Advocates Decry Governor’s Veto of Popular Geothermal Tax Credit Bill and Call for Quick Action to Avoid Layoffs

For Immediate Release

November 29, 2016

Contact: Bill Nowak: 716-882-9237

 

Governor Andrew Cuomo has vetoed, for the second year in a row, a popular tax credit that would have saved hundreds of jobs in New York’s budding geothermal industry and set New York on a stronger path to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from heating buildings.

The geothermal tax credit was passed overwhelmingly earlier this year by the New York State Legislature, by a combined vote of 201 to 1. This was the second time in two years that the Legislature approved the bill. If enacted, the bill would have provided a 25% tax credit for homeowners who install geothermal heating and cooling systems. Geothermal technology uses the constant temperature of the earth to provide extremely efficient heating and cooling for buildings, without burning fossil fuels. By switching to geothermal systems for heating and cooling, homeowners can dramatically reduce their greenhouse gas footprint as well as their heating and cooling bills. When paired with a renewable electricity supply, geothermal systems eliminate greenhouse gasses from space heating altogether.

The Governor vetoed the bill yesterday, November 28, with a note stating that tax credits should be enacted through the state budget process instead. The Governor gave a similar reason for his veto last year, but then failed to include support for geothermal technology in the 2016 state budget.

The Governor also stated that his agencies are working on other plans to support renewable heating, such as geothermal, but advocates worry that those programs will come too late for many in the geothermal industry, which is facing hardship and contraction with the upcoming expiration of a federal geothermal tax credit on December 31, 2016.

Bill Nowak, Executive Director of the trade association NY-GEO, said: “The geothermal industry in New York is facing a cliff with the expiration of the federal tax credit. Companies are already having to lay off workers, and some smaller firms might not even survive. We had hoped the Governor would support NY jobs by signing the state tax credit bill, but instead we got a veto. Now we need to Governor to lead with a strong and immediate alternative policy to support geothermal in New York.”

According to the New York State Energy Plan, 35% of New York’s greenhouse gas emissions comes from burning fuels on site in our homes and businesses, primarily to keep us warm. The space heating sector is responsible for almost twice the amount of greenhouse gas emissions as the electricity sector.

Groups supporting the tax credit had delivered a letter to the Governor last week signed by over 160 organizations, elected officials, and businesses. Hundreds of New Yorkers had also sent postcards to the Governor and called his office urging him to sign the bill.

Renee Vogelsang, Campaign Coordinator with New Yorkers for Clean Power, said: “New York will not be able to meet its greenhouse gas reduction goal of 40% by 2030 unless we have a comprehensive plan to convert large percentages of our buildings to heat pump technology like geothermal. There is no other viable strategy for comprehensive greenhouse gas reductions in space heating. We are disappointed that the Governor chose to veto this bill, which would have put New York on the path to making those conversions happen at a faster pace. We will continue to work with allies across the state to make sure this is a temporary setback.”

Jessica Azulay, Program Director with Alliance for a Green Economy, said: “We are gravely concerned about the Governor’s veto of this critical legislation. At a time when we need to be accelerating the transition to renewable space heating, we cannot afford to see New York’s skilled geothermal workforce lose ground. The Governor had an opportunity here to save jobs and advance meaningful greenhouse gas reductions, but he has set progress back instead. We call on the Governor to act quickly to remedy the damage to the industry and the environment that this veto will cause.”

 

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