Earlier this year, Assemblyman Hevesi was approached by the principal of Forest Hills High School, Saul Goodnick, with an idea for legislation from one of his students. In a senior economics seminar, a student brought up his grandmother’s inability to decipher portions of her Con Edison bill. He explained that even with the assistance of her glasses, some of the taxes and fees were just too small for her to read. The student felt that certain companies should be able to accommodate customers with visual impairments.
Principal Goodnick expressed this idea to Mr. Hevesi, who felt that the idea merited review. The Assemblyman found that multiple types of bills were difficult to read, and subsequently wrote and introduced legislation to require various service companies offer a large print option to customers who request printed bills in a larger font. In January of this year, Assemblyman Hevesi wrote and introduced Assembly bill A.3639.
Assembly bill A.3639 requires all utility corporations, energy service companies, municipalities, telephone corporations and cable television companies doing business in New York State to provide large print versions of billing information. The bill stipulates that “large print” shall mean a printed font size of sixteen or greater. This standard was recommended by the New York State Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped.
Senator Joseph Addabbo introduced S.4192, the companion bill to A.3639, in the Senate on April 16th, 2009. Assemblyman Hevesi and Senator Addabbo worked with each of the industries affected by this legislation to ensure that all of the companies operating in their respective industries would be able to comply with this requirement. From February to June, Mr. Hevesi met with representatives from multiple cable, telephone, and utility companies to work out difficulties with the structure and language of the bill. After three amendments, the Assembly passed A.3639 on June 4, 2009. The Senate companion, S.4192, passed on July 16th in a special session.
On August 26, 2009, Governor Paterson signed this bill into law. As a result, effective April 1, 2010, customers will have the right to receive their bills in larger print.
“This legislation began with a simple and concise idea, and after complex negotiations, resulted in a state law that will help seniors and the visually impaired have proper access to their billing information. I would like to thank Principal Goodnick, the Forest Hills High School community, Senator Addabbo, Governor Paterson, and the representatives of the various industries that I worked with for their assistance in creating this law,” stated Assemblyman Hevesi.
“My constituents expressed a desire to receive bills highlighting the charges in a larger font size so they would be able to fully understand their bills. This legislation does not mandate that companies immediately change their billing systems. Instead, it requires that these companies make this new service available to customers who request larger font bills. I am thankful to have been given an opportunity to work on this bill along side my colleague, Andrew Hevesi, for the benefit of our people,” said Senator Addabbo.
Assemblyman Hevesi and Senator Addabbo will hold an event to honor Forest Hills High School and Principal Goodnick’s contribution to state policy on behalf of the visually impaired and senior citizens.
On July 8, 2009, I had the privilege of being one of three keynote speakers at the New Energy Symposium hosted by New Energy New York and the Energy and Environmental Technology Applications Center (E2TAC) at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering. The other Keynote speakers were John Lushetsky, the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency from the Federal Department of Energy, and Kevin Law, President and CEO of the Long Island Power Authority.
As Chairman of the New York State Assembly’s Subcommittee on Renewable Energy, it was my role to update attendees on the most pressing energy policies that face New York’s energy generators, distributors, and consumers. The following is a summary of my remarks to the conference on some of the more pressing energy issues now being negotiated by the state legislature and the governor.
In recent years, New York State did not have an entity which was responsible for looking at the state’s energy needs in their entirety. This leaves a situation in which seemingly good public policies are implemented that may not work together to achieve our overall goals. For example, building a wind farm upstate seemed like a good idea at the time, but the lack of proper transmission lines to funnel that power to where it was needed was not considered.
To address that problem, the NYS Assembly introduced A.5877, which establishes the State Energy Planning Board to address energy planning and require comprehensive studies of the state’s energy needs. A.5877 was passed by the Assembly on June 11, 2009, and its companion bill in the Senate S.2501-B, passed that house on July 16, 2009. The legislation was signed into law by Governor Paterson on September 16, 2009.
Specifically, A.5877 and its Senate same as bill, re-enacted Article VI of the energy law to require comprehensive studies of the state’s energy needs and an analysis of the regional energy markets of the state. These studies include assessments of the following: regional and statewide analysis of power generation, transmission and distribution, greenhouse gas emissions, reliability and affordability, short and long term fuel forecasts, renewable energy technologies and distributed generation, environmental justice and public health, efficiency and conservation, transportation, residential, commercial and industrial construction, and emergency management and economic development.
Article X of the state energy law, which expired several years ago, sets guidelines and parameters for the siting of power plants in the State of New York. On June 16 of this year, A. 8696, which relates to the siting of major electric generating facilities, power plant emissions and performance standards, passed the New York State Assembly. There has been no companion bill introduced in the Senate and negotiations are ongoing.
As expected with an issue of this magnitude, there are a variety of difficult issues associated with placing these large facilities at various locations in the state. Most of the issues are centered around the local communities and residents potentially experiencing environmental problems, negative health consequences, and an adversarial process against well funded plant owners. Included among the siting requirements of A.8696 are statutes which require analysis of health, cumulative effects of emissions and other environmental justice concerns for the affected communities, improved local community representation on the siting board, lowering the threshold for the size of power plants from 80 megawatts to 30 megawatts, increasing amount of intervenor funds to enhance the ability of local communities to enable more meaningful participation in the siting process, an analysis of the proposal in the context of coastal zone management laws, reducing emission requirements, and the submission of a comprehensive security plan.
