Legislator Shawn Foti:  Questioning Governor's Climate Plan Doesn't Mean You Oppose Sustainability

Opinion Piece from Legislator Shawn Foti as it appeared in the Niagara Gazette and Lockport Union Sun & Journal.

Recently, my colleague in the Niagara County Legislature, Irene Myers, and I sent a letter to Governor Hochul urging her to rethink New York's Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) Scoping Plan in light of the December 2022 blizzard.  We believe that the storm and its impact on residents (trapped in homes, no electricity) highlighted some major issues with the Scoping Plan to meet the goals of the CLCPA.

Many people were supportive of the issues we raised, but not surprisingly, there were those who immediately leveled charges against us “climate deniers” and worse.  That is the problem we have in New York State, the inability to have honest debate.  Here is the inconvenient truth for those who want to shut down any discussion.  I am actually very interested/obsessed with sustainability and leaving the smallest footprint on Earth as possible. It's not easy and costs exponentially more. Here’s another fun fact: for three years, I have used zero fossil fuels in my all-electric home.  I heat/cool with heat pumps, cook with an electric stove, have an electric hot water heater and electric baseboards in some rooms for supplemental heat.

The house was built all electric in the 1970's, but my parents installed propane fireplaces and heaters because electric was too expensive in the ensuing decades. I purchased the home several years ago and converted it back to all electric with heat pumps. I have already gone through the process that politicians in Albany/NYC want to mandate on us without actually knowing what it means.  They should be required to experience this process of converting a home to all electric themselves before they can require it of others.

Even after converting to all electric, I would never vote to mandate or set a timeline on when people needed to conform to illogical regulations. The only reason my family (including a 6 month old baby and 4 year old toddler) and home survived 20 hours without power during the blizzard is because I use a small generator to power my pellet stove which I kept for emergencies. Heat pumps drop efficiency once the temp goes below 0*F and they totally shut off around -10*F. I have the pellet stove for power outages and when it is very cold in case the heat pump “derates”. This is all important information for the public to have, yet we never hear it.

This isn't about being a climate denier or blindly opposing progress and innovation. I love innovation. I live and breathe science and technology. I am an engineer; it's what I do every day. This is all about setting priorities, how our government serves and supports the citizens, how they spend our tax dollars and who will finance the all-electric conversion in New York. Bottom line in regard to “going green” or fossil fuel independent: we need to provide residents with unbiased financial information in order to make smart decisions when they are comfortable and financially able to, and not shut down those who raise issues like how would WNY have survived the blizzard if the CLCPA was already in effect.

Shawn Foti is a Niagara County Legislator representing the 14th District, which includes to the Towns of Newfane, Somerset and part of Lockport.