products, heating, and water systems from the market!
Constituents need to have a voice in a decision of this importance, or the DEP can approve this plan for implementation in 2024 without a vote!
Take action now! Please send a letter to Governor Healy and your Massachusetts legislators urging them to take this out of the hands of the DEP and put this decision into the hands of the voters. A decision of this magnitude should not be decided by MassDEP alone. Deadline for comments is September, 1, 2023.
17 August 2023
Below is a short video update from HPBA's Government Affairs team about the Notice of Intent from 10 state Attorneys General to file a timeline suit regarding EPA's Wood Heater NSPS:
11 July 2023
Watch a quick, fantastic recap of the NEHPBA event, "Stoke the Fire: Aligning with Purpose!" Thank you all for joining us!
Be sure to save the date for next year, May 6 &7, 2024 (Golf on May 5)! Ryan Hall from Winston's Chimney will be our Keynote Speaker!
16 June 2023
Just last week, the industry as a whole found out about a standing pilot rule in New York, yesterday we found out about a similar rule in Rhode Island. Manufacturers are working on this and putting together a communication to be sent to you.
In 2022, NYSERDA adopted a rule for Standing Pilots which goes into effect on June 26, 2023.*
If a fireplace manufactured after June 26th has a continuous pilot (or the ability to be switched to a continuous pilot, e.g., CPI or cold climate function), it cannot be sold. If the product is IPI or On-Demand – or the product with continuous pilot was manufactured before June 26, 2023 – you can still sell it.
Again, your product inventory that you have now and any appliance manufactured before June 26, IS safe to sell at any point.
This only affects those units manufactured AFTER 6/26/23.
Direct vent heaters and decorative fireplaces, inserts and stoves with the up to seven days On-Demand/timed pilots and IPI controls are fine.
These are the main points:
(1) Gas fireplaces shall comply with the following requirements:
(i) Gas fireplaces shall be capable of automatically extinguishing any pilot flame when the main gas burner flame is established and when it is extinguished;
(ii) Gas fireplaces must prevent any ignition source for the main gas burner flame from operating continuously for more than seven days;
(iii) Decorative gas fireplaces must have a direct vent configuration, unless marked for replacement use only; and,
(iv) Heating gas fireplaces shall have a fireplace efficiency greater than or equal to 50% when tested in accordance with CSA P.4.1-15,” Testing Method for Measuring Annual Fireplace Efficiency
The rules for each state are the same, except for one difference in RI.
The state’s previous appliance standards from 2005 were recently updated as of January 1, 2023. The requirements are the same as in New York.
Compliance for Distributors, Dealers, and Installers:
To comply with the New York State Appliance and Equipment Efficiency Standards, distributors, retailers, and installers must verify that regulated products are listed in the appropriate database prior to sale, lease, rental, or installation.
SASD Verification Process for Distributors, Dealers, and Installers:
Verification must be confirmed using the SASD Data base.
If the product you’re verifying compliance for cannot be identified, download the search results for a single product category using the Export Products button. Use the Excel search function ‘Find’ to search for the model number you are verifying.
Your manufacturers have been informed and have begun the certification process. Please reach out to your manufacturers with any questions about certification, product verification, or for more information.
Please let me know if you have any questions.
9 May 2023
First, the situation we were facing…..
In 2019, New York passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. This law set the bar for reducing GHG emissions, 40% of 1990 levels by 2030 and 85% by 2050. To achieve these goals, the governor and the legislators would need to implement and fund the action to get to these goals. There were many initiatives, but the ones proposed that would affect us were the following:
The final decisions on these proposals and the funding needed to implement these initiatives needed to be in the budget. The budget was negotiated, and the final decisions were passed on Tuesday evening. The NEHPBA government affairs team has been actively working at the capitol since January to help affect the initiatives hoping for something more workable for the hearth industry in New York as well as New Yorkers in general. Just like Washington, both sides were far to the extremes and very little desire to meet in the middle.
So, what happened?
We had a small win on the gas ban in new construction. We got a 1-year reprieve. Instead of starting the gas ban for new construction on January 1, 2025, it now starts 1 year later January 1, 2026. Not really a win but we will take anything we can get. This gives us more time, and the governor is up for election in 2026.
The better win is on the 2030 initiative that would have banned the sale of gas equipment completely in 2030. This did not happen, and gas equipment sales will continue beyond 2030. Now is no time for complacency, believe me, the progressives are not going to settle for this, and they will keep pushing for a total ban. We need to keep up the fight. In fact, we need to do much more going forward.
