5% BIODIESEL BLENDING MINIMUM STANDARD SIGNED INTO LAW
Working alongside the National Biodiesel Board, NYSEC was successful in passing its number one legislative priority, a 5% biodiesel blending requirement for home heating fuel sold in Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties. This legislation was signed into law in September 2017, and these three counties will join NY City in a 5% biodiesel blend requirement as of July 2018. (NYC and those 3 downstate counties represent more than 70% of all heating oil sold in N.Y. State). NYSEC would like to thank State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, State Senator Phil Boyle and Assemblyman Steve Englebright for their leadership in this issue. Both NBB and NYSEC were represented by Michael Trunzo at the firm of Shenker Russo & Clark LLP.
FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY INCREASE FOR MOSFs KILLED
NYSEC helped kill legislation that would have changed the financial responsibility of Major Oil Storage Facilities from the current $25 per barrel, ($1 million or $2 million depending upon location), to the federal definition and treatment of a "vessel" which would have increased the financial responsibility to $350 million. This legislation was primarily aimed at crude transportation, specifically by rail and water. NYSEC successfully argued that this legislation was anti-small-business and would have harmed many family-owned retail home heating and energy companies which utilize small inland terminals for their own use.
HEATING OIL TANK REPLACEMENT MANDATE AVERTED
Legislation was introduced by Sen. Tom O'Mara, Chairman of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, that would have required all heating oil tanks in New York State to be replaced with double wall tanks by 2020. NYSEC was able to intercede and convince the Senator that this legislation was not properly drafted and could be improved upon. NYSEC pledged and has been working with Senator O'Mara and his staff on legislation that would join together an existing legislative proposal for the voluntary replacement of heating oil tanks with a consumer tax credit to help cover the costs of the tank replacement. The tax credit, which was previously funded by the state but was allowed to lapse, is currently being proposed by State Senator Ken LaValle and Assemblyman Fred Thiele, both of Long Island. This is a priority budget issue for NYSEC in the 2018 Legislative Session.
ENFORCEMENT OF FILL PIPE AND TANK CLOSURE REQUIREMENTS BEFORE OIL-TO-GAS CONVERSIONS CAN BECOME EFFECTIVE
In 2017, legislation was introduced to address the proper abandonment of oil tanks and fill pipes upon the conversion from heating oil to another fuel, and sought to establish a registry of home heating oil tanks at the Department of Environmental Conservation. The bill's sponsor was not aware that New York State Law, NFPA and N.Y. State Building Code already require proper abandonment of the heating oil tank and the permanent closure of the fill pipe in order to avoid erroneous deliveries. NYSEC helped draft a new version of this legislation that would require a certification by a natural gas company employee of proper abandonment BEFORE any conversion to another fuel can be finalized and placed into service. Working with NYSEC to draft new and more legally/technically appropriate legislative language, Senator Phil Boyle and Assemblyman Chuck Lavine have introduced this legislation and will work with NYSEC to ensure its passage in the 2018 Legislative Session.
2018 STATE LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES
TANK REPLACEMENT TAX CREDITS AND BURNER REBATE PROGRAMS
As noted earlier, NYSEC was able to intercede to stop any tank removal legislation from proceeding last session and is working with Senator O'Mara and others to institute either a consumer tax credit or rebate to help cover the costs of the tank replacement. From 2000 through 2004, a heating oil tank replacement $500 tax credit (valued at $15 million) existed, which resulted in approximately 30,000 tanks being replaced.
As part of the effort on heating oil tanks, NYSEC will also pursue the reinstatement of the NYS Oil Burner Rebate Program in 2018 as well. New York State used to provide a personal homeowner rebate for the installation of new, high efficiency heating systems. The previous program, which operated from 1987 through 1993, provided some $3.36 million in rebates ranging from $140 - $180, resulting in over 22,000 oil heating system upgrades. In lieu of a rebate, we will additionally pursue a $500 personal income tax credit for every heating system upgrade to a more efficient and cleaner system...which has the additional benefit of further reducing the oil heating industry's carbon footprint.
