PUSH Buffalo | Turn Up the Heat on National Fuel
(Video credit: Adrianna Hernandez-Stewart, editor and producer)
Targeting a Big Corporation and a Multimillionaire and Getting a State Agency to Line up with the People
PUSH’s most ambitious campaign goes directly to the heart of corporate disinvestment on Buffalo’s West Side. It also speaks directly to the relationship between environmental and economic justice that is central to the GDZ’s mission.
Gas bills are a major part of low-income people’s housing costs. Those costs remain high in great part because so little money goes towards weatherizing the neighborhood’s older homes, which is the best way for West Side homeowners to conserve energy.
Over the past two years, PUSH has assembled a huge, region-wide National Fuel Accountability Coalition targeting one of Western New York’s largest corporations, National Fuel Gas (NFG), and one of the region’s richest CEOs, David Smith. The Coalition also calls on a New York State regulatory agency, the Public Service Commission (PSC) to spend more time prioritizing the energy needs of the people.
Based on New York State Law, utility companies like National Fuel Gas must charge their customers extra money to run a Conservation Incentive Program. The goal is to promote fuel conservation and the State PSC regulates this program.
National Fuel Gas has used the Conservation Incentive Program to take money from low-income customers like those living on the West Side. Worse, NFG has reinvested our money largely in its own corporate advertising, touting an unaccountable rebate program directly aimed at wealthier customers in Buffalo suburbs. (Just look at a map showing where CIP dollars from the West Side ended up.)
Until recently, the PSC has gone along with this exploitative practice.
In November 2011, after leading direct action protests at NFG headquarters and flooding a PSC-sponsored public hearing with speakers, PUSH and the Coalition won a major victory. The PSC ordered utilities to move approximately $19 million out of corporate advertising and into low-income weatherization, such as that provided by PUSH on the West Side. $4 million of that money will be disbursed locally.
The National Fuel Accountability Coalition continues to call for a face-to-face meeting with CEO David Smith to plan out a comprehensive community strategy for lowering gas bills, conserving energy and introducing renewable fuels on the West Side.