NEHPBA is developing our strategy going forward which must include every stakeholder joining in the fight.
There was another bill in the legislature early this year, the All-Electric Buildings Act, which was far more aggressive. NEHPBA sent over 7,600 letters in opposition and was able to get this bill tabled for this session.
The original Fossil Fuel Ban language in the budget was also far more aggressive than what the Assembly and Senate settled on in the final budget vote. We also have hope that the recent 9th Circuit Federal Court decision that overturned the Berkley, CA gas ban may be of help in New York as well.
NEHPBA has been actively participating in this process.
Since late January, Wayne Stritsman (Best Fire & Patio), has been working at the State Capitol talking with legislators, and this week Wayne, Joel Etter (HHT), Andrew Hasek (HHT) and I (NEHPBA), spent two days at the Albany State House meeting with legislators there as well as at dealer locations. We met with five legislative offices, both Assembly and Senate, on both sides of the aisle. We were very well received and had some great conversations.
What came out of the meetings?
We have a long way to go, but it remains that remodels and retrofits were left out of the gas ban language and all the legislators we met with were instrumental in the watered down, new language.
NEHPBA NY members, now is the time to keep your foot on the gas. If it hasn’t been on the gas, now is the time. NEHPBA is remaining vigilant in our determination to be part of this conversation in NY, and we’ve made a great start. There is an election next year in both the Assembly and the House. Term limits work when elections work properly-if people vote. The electorate in NY will be outraged at this legislation and the two bills we plan on writing will allow the New York legislators to back into this mess they’ve made. This gas ban was largely optics, New York progressives were anxious to be “The First State in the Nation” to legislatively ban natural gas, and they did that in form, not function.
Please participate in the NEHPBA Calls-to-Action, both in support of and in opposition to upcoming legislation. Share those Calls-to-Action with your circles.
Feel free to contact me with any questions at all.
Hope to see you all in June!
See all the pictures, and other advocacy efforts on the NEHPBA Facebook Page!
2 May 2023
ELFA PART RR
Part RR prohibits the installation of fossil-fuel equipment and building systems in buildings less than seven stories after 12/31/2025, and all new buildings, regardless of height, after 12/31/2028. Existing buildings built before these dates would be able to make repairs of fossil-fuel equipment. Several exempted building-types are enumerated.
20 April 2023
A Maine jury ruled Thursday that construction can proceed on a transmission line that will carry clean, hydropower from Quebec to Massachusetts — bolstering the efforts to shift its electricity consumption away from carbon-emitting fossil fuels.
The decision in favor of Avangrid, the Connecticut company building the transmission line, follows a 2021 ballot initiative in Maine, which sought to terminate the $1 billion project and won the support of a majority of voters.
The state’s Supreme Court later ruled that the initiative might have violated Avangrid’s rights because the company had already invested $450 million in the project after it was approved by Maine regulators.
The jury decided that Avangrid had proceeded with the construction in good faith based on Maine’s approval of the project and that the company did not accelerate construction for the express purpose of claiming in court that its rights had been violated.
Construction on the 145-mile transmission line is now expected to proceed, although Maine officials may appeal the jury’s decision. Avangrid is building the line, known as the New England Clean Energy Connect, under a subsidiary called Central Maine Power.
The trial, held in business court in Portland, was the latest flashpoint in a years-long saga that began in 2018. That’s when the administration of former Governor Charlie Baker and Eversource — the utility company originally tasked with building the transmission line — sought to run the line through the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
But New Hampshire regulators struck down that project so officials pursued an alternate route through Maine with a new partner, Central Maine Power.
After the Maine project received approval from regulators, Central Maine Power started building. By the time the ballot initiative passed, much of the work on the line had already been completed.
The ballot initiative was supported by an unlikely combination of environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Council of Maine and energy companies with substantial natural gas interests.
Ari Peskoe, director of the Electricity Law Initiative at Harvard Law School, said the transmission line is expected to reduce energy prices across New England, leading current operators to oppose the project.
“That existing asset owners will oppose new entry [into the market] is not surprising,” he said.
A spokesperson for the Natural Resources Council of Maine said, “We are disappointed in today’s outcome and remain sharply focused on achieving a just and equitable clean energy future that works for all Mainers.”
This story will be updated.
