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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 5, 2005

Schumer: Western New Yorkers Will Pay $163 Million More To Heat Their Homes This Winter – Senator Proposes Steps To Bring Down Costs

Senator Announces New York Could Lose $60 Million In Heating Assistance Funding If Key Provision in Budget Bill Not Preserved

With Natural Gas Prices Up 40% and Home Heating Oil Prices Up 28%, People in Erie County Can Expect to Pay $466 More Than Last Year

LIHEAP Recipient Joins Schumer To Share Personal Experience On Importance of Federal Funding

In light of an $163 million projected increase in Western New York home heating costs this winter, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today called on the Administration to tap the government's emergency heating oil stockpile as soon as possible to help bring down high heating fuel prices. The 2 million barrels in the Northeast Heating Oil Reserve would give consumers in the region supplies for about 10 days, the time needed for ships to carry heating fuel from Gulf of Mexico refiners to New York Harbor. Several weeks ago, the Department of Energy threshold for releasing fuel from the stockpile was met, but the Administration declined to tap the reserve.

“With energy prices out of control, we have to help people pay for soaring heating costs this winter,” Schumer said. “More people then ever are likely to qualify for LIHEAP assistance, and we need to make sure the money will be there for them. If we secure these additional funds, hopefully everyone who needs help during this frigid winter will be able to receive assistance. Nobody should have to choose between putting food on the table and heating their homes.”

The New York State Public Service Commission recently reported that gas prices will be 35%-45% higher than last year, and that the average consumer in New York uses approximately 90,000 cubic ft of natural gas this winter. While last year’s the New York average for natural gas price between October and March was $13.15, this year’s could be $18.42.

According to the Energy Information Administration, Northeast consumers used 641 gallons of home heating oil last year. This week, home heating prices in Western New York were $2.52, up 25% from $2.02 exactly 12 months ago. Schumer estimated that this winter's price would be 28% higher than last year or an average of $2.60, between November and April, per EIA estimates. There are over 343,000 natural gas users in Erie County and only 7,841 home heating oil users. Since each Erie County natural gas consumer could pay $1638 this year (up from $1170 last year) and the Erie County New York home heating oil user would pay $1667 (up from $1301 last year), the weighted average increase for the Erie consumer is $466 this winter.

Schumer today also called for the preservation of a $1 billion allocation for the Low Income Heating Assistance Program (LIHEAP) which helps eligible low-income households meet their home heating needs. Last year, over 62,000 people in Erie County received LIHEAP Assistance, but because of higher energy costs fewer families could receive funding this year or families will receive a lower percentage of their heating bills. Currently, under the FY05 federal allocation for LIHEAP of $1.885 billion, New York is slated to receive $235.6 million. If the $1 billion is approved in the final version of the Budget Reconciliation bill, New York would get an additional $60 million. These funds would help LIHEAP recipients cover the gap between their existing LIHEAP benefit and their projected high heating bills.

At today’s event Schumer also called for expanding the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) by $500 million, which reduces household energy use and costs by improving the energy efficiency of a participant's home. WAP has been proven to reduce heating bills by 31% and overall energy bills by $274 per year. Weatherization technologies address the whole spectrum of energy-consuming systems in low-income homes including insulation, blower doors, air sealing, windows, heating, water heaters, air conditioning and warm climate weatherization measures, and electrical appliances and weatherization base load measures.

Schumer today also called on the President to tap the Northeast Heating Oil Reserve at the next possible opportunity. Under a complicated Energy Department formula, the heating oil reserve could have been tapped last week when wholesale heating oil and crude oil prices were at certain high levels. But the administration said there was no shortage of heating oil and refused to release any supplies from the stockpile. When Congress created the heating oil reserve in 2000, it said the president may release fuel from the stockpile if the difference between the price of Northeast heating oil and crude oil is increasing and is 60 percent greater than its five-year rolling average for that month for two consecutive weeks.

Currently, the threshold for tapping the oil reserve is not met, but Schumer today said as soon as the formula is triggered, Bush should initiate a swap into the reserve to help lower energy bills for New Yorkers.

Schumer was joined by Josephine Calandra, Buffalo homeowner who relies on LIHEAP to pay for natural gas to heat her home.

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