By Joe Cornetta
(Op-ed below was prepared by PHCC National Vice President Joe Cornetta during recent PHCC of Long Island efforts to oppose a proposed ban of the use of clean-burning natural gas, propane and oil in new construction. See this article for more details.)
As plumbing and HVAC contractors, we are typically blue collar, self-employed, hard-working and patriotic tradesmen and tradeswomen carrying the weight of the U.S. economy through essential services that Americans literally cannot live without. Plumbers and HVAC contractors have a constitutional right, like any citizen, to petition their government for a redress of grievances, a right enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. We have a duty to our industry and our customers to advocate on their behalf, however we must also run our businesses. Fortunately, we have a common association to advocate for us before legislators at all levels of government when we are tied up, and that is the Plumbing Heating and Cooling Contractors—National Association (www.phccweb.org). As a federation of over 36 state and 75 local chapters across the country with 3,100 contractor members collectively employing over 64,000 signatory and open shop plumbing and HVAC professionals, we are the voice of our entire industry. Since 1883, we are the oldest and only association that fulfills this mission.
Like any industry, we are regularly targeted by policymakers at all levels of government seeking more tax revenue, more regulations, and more concessions that are costly for business owners like us. The latest attack on our industry is a variant unfamiliar to us historically in that it targets one of our critical skillsets for elimination by banning the use of natural gas. The urgency to decarbonize the country, especially through the elimination of natural gas and propane as an energy supplement, will permanently affect our livelihood.
Licensed plumbers and HVAC technicians are environmentalists by trade. We protect the health and safety of the American people through modern technology that provides clean potable water and indoor air. We are in the best position to serve as subject-matter experts on the best method of clean dependable fuels to heat homes and water for homeowners, commercial building owners and their tenants.
This wildfire of an all-electric nation started on our west coast. The Santa Ana winds swept it to my backyard almost overnight. State-by-state, citizens are finding out, after the fact, that for any major renovation, or any new home they want to build, they will not have the choice to connect to a natural gas utility. Currently, Americans have a choice (as they should): They can opt to connect or maintain a natural gas connection to help them keep energy bills down, or they can disconnect from gas and invest the tens of thousands of dollars necessary to upgrade their electrical panel and appliances. Natural gas bans will force Americans to choose the latter, which isn’t much of a choice at all.
This great country was settled from east to west, yet it seems to becoming unsettled from west to east. States across the country find themselves wrapped up in decisions that merely two years ago were unthinkable. It’s a situation the PHCC Legislative Affairs department has taken seriously.
Here in New York, contractors are spreading awareness and shouting from the rooftops that giving up your gas stoves, hot water heaters and clothes dryers is not the way to make America “greener”! The reaction from the vast majority of the customers with whom we speak is a mix of disbelief and anger. All it takes is for the legislature to include a few sentences in a must-pass bill like the state budget to make a terrible mistake, which is exactly what is happening at the behest of Governor Hochul.
New York City’s former mayor signed the city’s gas ban into law with little fanfare, days before his final term was set to expire. With the swipe of a pen, the action negatively impacted the lives of millions of New Yorkers as he walked out of City Hall for the final time. Many home and building owners in New York City getting ready to undergo a major renovation of their properties will find out the hard way beginning next year about what their city’s leaders have done.
Many in our industry think this is the first bite from the apple. The next ban will be gas replacement boilers or water heaters. I read the minutes of a New York state meeting where a professor from Cornell stated that “the financial impact on homeowners is yet to be realized.” Last week our industry national association alerted us that the DOE is again looking to abolish commercial gas water heaters and non- condensing furnaces.
So what’s next? How do we amass our voices in peacefully protest? How do we notify the public what’s happening? New York right now is the nation’s largest battlefield. The Gettysburg of the natural gas future is in Albany. The PHCC of Long Island and New York State are desperately trying to alert homeowners and business owners of this impending law. It’s a herculean task given the political landscape of our state senate, state assembly and interim governor.
If our efforts here are successful, and New York survives a stay of execution, then our strategy will be used as a model for other states under attack.
Please join us by voicing your opposition to this movement.
Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors—National Association Vice President