By Mike Damiano Globe Staff,Updated April 20, 2023
28 February 2023
Wayne Stritsman, Founder of family-operated business Best Fire Hearth & Patio in 1977, speaks about New York's energy plans alongside Republican Senators, who today unveiled a package of smart energy policies to pursue a cleaner energy future. The plan puts affordability and reliability first for New York ratepayers, in sharp contrast to some of the radical proposals coming out of Albany.
Thank you Wayne, NEHPBA member!
20 February 2023
8 February 2023
By Dharna Noor Globe Staff, Updated February 7, 2023, 5:29 a.m.
For weeks, pundits, public officials, and people all over the Internet have been discussing the dangers of gas stoves and ovens. And with good reason: Research shows they spew emissions that warm the planet and threaten human health.
But cooking appliances aren’t the only household items that run on methane gas. The fossil fuel also commonly powers furnaces, water heaters, and fireplaces like the ones you may have relied on throughout this past weekend’s brutal cold. And like gas stoves, these appliances release pollution.
“We should be very concerned,” said Leah Louis-Prescott, a manager at sustainability focused nonprofit RMI who focuses on building electrification. “These fossil fuel appliances are really harming our air quality and our health and of course the climate, and it has largely gone under the radar how big of an issue these appliances are.”
There’s evidence that gas furnaces and hot water heaters have a smaller effect on indoor air quality than gas stoves — though they do create other problems.
Less research has been done comparing the relative dangers of gas stoves to gas fireplaces. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, gas fireplaces produce far less indoor air pollution than wood burning ones. But Louis-Prescott said no appliances that run on gas should be considered truly safe.
“At the end of the day, burning gas is burning gas. We’re emitting the same pollutants,” she said. “That pollution is going somewhere.”
Venting makes a difference
Like stoves and ovens, gas-powered heating appliances emit carbon monoxide, a toxic byproduct of combustion that can cause brain damage and heart problems that can sometimes be fatal. They also emit a family of gases such as nitrogen oxide and nitrogen dioxide, which can damage the lungs, respiratory system, and may increase cancer risk.
But if they’re properly vented, allowing those toxins to disperse into the air outside, the impact of gas furnaces, water heaters, and fireplaces on indoor air quality should be minimal, said Jonathan Buonocore, a professor of environmental health at the Boston University School of Public Health.
“Venting is the most common way to get the air pollution out of the home and works fairly well,” he said. Still, more research should be done into how well that venting is really happening, Buonocore said. Without knowledge of how well-ventilated each individual appliance is in your home, it’s hard to know which poses the most risk.
In Massachusetts, gas furnaces and water heaters must always be vented, according to the state’s Chapter 68 code on chimneys and vents.
“You’re going to have carbon monoxide otherwise,” said Adi Rosa, of the HVAC installation company Presidential Electric and HVAC Services of Boston. “If we don’t vent it, somebody’s going to die.”
But unvented gas fireplaces and other space heaters — which are more likely than their vented counterparts to pour carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide into the home — are permitted if they meet specific safety conditions.
“Unvented propane or natural gas fired space heaters were introduced into the fire code in 2004 and are acceptable only when certain safety conditions are met, including permits, inspections, [and carbon monoxide] alarms in the same room,” said Department of Fire Services spokesman Jake Wark. “Unvented natural gas fireplaces must be listed by a nationally recognized testing lab or the flue gases must be properly vented according to the gas and building codes.”
Those regulations may help mitigate risk. But Shelly Miller, author of a 2011 study on the appliances’ emissions, said unvented fireplaces shouldn’t be allowed anywhere under any circumstances.
“Unvented natural gas fireplaces should be banned due to the elevated risk for adverse health effects,” she said.
Scott MacFarlane, who owns Dedham heating and cooling company MacFarlane Energy, said he sometimes sees improper venting of gas appliances in Massachusetts buildings.
“Over the years, I’ve see a lot of stupid things go on,” he said.
Either way, emissions still flow outdoors
Even vented gas fireplaces, furnaces, and water heaters can harm indoor air quality if they are installed improperly, or if vents and chimneys get blocked.
“The performance of chimneys and ventilation systems is really important,” Buonocore said.
And while venting can improve indoor air quality, it still degrades the air we breathe outdoors.
“When we talk about indoor and outdoor air, there’s not a hard line that’s so easy to delineate, because you can open a window and the outdoor air comes in,” said Louis-Prescott. “They’re constantly interchanging, and you’re breathing in both.”