NYSEC has asked Shenker Russo & Clark (SRC) to monitor the Carbon Tax initiative currently being discussed by the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) and the NYS Public Service Commission (PSC) to tax carbon used for electric power generation. No state in the country has yet to adopt a carbon tax, although many proposals have been advanced. A ballot referendum in the State of Washington failed to win public support last year, and the New England states of Vermont, Connecticut, and Rhode Island all have current legislation under consideration.
While the NYISO and PSC are developing a work plan for the implementation of a carbon tax on electric power generation as a component of the state's effort to reduce carbon emissions, NYSEC is wary of the proposal expanding to all fossil fuel uses, especially since there is pending legislation for a full-scale carbon tax. As previously reported, the current discussion involves a tax of approximately $40 per ton on fuel used for power generation; however, if that tax were to find its way to the home heating sector, it is estimated that it would increase heating oil prices by some 40 cents per gallon. NYSEC and Shenker Russo and Clark have already engaged energy officials in the Governor's office and Executive Agencies to carefully monitor this proposal and its potential impact on our industry and our customers throughout the state.
ELIMINATION OF THE NYS PETROLEUM BUSINESS TAX
Over 75,000 small businesses in New York State rely on heating oil for space heating and are subject to the petroleum business tax (PBT). The PBT rate is currently 5.2 cents-per-gallon plus applicable state and local sales taxes. It should be noted, however, that natural gas used for space heating is not subject to the PBT. This discriminatory tax on commercial heating oil needs to be eliminated. By eliminating the PBT on non-residential space heating, the state will help lower operating costs for thousands of small businesses.
LIEN LAW LEGISLATION
The Lien Law is intended to protect the value of services rendered to real property. Heating oil dealers provide a crucial service to commercial buildings and apartment buildings that use heating oil or kerosene as a source of heat, hot water, or for forms of energy or power. However, heating oil dealers are not permitted by law to file a lien against real property owners for non-payment of fuel deliveries. On the other hand, natural gas utilities do have the right to file liens and are paid owed bills. Thus, heating oil dealers are frequently unable to collect monies owed to them by commercial building owners for delivered heating oil, either as a result of the transfer of ownership of a building or because the legal costs of recovering amounts owed through court proceedings oftentimes outweigh the value of the monies owed.
As a result, heating oil dealers are often denied remuneration for the fuel that they have provided to nonpaying buildings. The shortfalls experienced by heating oil dealers, as a result of nonpayment, can lead to higher heating costs for all customers that do pay for their fuel oil bills. NYSEC will propose legislation that would permit heating oil dealers to seek recovery of monies owed to them for the delivery of heating fuel or kerosene to commercial properties or large apartment buildings through the filing of a lien to collect for previously delivered fuel oil. Allowing heating oil dealers to file a lien for oil delivered would correct the current inequity created by the nonpayment by commercial building owners. Further, it will give oil dealers the ability to collect old past due oil bills, particularly when the building is sold to a new owner.
NEW YORK NORA
The National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA) is a national check-off program established in 2000. It provides funding equal to two-tenths of one cent per gallon of home heating oil sold nationally to help advance home heating fuel research & development (R&D), energy efficiency, technician and industry training, and consumer education. New York State is the largest consumer of home heating oil in the country. Advances in R&D and heating system energy efficiency have allowed a very large number of consumers to lower their home heating use by more than 40% over the past decade. Yes, NORA programs have helped the average homeowner/consumer go from using 1,200 gallons to approximately 700 gallons, on-average per year!! Establishing a NYS NORA program at one-tenth of a cent per gallon would allow the home heating oil industry in New York to complement the efforts afforded the industry from the federal program. Similar to the federal program, the NYS NORA proposal would provide for additional R&D, energy efficiency programs, industry training and consumer education.