Senator Oppenheimer Votes to Increase Home Heating Oil Costs by as much as $600 Per Family

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WHITE PLAINS – State Senate candidate Bob Cohen (R, I, C – 37th District) today condemned legislation passed by the Senate last week that threatens the supply of home heating oil and could increase costs by as much as $.90 per gallon in the event of a severe winter. Cohen called the measure another blow to Westchester families already suffering from out-of-control property taxes.

“With all of the attention focused on the Legislature’s inability to negotiate a budget, it is easy to forget about the other lapses in common sense coming from Albany,” said Cohen. “This one is inexcusable. People are having a hard enough time making ends meet. The last thing the Senate should be doing is finding ways to increase the cost of living.”

The legislation (S.1145-C) would limit the sulfur content of heating oil to 15 parts per million by July 1, 2012. Engineering evaluations show that it will take a minimum of four years for refineries to have the proper infrastructure and processes in place to comply with the new mandate. A recent study found that the resulting shortage could lead to increases in costs of $.20 – $.30 per gallon in a mild winter, and as much as $.60 – $.90 per gallon in a severe winter. The added costs to New York home heating oil users ranges from $1 billion to $3 billion per winter and averages $600 per family.

While the intent of the bill is to reduce air pollution in New York City, a convenient exemption was included in the measure exempting No. 4 and No. 6 heating oil, the types most commonly used in high-rise apartment and commercial buildings. Meanwhile, the new standards would apply to No. 2 heating oil, most often used in traditional residential homes, effective July 1, 2012.

All Democratic senators, including incumbent Senator Suzi Oppenheimer, voted in favor of the measure. An amendment offered by Senate Republicans that would have extended the effective date by two years (conforming to surrounding states), allowing proper time for refineries to prepare, was rejected by Senate Democrats including Senator Oppenheimer.

“This issue is too important to justify a simple party line vote,” said Cohen. “While I agree that we need to do more to protect the environment and improve air quality, this must be done in a reasonable time frame with thoughtful consideration as to how a bill like this will affect consumers, especially given the weakened state of the economy. As it stands, this legislation will hurt Westchester households, which is something Senator Oppenheimer should have considered before casting yet another reliable vote for her party’s leadership.”