In fact, in Massachusetts, gas appliances produce more than nine times as much nitrogen oxides pollution as gas power plants, she said, citing federal data.
“We as a country have taken meaningful steps forward to help curb power plant pollution,” said Louis-Prescott. “But we’ve yet to take meaningful steps to curb appliance pollution.”
Different levels of pollution
Different appliances emit various pollutants at different levels. For example, a 2020 study found that gas water heaters emit more carbon monoxide than any other gas appliances, while gas furnaces emit the most nitrogen oxides.
These appliances may be exposing us to other dangerous emissions as well, Buonocore said. He contributed to a study last year that found gas used for stoves across Boston contains benzene — a carcinogen deemed unsafe at any level of exposure.
“We specifically looked at stoves,” he said, “but there’s no reason that I can think of for why the gas going to your stove would be different from the gas going into your furnace.”
Not everyone is equally affected by degraded air quality from gas appliances. In Massachusetts, people of color are exposed to 55 percent more pollution from residential appliances compared to white communities, a 2021 paper found.
Another group facing greater risk: renters, who often have less control to choose their own appliances. A Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory report found that residents living in small apartments with gas furnaces are more likely to face unsafe levels of carbon monoxide and backdrafting, which is when exhaust gas moves back into the home instead of being vented outside.
The impact on climate change
In addition to their harsh effects on air quality, gas appliances — which run on methane, a planet-warming greenhouse gas — contribute to climate change.
A 2022 report concluded that gas stoves emit methane even when they’re switched off, which might suggest leaks in stove fittings and connections with gas service lines are ubiquitous. Researchers are working to determine the planet-warming effect of other appliances’ leaks.
26 January 2023
Urgent Call-to-Action for New York Members,
New York Legislator will hear and vote on the “All-Electric Buildings Act” this coming Tuesday, January 31, 2023. Please click HERE to voice your opposition to this bill.
NEHPBA firmly supports a clean environment, however, moving too fast and passing unattainable legislation is damaging to our state, our businesses, and our households.
Please share this link with your customers, your employees, any other trade associations, and your contractors.*
Please send by END OF DAY, MONDAY, 1/30/23.
Once you open the link:
*Please note that if you open this link more than once on your browser, you may have to go up to the top right and sign out so that your customers, employees, vendors, etc can then enter their name and email address.
Thank you for your time and attention!
11 January 2023
January 11, 2023
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NEHPBA says record demand for firewood and wood-burning stoves could mean shortages in the dead of Northeast winter.
The Northeast Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association says its members are reporting huge demand for new wood-burning stoves, hearth products and service appointments – all pointing to a worsening of firewood shortages that have impacted other regions.
Sudbury, MA – The Northeast Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association (NEHPBA) today warned that firewood shortages which have impacted other regions of the U.S. and the world may create serious challenges for households in the Northeast that rely on wood-burning systems as a supplementary heating source. Compounding the problem is a reduced supply of wood-burning stoves because of the forced retirement of unsold equipment that does not meet EPA standards.
Germany, Switzerland and Poland are experiencing some of the most severe firewood shortages and related disruptions. Waiting periods in Germany are as long as one year to purchase a wood-burning stove, and the availability of wood has plummeted since the onset of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Protected forests in Switzerland are being poached for firewood, according to forestry officials, and the government in Poland is urging people to stockpile wood because there is also a shortage of coal.
Meanwhile, the skyrocketing cost of natural gas, home heating oil and electric heat is driving more and households to increase the amount of wood they burn in places like Saratoga Springs and Albany, NY and areas of Maine and Vermont. And changes in EPA regulations, which forced all wood-burning stoves manufactured prior to May 2020 to be removed from the market, have contributed to a major shortage of available stoves with lower production numbers on new wood-burning equipment.
“There are global events contributing to this potential crisis, and there are outcomes of these new product standards that are making things much worse,” said Karen Arpino, Executive Director of the Northeast Hearth Patio & Barbecue Association. “We took tens of thousands of new stoves that had already been manufactured off the market. The new emissions standards are the correct move going forward for all newly manufactured stoves. But there was a finite amount of pre-existing equipment that could have been sold through. That is a major factor in this current shortage.”
Heavy demand for firewood is coupling with labor shortages to create a one-two punch making wood fuel scarcer in the Northeast. Not enough wood can be cut, split and prepared for sale and delivery to keep up with demand. A nationwide arctic blast just before Christmas 2022 is bringing the shortages of both stove equipment and wood fuel into sharp focus.
