We’re Environmentalists by Trade

Cornetta We Are Environmentalists by Trade
December 12, 2023
By Joe Cornetta

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, when we are tied up, we have a common association – PHCC – to advocate on our behalf before legislators at all levels of government.

The Latest Attack on Our Industry
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 historically unfamiliar to us in that it targets one of our critical skillsets for elimination by banning the use of natural gas. We recognize the need to reduce carbon emissions for the sake of our environment. However, 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.

A Threat to Consumer Choice
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. 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 to the new mandates from the vast majority of the customers with whom we speak is a mix of disbelief and anger.

This past summer New York Governor Kathy Hochul, with the blessing of an environmental study, signed a state budget to ban natural gas connections for all new construction in the state. New York City’s former mayor had already signed the city’s gas ban into law with little fanfare, days before his final term was set to expire.

Many in our industry think this is the first bite from the apple. The next ban will be gas replacement boilers or water heaters. PHCC—National alerts us that the Department of Energy is again looking to abolish commercial gas water heaters and non-condensing furnaces.

So what’s next? How do we amass our voices in peaceful protest? How do we notify the public as to what’s happening?

In New York, we take the governor and her decision to court. Last fall, PHCC of New York, PHCC of Long Island, PCA of Long Island, and other New York stakeholders from the building trades joined a lawsuit to reverse the state’s decision. PHCC of Long Island and New York state are supporting the same law firm that was successful in Berkeley, California. The lawyers and a public relations firm are desperately trying to alert homeowners and business owners of this law.

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.

PHCC—National Association President Joe Cornetta is co-owner of Cornetta Bros., Inc., a third-generation plumbing and heating business in Elmont, New York.

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