The use of fossil gas to heat buildings and as cooking fuel is a major source of carbon pollution that drives climate change as well as indoor air pollution that causes asthma and other diseases.
A bill in New York State to require new buildings to use electricity for building heating and cooling and for cooking has met staunch opposition from a variety of industries, especially utility monopolies whose multi-billion-dollar profits hinge on continued dependence on fossil fuels.
The All-Electric Building Act would prohibit fossil gas hook-ups in newly built buildings in order to reduce greenhouse gas and indoor air pollution. Though building electrification will be necessary for New York to meet the ambitious climate goals established by the 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, the All-Electric Building Act was defeated in 2022 without receiving a floor vote – reputedly failing when the State Assembly, led by its speaker, Carl Heastie, would not agree to its passage.
However, in addition to being necessary for New York’s energy transition, building electrification is also popular. According to a recent poll by Data for Progress, 66% of New Yorkers support the proposal to end fossil fuels in new construction.1 Similar polling by Siena showed 62% of New York voters supported the All-Electric Building act in 2022.2 New York Governor Kathy Hochul has included building electrification in her 2023 budget proposal.3
In response to efforts to electrify buildings in New York and elsewhere, the fossil fuel industry has embarked on a massive campaign to shape policy and public opinion to continue fossil fuel dependence. The New York Times recently reported on how a propane industry trade group was spending tens of millions of dollars fighting against electrification, including paying television personalities to promote propane.4 In November 2022, we reported on a corporate front group called New Yorkers for Affordable Energy formed by fossil fuel interests to fight against the All-Electric Building Act and other climate policies in New York.
This report examines the ongoing campaign to block the All-Electric Building Act by the fossil fuel industry, focusing on two New York gas and electric utility companies – National Fuel and National Grid – that collectively serve more than four million New Yorkers5 and that have been at the center of the lobbying effort to kill the All-Electric Building Act. The report details the billions of dollars in profits being extracted from New Yorkers and paid out to corporate executives, board members, and shareholders by National Grid and National Fuel as well as the millions of dollars these corporations and their lobbying groups spend protecting these profits.
National Fuel and National Grid earned more than $3 billion in profits combined in 2022. National Fuel reported profits of $566 million and National Grid reported profits of £2.1billion (or $2.55 billion) in 2022. National Grid CEO John Pettigrew was paid £6.5 million (or $7.83 million) in 2022 and National Fuel CEO David Bauer earned $6.5 million.
Fossil fuel interests opposed to building electrification spent more than $2.5 million on lobbying in 2022. National Grid, National Fuel, and NOCO Energy spent a combined $738,863 on lobbying in 2022, including on lobbying against the All-Electric Building Act. The lobbying groups American Petroleum Institute, the Empire State Energy Association, the Business Council of New York State, the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, the Capital Region Chamber of Commerce, the Business Council of Westchester, and the Partnership for New York City spent a combined $1,765,643 on lobbying last year.
Fossil fuel interests opposed to building electrification and their lobbying firms spent more than $4.5 million on political donations from 2016 through 2022. Top targets for campaign donations include the Republican and Democratic State Senate Campaign Committees, Governor Kathy Hochul, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, and Senate President Andrea Stewart-Cousins.
As efforts mount to pass a newly-reintroduced All-Electric Building Act,6 New York State lawmakers are faced with a choice of whether they will continue to prioritize corporate profits ahead of energy affordability, public health, and New York’s climate commitments.
Fossil fuel corporations opposing building electrification extract millions of dollars in profits and board and executive pay
National Grid and National Fuel are two utility corporations at the center of the effort to kill the All-Electric Building Act. These corporations collectively provide service to more than four million natural gas and electricity customers in New York State through regulated monopolies that produce huge profits for their shareholders.