The Northeast Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association is a trade association representing more than 300 individual member retail and related companies throughout the Northeast. In just the states of New York and Massachusetts, NEHPBA has more than 140 members supporting over 800 families - the vast majority of which are independent “mom and pop” small businesses that are significant community contributors in the markets they serve across the region.
NEHPBA recognizes the changing landscape of the energy and fossil fuel industry. Its members are committed to working with government officials and regulators at all levels to increase access to more sustainable and climate-centric fuel sources throughout our homes and businesses. But a sensible long-term strategy to achieve responsible energy diversity must be the objective, as opposed to costly and damaging restrictions and bans that do little on their own to help reach our climate goals.
The U.S. Department of Energy and NEHPBA recommend a series of steps that can help maximize the heating efficiency and safety of wood stoves and fireplaces.
About the Northeast Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association
The Northeast Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (NEHPBA) has been representing the interests of the hearth industry in the Northeast since 1985. We are the first and largest regional affiliate of the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA) – the national trade association representing the industry’s legislative, regulatory policy and business interests in Washington, DC.
Our mission is to promote all aspects of the hearth, patio and barbecue industries, to educate consumers on the benefits, proper use and maintenance of all hearth systems and products, and to communicate effectively with legislators and regulators while advocating for the interests of our members in our region’s state governments. NEHPBA is the collective voice of our industry in the Northeast on all government affairs matters that impact our members.
Our membership is made up of the Northeast’s top professionals and companies from the hearth industry: manufacturers, distributors, retailers, installers, service providers, and associated members.
20 December 2022
The NY state Climate Action Council voted 19 to 3 yesterday to approve the CAC Scoping Plan. As part of this aggressive program to address climate change, the commission approved plans to phase out fossil fuel-burning furnaces beginning as soon as 2025.
The plan also requires energy-efficient electric heat pumps or other non-combustion heating systems in every new home built in 2025 or thereafter.
For existing homes, after 2030 residents whose fossil fuel-burning heating systems fail will have to replace them with a zero-emission system.
Changes to the plan include the elimination of language that would have called for immediate passage of legislation requiring all-electric construction statewide, and additions that allow fuels like hydrogen and “renewable natural gas” or factory farm biogas to qualify as clean energy.
Some of the policies approved in the Climate Action Council’s “final scoping plan’' require further action before they can be enforced. For example, the new regulations on heating systems will require changes to the state building code. Other changes may require new legislation; this will take time.
But the council’s “final scoping plan” is now the official policy for how state government will meet goals for greenhouse gas reduction required under a state law passed in 2019. There is still a lot of work to do to implement this plan. To emphasize how challenging this could be for legislators and to put into perspective the timeline issues, keep in mind that Vermont created a very drastic plan to address climate change then ultimately passed very little of the legislation written to put that plan into play during the 2022 legislative session.
More information will be forthcoming as I delve deeper into the Scoping Plan, but please feel free to reach out to me at any time.
You can review the 445-page plan here.
31 October 2022
The regional power grids serving New England and New York are both at critical risk of maxing out as the Northeast prepares for a potentially brutal winter and the prospect of rolling blackouts or storm-related outages.
Natural gas supplies are at near record lows and demand on the power grids is being driven higher by increased electrical vehicle use and a push to exclusively use electricity for heating homes. That’s bad policy in one of the coldest regions for winter in all of the U.S., and it will contribute to making the grids less reliable in the event of severe cold weather conditions.
We’ve already been warned by grid operators that winter power outages and other weather-related disruptions could devastate millions of residents in the Northeast, as seen not long ago in Texas. Over-reliance on electric heat is a dangerous risk when weather events threaten to thrust households and families into the cold for days or even weeks.
This problem is not going away. In fact it’s only getting worse. Energy security is more important than ever as global events have dramatically impacted supplies and driven costs to record levels.
Imported liquefied natural gas is crucial for the Northeast to cover supply gaps during the winter months. Yet disruption in pipelines, closing of pipelines, the war in Ukraine and Russia’s disruption of supplies through its pipeline are already a threat to our energy supplies. A tough winter could mean real problems as global demand for natural gas reduces the availability of supplies for gas-powered electric plants.
“The region’s power-grid operator, ISO New England Inc., has warned that an extremely cold winter could strain the reliability of the grid and potentially result in the need for rolling blackouts to keep electricity supply and demand in balance. The warning comes as executives and analysts predict power producers could have to pay as much as several times more than last year for gas deliveries if severe weather creates urgent need for spot-market purchases.”
