County motion offers support for natural gas

While New York state is pushing away from fossil fuels, Chautauqua County officials are expressing their support for natural gas.

During the county legislature meeting, lawmakers approved a motion urging New York state to support natural gas.

The motion notes that Gov. Kathy Hochul is proposing banning natural gas hookups in new building constructions statewide starting in 2025 and proposing ending the sale of any natural gas or fossil fuel-based heating equipment in the state by 2035.

The ban is part of the state’s efforts to fight climate change.

The motion states that estimates for compliance with these new mandates requiring the replacement of major appliances like hot water heaters, furnaces, gas stoves and gas dryers could range from $27,327 to $35,803 for a New York state household.

The motion also notes that the mandates would have a “devastating effect on rural communities, low income residents and the Amish community.”

The motion states that based on data from the Environmental Protection Agency, from 1990 to 2019 New York state’s emissions of key pollutants have decreased across the board and carbon dioxide emissions have dropped over 24% in conjunction with increased natural gas use, pipeline infrastructure expansion and an improved electrical grid.

“The Chautauqua County Legislature hereby urges Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature to reconsider any mandates banning the use of natural gas,” the motion states.

Motions do not hold any legal authority but are designed to show the position of a governing body. In Chautauqua County, motions must have at least a two-thirds majority to pass. The support for natural gas motion was approved 14-1 with four legislators absent.

Voting against the motion was Legislator Tom Nelson, D-Jamestown. “What the governor’s proposal, to me, is about the future. It’s about protecting the health and safety of children,” he said, citing a 2013 study by the International Journal of Epidemiology that says that children who lives in homes with gas stoves are over 40% more likely to have asthma.

Nelson agreed that Hochul’s plan is is going to be a challenge to meet but he compared her vision to President Kennedy saying the U.S. would put a man on the moon by the end of the decade or Gov. DeWitt Clinton when he proposed the construction of the New York state canal. “I’m going to stand with the governor and her goal and I cannot support this motion,” he said.

Nelson was the only Democratic lawmaker in attendance. The three other Democratic county legislators were not at the February meeting.

Multiple Republican legislators expressed their support for the motion.

“I applaud efforts for renewable energy on moving towards electric. I don’t think we should pick any one form of energy over another and I think that it needs to be done in a reasonable fashion that doesn’t unduly burden our citizens,” said Legislator Elisabeth Rankin of Jamestown. “It seems prudent to me to keep a variety of energy sources so that if one fails we have a back up.”

Legislator Lisa Vanstrom of West Ellicott agreed. “It’s over-regulation. Our own state can’t even produce the right amount (of electricity), to supply what we already have going on, say nothing about electric cars,” she said.

Legislator Terry Niebel of Sheridan argued that New York has an abundance of natural gas right now. “We should use that natural gas until such time that we can economically transition to electric or solar, but we’re not there yet,” he said.

Legislator Kevin Muldowney of Dunkirk said he’s concerned this proposal to move away from natural gas will cause investors to look elsewhere in the U.S. “I have a problem that we’re adding the cost of construction for new residential homes. … I’m also concerned with the price of new business doing construction on new factories and businesses. We’re only going to add to their cost to come to New York,” he said.

A copy of the motion will be sent to Hochul, state Sen. George Borrello and Assemblyman Andrew Goodell.


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