Attorney General Cuomo Announces $2.1 Million Program To Help Needy Buffalo Residents Save Money On Home Heating Costs

BUFFALO, N.Y. (November 15, 2010) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo announced today a new $2.1 million program to help needy Buffalo residents save on heating bills by making homes more energy-efficient. The funding originates from a record $9.5 million that Cuomo secured from a 2007 court-ordered settlement with American Electric Power over federal Clean Air Act violations.

Over 70 percent of Buffalo’s homes were built prior to 1939, and for many needy families, it’s impossible to find the money to deal with basic weatherization and energy inefficiency problems. This initiative will give families the help they need to fix these problems and address any additional health and safety issues facing their homes.

“This initiative will make a significant difference for the people of Buffalo,” said Cuomo. “There are many cash-strapped families struggling to keep the heat on because they can’t afford basic home improvements. This initiative will not only save families money, but improve their overall health and safety as well as the efficiency of their homes.”

The “Buffalo Green and Healthy Home Initiative” (BGHHI) will use $2.1 million to create a program to fund home weatherization and energy efficiency improvements that include replacing outdated furnaces as well as installing new, efficient windows. The Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo (CFGB), a 90-year-old local Buffalo institution, will administer the initiative as well as commit $280,000 in additional financial and in-kind support, bringing the program’s total current resources to almost $2.4 million.

This initiative will also attract additional private and public sources of funding to fix health and safety hazards at these homes such as lead issues, rodent infestation and mold.

Funding for the BGHHI comes from Cuomo’s landmark 2007 settlement that a coalition of states and environmental groups -- led by New York and the federal government -- reached with American Electric Power, the nation’s largest power company, for violations of the federal Clean Air Act. From this settlement -- the largest payment for such projects ever received from a New York State settlement under the Act -- Cuomo has dedicated money in the past into protecting and improving environmental and public health in New York, including:

  • $1.9 million to create a new oil energy efficiency pilot program, administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, to help New York’s neediest families cope with the high cost of home heating oil;
  • $500,000 towards the creation of a solar power facility in Saratoga County that will help prepare New York’s workforce for future “green jobs” in the renewable energy field by providing hands-on education and training in state-of-the-art solar electric technologies;
  • $500,000 towards an innovative program to protect thousands of schoolchildren in Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess counties from harmful air pollution by upgrading approximately 140 school buses in the three counties with state-of-the-art anti-idling technologies; and
  • $500,000 towards a new grant program to help local farmers fight water pollution in Lake Champ Champlain.

“We know that poor housing is not only more costly to heat and cool, but it also directly contributes to unhealthy children,” said Clotilde Perez-Bode Dedecker, President and CEO of the CFGB. “Being born into poverty in Buffalo means you are more likely to suffer lead poisoning, develop asthma, live sicker and die younger -- often due to being trapped in unhealthy, unsafe, and energy inefficient housing. These funds are vital to solving these problems.”

Eric Walker, Director of Policy Initiatives at PUSH Buffalo, said, “We applaud Attorney General Cuomo’s move to create a fund for Green and Healthy Homes in Buffalo. The fund also dovetails perfectly with the state’s effort to bring energy efficiency upgrades to tens of thousands of homes, spur economic development, and deliver on the promise of green jobs. For PUSH, going green isn't just a lifestyle, it’s about survival.”

David Hahn-Baker, Chairman of the Board of the Environmental Justice ACTION Group (EJAG) said, “On behalf of the greater Buffalo neighborhoods we serve, we thank Attorney General Cuomo for creating an initiative that will eliminate barriers to rehabilitating distressed housing and strengthening our communities. Through this Initiative, the successful drive to prevent lead poisoning in Erie County can now grow into a fuller safe, healthy, and green homes initiative. This investment in our community is a clear demonstration of the Attorney General’s commitment to the people of Western New York.”

Joseph Gardella, Chair of the City of Buffalo Environmental Management Commission, said, “We know all too well that Buffalo is struggling with issues related to substandard housing. Attorney General Cuomo’s investment, which will be wisely managed by the Community Foundation of Greater Buffalo, can be leveraged to have a broad, sustainable impact on housing. A great impact will be the combination of job training, in a city with high unemployment and poverty, with housing improvements that improve energy efficiency and can reduce indoor air pollution and exposures that lead to known public health impacts.”

The matter is being handled for the Office of the Attorney General by Assistant Attorneys General Jane Cameron and Robert Rosenthal and Policy Advisor Peter Washburn of the Environmental Protection Bureau, under the supervision of the Deputy Director of the Social Justice Division, James Rogers.