January 18, 2024

Daniel Ortega takes the helm as permanent Executive Director, Organization reacts to budget, announces new goals for membership, advocacy, messaging, and policy.

ALBANY N.Y.: New Yorkers for Affordable Energy (NYFAE) held a virtual press conference today to announce new leadership, an aggressive strategy to recruit new members as well as its 2024 advocacy agenda, released in part in response to the Governor’s Budget Address.

Daniel Ortega, who has served as Interim Executive Director since the spring of 2023, was unanimously appointed to the position full-time by the NYFAE Steering Committee. Ortega is a life-long union activist and advocate for working families both in New York and New Jersey. He also serves as the Community Affairs Chief for Engineers Labor-Employer Cooperative Local 825.

“It is an honor to lead this coalition, which is the most consistent voice for energy sanity in New York State,” said Ortega. “Whether you are an elderly person living on a fixed income, a single mother living in a big city or a farmer struggling to make ends meet, affordable energy is a necessity-not a luxury. Politicians in Albany say they are focused on affordability. When it comes to energy, 2024 is their chance to put up or shut up.”

NYFAE represents a diverse coalition of labor and business organizations concerned about the impacts of New York’s rush to abandon the gas system that consumers still rely on, while exponentially raising costs for those who can least afford it. The NYFAE Steering Committee has representation from organizations including the Engineer Labor-Employer Cooperative (ELEC) 825, Power and Construction Group Inc., Enbridge Inc., National Fuel and Millennium Pipeline Co. LLC. Recruiting more members to the cause will be a major goal in 2024.

“NYFAE is the leading voice for common sense energy policy in Albany,” continued Ortega. “Since this organization was founded, we have not been afraid to take on difficult issues with the aim of moderating extreme policies that raise energy costs for families in New York. In 2023, we were a key voice opposing the proposed ban on natural gas service in existing buildings and in 2024, we will work to ensure that costly policies like the so-called NY HEAT Act do not become law, and somehow mitigate the detrimental impacts of a Cap and Invest strategy. If you agree with us that this is a top priority-we would welcome you into our coalition.”
The NY Heat Act, which passed the Senate in 2023, would direct the Public Service Commission to transition away from natural gas, discontinue parts of the natural gas system and force consumers to convert their homes and businesses to electricity. Language included in the budget would make this provision even worse, by setting a date certain of the end of 2025 to end investment in parts of the natural gas system. It would further impose a 6% cost cap that benefits a small group of customers, while imposing a massive energy tax on every other customer. Further, conversions to electricity will cost residents and businesses between $20,000 to $50,000, and provide no means for them to recover that forced investment. Finally, it would eliminate the “100-foot rule” that requires utilities to hook up new customers to the gas system if they are within 100 feet of an existing mainline.
“Defeating the NY Heat Act is our top goal this legislative session. We appreciate the Governor leaving large parts of it out of her State of the State and including only a modified version in her state budget. However, we are concerned about her embrace of abolishing the 100-foot rule and applying it only to gas and doubtful that her $50 million allocation through NYSERDA will cover the costs associated with a 6% income cap. We will continue to speak out on this important issue and educate lawmakers on its negative impacts for both working men and women and consumers more generally.”
As part of NYFAE’s new advocacy approach this year, the organization is also developing and will be promoting an affirmative legislative agenda that highlights affordability and consumer choice. Among the ideas that the organization is likely to pursue are:

An Energy “Tax Cap”
Automatic exemption from new energy fees and taxes for seniors
An independent cost-benefit analysis of CLCPA
An audit of NYSERDA clean energy programs
A State incentive to build out the natural gas system in areas dependent upon less clean or affordable fuels or who live in areas with high rates of respiratory illness.
“AE is going to take both a proactive and a reactive approach for the first time this year,” concluded Ortega. “It is time our opponents were made to defend their high-cost solutions and explain why working people should continue to pay more and get less, while the wealthy benefit from their out of touch policies. All I can say to them is ‘stay tuned’.”