National Grid’s profit rose 50%7 in the six months through September of last year on a “boost from local networks”. Their US operations had a 78% increase8 in net income from 2021 to 2022, moving from $919 million to $1.176 billion. National Grid’s CEO John Pettigrew received a £1.1 million ($1.34 million) raise9 last year, which was criticized given that the UK energy bills were soaring. He was paid £6.5 million in March 2022 for the year prior. He is the highest paid executive at National Grid.
National Fuel’s earnings in 2022 were $566 million10, a 64% increase from its earnings of $363.6 million in 2021. National Fuel’s top executives have raked in millions in compensation in recent years. President and CEO David P. Bauer has led the pack, taking in $18,389,980 between 2020 and 2022. Bauer’s 2022 compensation of $6,478,426 was 73 times more than annual compensation of the median National Fuel employee and around 150 times the per capita11 income of New York State residents, which was $43,208 as of 2021.
Other top National Fuel executives also took in big money, with Treasurer and CFO Karen M. Camiolo taking in $5,459,918 between 2019 and 2022, COO Ronald C. Kraemer taking in $8,505,106 between 2021 and 2022, President of Seneca Resources Justin I. Loweth taking in $4,839,951 between 2021 and 2022, and President of Natural Fuel Gas Distribution Donna L DeCarolis taking in $12,948,364 between 2019 and 2022.
National Fuel board members were also well compensated in 2022, with its ten directors taking in sums that ranged from $285,160 to $375,160.
Another fossil fuel corporation lobbying against the All-Electric Building Act is Western New York-based NOCO Energy. NOCO representatives have publicly described their discontent with new climate legislation: for example, NOCO’s Senior Energy Executive Paul Tyno described12 the CLCPA as “very disruptive and not in a good way”. Because NOCO is a privately-held company, data about corporate profits and executive pay is not available.
Fossil fuel interests opposed to building electrification spent millions on lobbying in 2022
We examined the expenditures of fossil fuel interests that reported lobbying on the All-Electric Building Act in 2022 and found that nine lobbying clients spent more than $2.5 million combined on lobbying in that year. These lobbying clients include the fossil fuel utility companies National Fuel and National Grid, whose profit extraction is detailed above, the Western New York fossil fuel company NOCO, the Big Oil-backed American Petroleum Institute, the energy marketing trade group Empire State Energy Association, and several statewide and regional chambers of commerce backed by the fossil fuel industry.
The fossil fuel interests that lobbied on the All-Electric Building Act, the total amount they reported spending on lobbying, and the lobbying firms they hired in 2022 can be seen in Table 1, below.
Table 1. Fossil Fuel Interests Lobbying on the All-Electric Building Act in 2022
Brown & Weinraub
Brown & Weinraub is an influential Albany lobbying firm representing a large number of clients, including the American Petroleum Institute in its advocacy against the All-Electric Building Act. According to lobbying records, API spent $156,735 on lobbying with Brown & Weinraub in 2022.
Greenberg Traurig is a law and lobbying firm representing National Grid, for which it was paid $180,342 in 2022. Greenberg Traurig is also lobbying for the Real Estate Board of New York, a real estate industry lobbying group that opposed building electrification in New York City and which is also lobbying on the statewide All-Electric Building Act.
Yoswein New York
Yoswein New York is a lobbying firm. Joni Yoswein is also a lobbyist for National Grid and lobbied on proposed pipelines13 for the company in 2019. Between 2011 and 2020, Yoswein New York received $832,500 from energy companies according to a report by New York Lawyers for the Public Interest.14
E3 Communication is a Buffalo based lobbying firm that represents National Fuel and NOCO. Last year alone, they made $60,000 and $24,000 from them, respectively. National Grid is also listed as one of their clients.15
Harter Secrest & Emery
Harter Secrest and Emery is a law firm based in Albany. They represent fossil fuel interests, including the Empire State Energy Association. Between 2016 and 2022, Harter Secrest & Emery contributed $559,393 to campaigns.
Statewide Public Affairs
Statewide Public Affairs is a New York State lobbying firm based in New York City. They represent National Fuel and made $48,000 from them last year. They contributed $21,523.60 in campaign donations.