“Demand is growing not just regionally and nationally for natural gas, but globally as well. And that global competition is having a direct impact on the cost and availability of fuel to heat homes in New England and New York,” said Joel Etter, President of the Northeast Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association (NEHPBA). “The timing could not be worse for any initiative to purposely reduce gas supplies and artificially impact demand by harming energy diversity with building regulations and other measures.”
NEHPBA supports the recent request by New England to the U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm that domestic LNG imports be allowed to the region. We also agree that more coordination is needed with the federal government to ensure energy reliability and diversity.
Expanding our national energy portfolio and supply resources to include more renewable sources is crucial, and NEHPBA supports that as New England, New York and the entire U.S. work to achieve important climate goals. But that is not a transition that can be made abruptly without serious risk to households and families.
“If you are heating your home exclusively with electricity in the Northeast, your bills this winter will be the highest they’ve been in years,” said NEHPBA Executive Director Karen Arpino. “The idea that you must also prepare for a potentially dangerous situation with no heat for several days because the power grid can’t keep up is troubling.”
18 October 2022
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Lou Faraone has what he describes as four miles' worth of seasoned firewood, laid end to end, so he’s confident he’s got enough to meet demand.
But some days he figures he could use even more.
“It’s been a crazy year,” said Faraone who operates Exit 15N Firewood here.
More and more homeowners call or email him every time there is news about another increase in energy and heating costs for the coming winter.
Lou Faraone started selling firewood as a third career. He started in Malta and moved to Wilton to expand the business. He sells wood for cooking to 52 local restaurants. Video: Times Union
Others agree that rising gas, electricity, oil and even propane prices have prompted many New Yorkers to turn to firewood for heat.
Some may have old stoves purchased years ago which are being pressed back into service while others are looking at new installations.
“When fuel costs more they are going to look at wood,” said Victor Cardona, who operates Firewood Connect, an on-line directory that allows customers to contact local firewood sellers.
Heating costs are certainly expected to jump this winter.
Earlier this year, National Grid, which supplies natural gas and electricity across much of the Capital Region and upstate New York, predicted that heating bills will rise 31 percent during the five-month winter heating period that starts in November. The average residential customer is expected to pay $651 over the five-month period, or an increase of $155. It’s the biggest increase in more than a decade.
Other forms of heating are going up as well.
Propane, derived from natural gas and which is popular in rural locations without gas line hookups, was selling for $3.46 a gallon in September, according to the New York State Energy Research and Development Agency, NYSERDA. In 2020 it was $2.46 a gallon.
Electricity is up almost 46 percent year over year as of June, according to NYSERDA.
With high demand, wood costs are also rising. Some providers like Advantage Tree Service in Delmar, have held prices at $395 per cord delivered (within a five mile radius) for the past two years.
But others are charging more this year, although some charged under $300 in past years.
A cord is 128 cubic feet of stacked wood, or 4-by-8 feet of 4-foot long split logs.
Homeowners also are shopping for more wood stoves.
“There’s a ton of people,” said Lucas Stritsman, who operates Best Fire Hearth and Patio in Colonie.
“People want to hedge their energy position,” he said.
Like others in the industry, the store has its roots in the 1970s Arab oil embargo, which led to gasoline lines at service stations and a newfound concern over fuel scarcity.
While energy prices are the underlying spark of this latest boom, customer interest can be inflamed by specific changes in the weather or by news events.
“We see a lot more interest when it gets cooler,” said Cardona.
News events also add to the interest in wood. The Russian invasion of Ukraine, as most people now know, has caused a global rise in oil and gas prices.
Faraone noted that more people seemed to come in last month, after radio show host Glenn Beck, in a commentary about rising fuel prices proclaimed that “firewood is the new gold."
And Stritsman says some customers are looking to get wood stoves since they are worried about the possibility that gas appliances won’t be available in future years.
The state’s appointed Climate Action Council, which is developing guidance for greenhouse gas reduction policies, is looking at bans on new gas appliances and on new gas hookups in future years. The group is also looking at reducing the use of wood, which can emit soot and other harmful compounds.
That possibility has also driven up interest by buyers who may want gas fireplace inserts and fear they'll be unavailable in the future.