This program is designed to provide hundreds of millions of dollars worth of discounted electricity or energy rebates to businesses and non-profit organizations that produce and sustain jobs within New York State. Authorization for the continuation of this program, which began in 1997, was set to expire at the end of June 2009.
There have been a variety of concerns raised with the implementation of this program and even a suggestion that it was not meeting its intended goal of keeping jobs in New York State. However, hundreds of businesses and non-profits had already budgeted in the expected cost savings associated with the continuation of the program and would have been hit hard financially without it.
To address this issue, A.8825, which extends the Power for Jobs and Energy Cost Savings Benefit program through May 15, 2010 and requires reports on the performance of the program, passed the Assembly on June 16, 2009. Its companion bill in the Senate, S.5979, was referred to the Rules committee on June 19, 2009.
This program was designed to meet the dual goals of reducing New York’s energy consumption and developing a “green energy” industry. Green Jobs is a demonstration program that will provide funding for the performance of energy audits and energy-efficient retrofits for residential, small business, and not-for-profit property owners.
On June 16, 2009 the state Assembly passed A.8901 which established the green jobs / green New York Act. This act promotes energy efficiency, energy conservation and the installation of clean energy technologies, to reduce energy consumption and costs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, support sustainable community development, and to create green job opportunities. The Senate same as bill S.5888 passed that house on September 10, 2009 and was signed into law by the Governor on October 9, 2009.
Some of the specific requirements of A.8901 include providing for $112 million of capital funding from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) for a revolving loan fund, requiring the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to establish new financing mechanisms, including on-bill financing, to allow consumers to pay for these improvements over a period of time, requiring selection of target communities through a competitive process including preference to economically distressed communities, require a new training component for a green jobs workforce, creation of an advisory council to govern the program, and establish the fund in the joint custody of the Commissioner of Taxation and Finance and the Comptroller.
There were a number of other issues I touched on during the keynote address, including efficiency measures related to sub-metering and a bill I have introduced calling for the establishment of a Feed-in Tariff structure to provide a sliding scale of incentives to serve as a catalyst for investment in renewable generation projects, such as wind and solar. In future articles, I will outline them in detail and keep you apprised of their progress. Thank you for allowing me the privilege of serving as your representative in the state legislature.
The last few years in New York State and the country have seen a tremendous increase in the interest and investment in renewable sources of energy. While this is a welcome development, it is incumbent upon policy makers to continue to focus on energy efficiency and demand reduction. Focusing on energy efficiency has a number of tangible benefits, including immediate savings for consumers, decreased demand and stress on the grid, and the greatest short term reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
One of the most successful programs designed to reduce energy demand in the United States is the Energy Star Program. Administered jointly by the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the United States Department of Energy (DOE), Energy Star is a consumer information program which places a label on products in the marketplace that rank in the top 25% in energy efficiency for each category of products. This program has yielded significant results since its creation in 1992, as illustrated recently by the EPA announcement that in 2008 alone, Americans were able to reduce their energy bills by over 19 billion dollars and eliminate carbon emissions equivalent to the use of 29 million cars via the expanded use of Energy Star products.
Considering the level of success of the program, my staff and I began drafting legislation to direct New York State to expand the use of Energy Star products as a tool for statewide demand reduction. However, after we thoroughly reviewed the process through which Energy Star products receive that designation, we found problems with how the standards were determined and gaps in compliance.
To address these issues, my office wrote and introduced Assembly Resolution K13, which subsequently passed out of the state legislature on February 23rd of this year. Resolution K13 had a number of specific recommendations designed to enhance and improve the Energy Star Program. These included mandating periodic testing of the ten categories of products that use the most energy, requiring inclusion of developmental products that will be placed on the market within two years and random testing of products that have an Energy Star rating for compliance purposes, among others.
After the passage of K13, Congressman Anthony Weiner agreed to introduce the resolution’s recommendations as an amendment to HR 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. His amendment was adopted into the bill by unanimous consent.
Once HR 2454 is passed into law at the federal level, which both the Congressman and I anticipate, I will pursue several pieces of related legislation in New York State. The general concepts of these bills include creatively staggering and eliminating in certain circumstances the state sales taxes on Energy Star products in order to promote their use. A second bill will require departments and agencies within state government and other money allocated by the state legislature to be used for Energy Star products alone, unless specific circumstances prevent it.
The Congressman’s actions, and those of my colleagues in the state legislature, will ensure that the Energy Star Program continues to be the gold standard for energy efficient products in the United States. Their actions will not only significantly improve the program itself, but have laid the groundwork for states like New York to actively pursue future policy which will achieve crucial energy demand reduction.
The Legislative E-mail Program is specifically designed to enable residents to support or oppose pending legislation before it reaches the floor of the New York State Assembly for a vote.
The e-mail sent from my office will provide the bill number and a brief description of all legislation being considered in committee. Upon specific request, we will provide the language of the bill as well as support memos, bill sponsors, and the bill’s legislative history.
This process allows participants to have access to all relevant information, to ask specific questions, and to register their approval or opposition to legislation. The Legislative E-mail Program also allows my staff and I to specifically answer any questions or concerns you may have, and also outline, in detail, the reasons for my support or opposition.
Currently, two thousand three hundred residents of our community participate in this program.
If you would like to participate, please e-mail my office at:
Thank you for the privilege of allowing me to serve as your representative in the New York State Legislature.