Other corporate interests lobbying against the All-Electric Building Act include the real estate and biofuels industries.
The large real estate lobbying groups, the Real Estate Board of New York and the Rent Stabilization Association, reported lobbying on the act. REBNY hired the firms Greenberg Traurig (which was also retained by National Grid) and 99 Solutions while the Rent Stabilization Association hired the firm Dickinson & Avella.
A host of biofuels industry groups and corporations also reported lobbying on the All-Electric Building Act, including the New York State Energy Coalition, the Clean Fuels Alliance of America, and Darling Ingredients. The Empire State Energy Association, the trade group representing petroleum marketers that reported lobbying on the All-Electric Building Act, represents biofuel interests as well.
Fossil fuel interests opposing building electrification and their lobbyists have given millions in campaign donations
In addition to the millions of dollars spent on lobbying, the fossil fuel interests opposing building electrification have also made hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations to New York State politicians in recent years, with their lobbying firms spending millions of dollars on campaign donations on top of that. In total, we found that fossil fuel corporations and fossil fuel-backed chambers of commerce lobbying on the All-Electric Building Act spent more than $1.6 million to influence elections in New York from 2016 through 2022 and the lobbying firms hired by these corporations and corporate influence groups spent nearly $3 million.
These totals include direct campaign contributions and donations through corporate PACs from National Fuel, National Grid, NOCO, and the five related chambers of commerce that reported lobbying on the All-Electric Building Act as well as from the lobbying firms these fossil fuel interests hired in 2022. We also searched for – but did not identify any – campaign contributions from the American Petroleum Institute, though donations from API’s lobbying firm Brown & Weinraub are included.
It is also important to note that these totals only include direct contributions from these firms and their political action committees. Executives and board members at these companies also make individual political donations, which would send these totals far higher.
Campaign contribution totals for the fossil fuel interests and lobbying firms analyzed in this report can be seen in Table 2 below.
Table 2. Total campaign contributions made by fossil fuel industry opponents of building electrification and their lobbying firms, 2016-2022
The top overall recipients of campaign spending by the fossil fuel interests in this report were the Republican and Democratic Senate Campaign Committees. We found that the corporations and lobbying firms donated $512,600 to the NYS Senate Republican Campaign Committee and its housekeeping account and $254,870 to the NYS Democratic Senate Campaign Committee and its housekeeping account. In the lower house, we found that the fossil fuel interests in this report gave $221,250 to the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee and its housekeeping account and $82,392 to the Republican Assembly Campaign Committee and its housekeeping account. Further, the NYS Democratic Committee and its housekeeping account received $50,000 and the NYS Republican Committee and its housekeeping account received $20,275. In all, the fossil fuel interests we analyzed gave $615,267 to statewide Republican Party committees and $526,120 to statewide Democratic Party committees.
Governor Kathy Hochul was the top individual recipient of campaign donations from the corporations and organizations we analyzed, receiving $166,107.89 from 2016 through 2022. This makes sense as Hochul is the chief executive of the state and appoints the leaders of key regulatory bodies in addition to playing a critical role in setting state budget and policy priorities. The amount she has received from interests opposing building electrification is still noteworthy considering that Hochul has only been in office since mid-2021.
The fossil fuel interests in this report gave $65,800 to NYS Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and his political action committee, Speaker Heastie PAC, and $54,008 to NYS Senate President Andrea Stewart-Cousins. Both Heastie and Stewart-Cousins are Democrats.
The amount given by each of the corporations and organizations we examined, as well as the total amount given to each of the legislators and committees named above, can be seen in Table 3 below. A full list of all recipients of campaign donations from the corporations and organizations analyzed in this report, as well as the methodology used for calculating totals from each corporation and organization, can be found in Appendix A. (A larger version of Table 3 and Appendix A can be found in the pdf of this report.)