Either way, changing regulations are having an impact on sales, and that’s especially true for wood stoves, said Karen Arpino, executive director for the Northeast Hearth Patio & Barbecue Association, a trade group that includes wood stove sellers.
Wood stoves are currently in short supply in part because of tougher EPA emissions rules that took effect in 2020. Stoves made prior to May 2020, when the new regulations took effect, had to be dismantled.
The newer stoves are far cleaner and more efficient than their older cousins, but the new regulations took tens of thousands of stoves, that had already been manufactured, off the market.
Modern wood stoves can easily cost $3,000 or more, Arpino added. Set-up costs including installation of proper flues and safety features can add thousands of dollars additionally.
The forced retirement of pre-2020 stoves, combined with the same kind of pandemic-era labor shortages that plague all businesses, has led to shortfalls in stove production.
“It was a massive economic hurdle,” said Arpino. “Now it’s just a fight for products.”
Worker shortages aren’t just in the stove-making business. Some wood providers are struggling to get enough sawyers to keep up with demand.
“They just don’t want to work,” said Pam, who didn’t give her last name and who works at Anjoe Tree Service in Albany, one of several tree removal and trimming companies that also sell firewood.
They could use a couple more wood cutters, who can earn up to $30-an-hour with experience, she said.
“They work a couple days and maybe a week and realize it’s a little more (effort) than they thought,” she said, referring to people who try to work in the firewood business but can’t cut it.
Times Union, Rick Karlin, Oct. 16, 2022
22 September 2022
It is still technically summer, but Massachusetts energy officials are putting residents on notice now that the cost of heating their homes and keeping the lights on is likely to skyrocket this winter as the price of natural gas soars.
About half of New England's electric generation is powered by natural gas or liquid natural gas, commodities that are sold on the global market and subject to its whims. The region's relative overreliance on natural gas is going to mean budget-busting electric bills for many households this winter and state officials are reportedly working with federal counterparts to prepare for this winter.
"This winter will be, at best, a very high-cost energy winter," Judy Chang, undersecretary of energy and climate solutions in the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs said Tuesday morning. "So, everybody should conserve. Everybody who has close friends, please tell them conserve ... I think it's useful for everyone to be aware of that and spread the word for conservation as much as possible."
On Wednesday, National Grid announced many of its electric customers are going to get eye-popping bills when winter rolls around thanks to the price of natural gas being "significantly higher this winter due to global conflict, inflation and high demand."
Residential National Grid electric customers on basic service who use 600 kilowatt-hours of power will see their monthly electric bills jump from $179 in the winter 2021-2022 season to approximately $293 for the winter 2022-2023 season -- a 64 percent increase -- according to the company and its rate filing with the Department of Public Utilities.
"We know winter isn't far away, so we're encouraging and making it easier for our customers to take action now and letting them know that we are here to help," Helen Burt, National Grid's chief customer officer said in a press release highlighting its "Winter Customer Savings Initiative" that will seek to help customers reduce energy use to save money and connect with available energy assistance programs. - Colin A. Young/SHNS
23 August 2022
A few months ago, Gov. Charlie Baker said he wanted to test the "mythology out there" that heat pumps aren't a realistic heating alternative for single-family homes in a cold weather climate like Massachusetts has by having his home evaluated as a potential electrification candidate.
The "mythology" that the governor was talking about in April is more about whether a heat pump, which transfers heat from the ground or air indoors, can effectively warm old New England homes like the 140-year-old one that Baker owns in Swampscott. But when he had experts out to take a look, he saw first-hand another one of the barriers to electrification -- the cost.
"Our house was all radiators when we moved into it; it was built in 1880, OK? We've converted more than half of it to forced hot air, OK? I had people come to tell me what it would take to sort of replace the rest of the radiators with heat pumps -- it was eye-popping," Baker said Thursday on GBH's Boston Public Radio after co-host Margery Eagan mentioned the cost of a heat pump.
Massachusetts has committed to reduce carbon emissions by at least 33 percent by 2025, at least 50 percent by 2030, at least 75 percent by 2040 and at least 85 percent by 2050, with tag-along policies required to get the state to net-zero emissions by the middle of the century. Getting electricity from renewable sources and switching things that run on fossil fuels to use that cleaner electricity is the state's primary strategy for meeting those requirements.
The governor made a pitch on GBH for one of the main features of his most recent climate legislation -- a massive energy innovation fund seeded with American Rescue Plan Act money -- and said he thinks the clean energy world needs to take a page from the COVID-19 response playbook to speed up technological advances that will help bring down the costs of electrification.
