Community Groups Take on National Fuel

July 6, 2011 Updated Jul 6, 2011 at 11:37 PM EDT

By Kendra Eaglin

July 6, 2011 Updated Jul 6, 2011 at 11:37 PM EDT

Buffalo, NY

National Fuel has been doing the wrong thing for far too long according to activists with PUSH buffalo, People United for Sustainable Housing.

"In the past four years National Fuel spent more CIP money on public relations than on weatherizing low income housing," said Dwayne Diggs, President of Voice Buffalo.

National Fuel started the $10 million Conservation Incentive Program (CIP) four years ago. The program provides rebates to residential and commercial customers for purchasing energy efficient appliances, spends money on weatherizing homes and uses the rest of the money to advertise the program and measure its effectiveness. And it's all paid for through a $16 annual fee the gas company charges customers.

"The Conservation Incentive Program's monies are our monies and we have no say in how they're being used," argued Bob Cook, a leader with PUSH Buffalo.

"Even though low income residents pay more into CIP because our gas bills are higher we are 4times less likely to receive the benefits of CIP," said Diggs.

The issue also captured the attention of Buffalo Common Council Members who spoke out in support of PUSH.

However, Donna DeCarolis, Vice President of National Fuel supported the program.

"Currently as it's structured right now about 30 percent of the program funding for this year dedicated to weatherization. That's about double the amount of weatherization than most other programs across New York State," said DeCarolis.

Erie County spends more than $51 million of federal money for HEAP, which provides assistance to more than 175,000 households.
Erie County Legislator Maria Whyte also spoke in support of PUSH at the meeting. Whyte says that number could drastically be reduced if National Fuel spent more CIP money weatherizing low-income homes.

Conversely, some county legislators in Niagara Falls wrote a letter supporting the CIP program.