Table 3. Fossil fuel industry opponents of building electrification and lobbying firm contributions to key lawmakers and committees, 2016-2022
As New York lawmakers face an ever more urgent responsibility to act to mitigate the climate crisis, they are also facing intense pressure from the fossil fuel industry to protect corporate profits by blocking, delaying, and watering down climate policy.
By phasing out fossil fuels from office buildings and homes, the All-Electric Building Act would significantly reduce carbon pollution as well as indoor air pollution in New York. Because of the threat that electrification poses to their billions of dollars in profits and corporate compensation, fossil fuel utilities like National Grid and National Fuel are using millions of dollars – paid by New Yorkers through their energy bills – to hire high-powered lobbyists and donate to politicians’ campaigns to try to keep the state dependent on their product.
Lawmakers must prioritize the health of New York’s environment and its people above the interests of the corporate suites and boardrooms of the fossil fuel industry.
1. Jacobs, S.; Hanley, K. (9 January 2023). Voter’s Support New York’s Proposal to End Fossil Fuel Construction. Data for Progress. Retrieved from https://www.dataforprogress.org/blog/2023/1/9/voters-support-new-yorks-proposal-to-end-fossil-fuels-in-new-construction
2. SIENA College Research Institute. (18 January 2022). Hochul Dominating Primary Field, Viewed Favorably by Dems. SIENA. Retrieved from: https://scri.siena.edu/2022/01/18/hochul-dominating-primary-field-viewed-most-favorably-by-dems
3. Knauss, T. (2 February 2023). Hochul’s all-electric building plan would ban gas stoves in new houses, not existing homes. Syracuse.com. Retrieved from: https://www.syracuse.com/news/2023/02/hochuls-all-electric-building-plan-would-ban-gas- stoves-in-new-houses-not-existing-homes.html
4. Tabuchi, H. (January 11, 2023). The New Soldiers in Propane’s Fight Against Climate Action: Television Stars. New York Times. Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/2023/01/11/climate/climate-propane-influence-campaign.html
5. National Fuel has 534,000 customers in New York. National Grid has 1.6 million customers upstate, and 1.9 million in the New York Metro area and Long Island.
6. Assembly Bill A920A. 2023-2024 Legislative Session. https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2023/a920/amendment/a & Senate Bill S562A 2023-2024 Legistlative Session. https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2023/S562
7. Mathis, W.; Gillespie, T. (10 November 2022). National Grid Profit Rises 50% on Boost from Local Networks. Bloomberg. Retrieved from: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-11-10/national-grid-sees-profit-rise-50-on-boost-from-local- networks
8. Consolidated Financial Statement for the year ended March 31 2022 and 2022. National Grid. https://www.nationalgrid.com/ document/147341/download
9. Lawson, A. (8 June 2022). National Grid CEO’s 1.1m Pay Rise Criticized as UK Energy Bills Soar. The Guardian. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2022/jun/08/national-grid-ceos-11m-pay-rise-criticised-as-uk-energy-bills-soar
10. Form 10-K Annual Report. National Fuel Gas Company. https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/ data/70145/000007014522000034/nfg-20220930.htm
11. Median Household Income (2017- 2021). U.S. Census Bureau. https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/NY/ INC110221
12. Fink, J. (5 September 2022). Developers Air Concerns About New York’s New Green Energy Mandates. Bizjournals. Retrieved: https://www.bizjournals.com/buffalo/news/2022/09/05/developers-question-new-green-energy-mandates.html
13. Galbraith, R. (18 December 2019). NY Budget Watchdog’s Climate Recommendations Reflect Priorities of Corporation and Lobbyists on the its board. Eyes on the Ties. https://news.littlesis.org/2019/12/18/ny-budget-watchdogs-climate- recommendations-reflect-priorities-of-corporations-and-lobbyists-on-its-board/
14. Peak Coalition, NY Renews. (2020). NYPLI. Big Pollution, Big Influence. Retrieved: https://nylpi.org/wp-content/ uploads/2020/12/Big-Pollution-Big-Influence_Final.pdf
15. E3 Communications. Our Clients. https://e3communications.com/our-clients/