"The simplest comparison I can make to this is what really got us out of COVID wasn't rules and regulations and requirements and orders, OK? It was vaccines, right, built off of years of people studying and figuring out how to do [mRNA] and getting it done in a very short period of time," Baker said. "Innovation has to be part of the answer here." - Colin A. Young/SHNS | 8/22/22 9:52 AM
16 August 2022
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu addresses an audience during swearing-in ceremonies for Boston Police Commissioner Michael Cox, Monday, Aug. 15, 2022, in Boston.
The city of Boston is seeking state permission to ban fossil fuels from new construction, a step toward reducing climate-harming emissions on a large scale, Mayor Michelle Wu announced Tuesday.
Days after Gov. Baker signed a new climate law allowing 10 cities and towns in Massachusetts to implement such a ban, Wu said she is pushing for the state’s largest city to be included in the pilot project.
Bans of fossil fuel in new buildings, forcing them to rely on alternative forms of heat, chiefly electric heat pumps, has been seen as a way to begin a larger-scale transition away from fossil fuel in homes and commercial businesses. If chosen for the pilot program, Boston would become one of a small handful of major U.S. cities to enact such a ban, along with New York City, Seattle and Washington, D.C.
“Boston must lead by taking every possible step for climate justice to achieve our carbon reduction goals,” Wu said in a statement. “Fossil fuels, including natural gas, are known polluters that have negative implications on the environment and public health, particularly within our environmental justice communities.
Wu announced that the city will file a so-called “Home Rule Petition” with the Legislature, which will make it eligible to take part in the pilot, which exempts labs and medical facilities from a ban. The Wu administration will also start the process of talking with the community, business interests, environmental groups and others to define what a ban would look like in Boston, including setting the bounds of a multi-year timeline to phase out fossil fuels.
Banning fossil fuels from new buildings would help Boston to take a bite out of its biggest source of emissions. The on-site burning of fossil fuels accounts for more than a third of greenhouse gas emissions in Boston, according to the city. And compared to getting existing buildings off of fossil fuels, which represents a logistical—and expensive—challenge, ensuring that new buildings are built climate-friendly is considered low-hanging fruit.
Wu’s announcement was met with enthusiasm from climate advocates. “We must target new buildings as some of the lowest hanging fruit, to achieve zero emissions through equitable electrification,” Michele Brooks, lead Boston organizer with the Massachusetts Sierra Club, said in a statement.
But that’s only if the state chooses Boston to be included in the pilot.
The bill signed last week by Baker gives priority to the first ten communities to file home rule petitions, and ten communities have already taken that step: Cambridge, Newton, Brookline, Lexington, Arlington, Concord, Lincoln, Acton, Aquinnah, and West Tisbury.
According to state Sen. Michael Barrett, who was a lead negotiator of the climate bill, the city of Boston was asked to file a petition months ago, as the climate bill was being crafted, so it could secure a spot in the pilot. The city opted not to, according to a spokesperson for Wu, because it wanted to see the final bill before proceeding.
Slashing emissions from buildings represents a “real leadership opportunity” for the city — one that will be harder to achieve because of Boston’s hesitation in starting the process earlier, he said.
There is still a chance that Boston will be able to join the pilot, though. The climate bill requires that communities meet an affordable housing requirement, and it’s unclear if all of the 10 communities that have filed so far will be able to do so. They will have 18 months to meet the requirement, and if it doesn’t happen, they lose their spot.
After that, any town or city that has gotten local approval for a ban via town meeting or city council and has filed a home rule petition can try to join the ban. The state Department of Energy Resources will get to decide which communities get spots, regardless of the order in which they apply.
Boston may find itself with some competition, according to Lisa Cunningham, a Brookline architect and co-founder of ZeroCarbonMA, a group working with towns to pressure the state to enact more aggressive climate policies.
“Environmental justice communities very much want to move forward on this, and we have a few that we are working with” that could file home rule petitions, Cunningham said. There are several others working on this as well, she said.
By Sabrina Shankman Globe Staff - Boston Globe
Members of the Northeast Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (NEHPBA) and its regional Affiliates are the leading companies that produce, sell, or service appliances and accessories in the hearth and barbecue industries in North America. Join today to take advantage of all the benefits your company will receive.JOIN NOW
Servicing Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, Maine, New York
Copyright © 2023. Northeast Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association | All rights reserved.