By Michael Trunzo, Director, Government Affairs, Shenker Russo & Clark LLP
The opening of the Legislative Session in January began a new two-year "legislative cycle" in the State Legislature. During these early months, thousands of legislative proposals are introduced and must be monitored and reviewed for their possible impact on the home heating industry. To date, over 4,300 bills have been introduced in the State Senate and 5,600 in the State Assembly; historically approximately 20,000 bills are introduced in each two-year cycle. Shenker Russo & Clark LLP (SRC) has already flagged some 218 bills that could impact our industry. These proposals cover a myriad of issues such as financial responsibility of major oil storage facilities, petroleum taxes, petroleum spill cleanups, various transportation issues, gas utility programs, gas leak monitoring, Greenhouse Gas Emissions and consumer protection. SRC will work closely with the two association executives guiding NYSEC to review and act, as appropriate, on these proposals as well as others we identify in the future.
With the release of the 2017-18 Executive Budget Proposal in January 2017, the primary focus of "Albany" is on the State Budget, which is due to be adopted by April 1. NYSEC has several issues being discussed within the budget framework; namely, a minimum standard for blending biofuels with heating oil and a rebate for oil heating system upgrades.
SRC is lobbying to enact a 5% minimum standard for biodiesel blending within the counties of Suffolk, Nassau and Westchester, along with the City of New York. Discussions have been productive and meetings are being held with the Governor's Office, as well as with many of the state Senators and Assembly members from the region. As expected, we are confronting opposition from the American Petroleum Institute (API), which is fighting this issue tooth and nail since self-evidently, they only care about protecting their market share, and not the competitiveness of those selling their products at retail, nor the environmental emissions benefits and consumer savings that all result with biodiesel use.
Along with the discussions on biodiesel, SRC is speaking to the Governor's office and the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA) on renewing the Heating Oil Equipment Rebate Program. This is an attempt to provide a $500 rebate to consumers for the upgrading of their home heating systems. The previous program, which ran from 1987-1993, helped the industry upgrade some 22,000 systems. If enacted, this rebate would be in addition to the direct consumer rebate that both NYOHA and OHCC are providing through the National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA) program.