A BIG Week For Low Income Weatherization (VICTORY!)

It has been a busy week for the fight against high gas bills, and the advocacy of low-income weatherization in Buffalo and the rest of the state. First on Tuesday October 11th, 2011 a group of about 20 people consisting of members of Voice Buffalo, Niagara Organizing Alliance for Hope (NOAH), and PUSH Buffalo (all three groups are members of the National Fuel Accountability Coalition NFAC) visited the New York City office of the State Public Service Commission (PSC). Members especially wanted to meet with PSC Commissioner Patricia Acampora who previously refused to meet with the coalition. The group was met in the lobby of the PSC office by building security and vocalized their demands. The group chanted and periodically in between chants individual speakers from the group loudly and peacefully reiterated their demand Commissioner Acampora meet with them to discuss solutions for expanding low income weatherization in Western New York and the rest of the state. After about a half hour security was able to get a representative from the PSC on the phone to speak with Sean Davis a spokesperson for the group. A video teleconference was set up for the next day between members of the NFAC and the PSC. The fruits of the group’s labor were soon realized a few days later on Thursday October 13th when the PSC increased low-income weatherization to 50% of the Conservation Incentive Program (CIP). What this means is that almost $4 million will be added to the monies allocated for low-income weatherization as it relates to the CIP for households in Western New York. Statewide we are talking about an $18.7 million increase. This increase directly comes out of the advertising budget of National Fuel Gas. These were our demands for CIP reform and they were met, we now have a victory. My friends, hard work does indeed pay off and it would have not happened had it not been for you; the community. The work is not yet complete also on the same day our victory was announced, an article came out in the Buffalo News explaining that executives from National Fuel Gas were saying that the cost to heat our homes this coming winter could fall slightly. "This is very good news for our Western New York customers," said Karen Merkel, a National Fuel spokeswoman. "For the most part, their heating bills will remain at the same levels they paid last year, or they may be reduced slightly." Wow thanks National Fuel! While we celebrate this victory, we know that we have more work to do. With winter around the corner too many families are without gas right now, HEAP suffered big cuts, no National Fuel money has been put toward weatherization, and CEO David Smith is positioning himself to fight against millionaires paying their fair share in taxes.