New Yorkers for Affordable Energy
New Yorkers for Affordable Energy (NY4AE) is a front group whose utility company members include National Grid, Avangrid, Central Hudson, and National Fuel. The group, which advocates for expanding methane gas infrastructure in New York, also receives support from other major gas industry interests, such as the American Petroleum Institute, Williams Companies, and Millennium Pipeline.
Utilities and pipeline companies, gas industry groups, business associations, and pipeline labor unions established New Yorkers for Affordable Energy in 2017 in response to the growing opposition to new pipelines in the state.
NY4AE played a central role in opposition to New York’s landmark climate law, the 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA). The CLCPA requires New York to reduce economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions 40% by 2030 and no less than 85% by 2050 from 1990 levels.
In 2022, NY4AE ran an advertising campaign with the false narrative that banning gas appliances would require New Yorkers to spend thousands of dollars on retrofitting their homes. The front group spent up to $8,000 on ads falsely claiming that a gas appliance ban would cost homeowners $30,000. However, the proposed ban was only for newly constructed buildings. An analysis from the Rocky Mountain Institute found that all-electric homes have lower costs than new mixed-fuel homes, with savings on upfront costs and utility bills.
Lobbyist Mike Lawler of Checkmate Strategies served as the group’s first executive director. Lawler, a Republican state assemblymember since 2020, recently won his congressional bid in New York’s 17th district. Lawler has also lobbied for the Engineers Labor-Employer Cooperative, a funding member of NY4AE, since 2021, according to his financial disclosure. Gas lobbyist Michelle Hook is NY4AE’s current executive director. She is registered to lobby for the group through Virago Public Affairs LLC. In 2019, democratic advisor and public relations consultant Peter Kauffmann served as NY4AE’s spokesperson. In early 2020, former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio appointed Kauffman as senior advisor to the City’s Covid-19 response team.
New Yorkers for Affordable Energy’s Ad Spending
Utilities continue to stall and limit climate action by funding front groups to spread climate misinformation and false solutions to solve the crisis through advertising on social media networks.
Using data from the Meta Ad Library API and existing code from Brown University, EPI created a tool to expose the amount utility front groups are spending on advertisements about social issues, elections, or politics across Meta technologies, along with the specific regions the advertisements target.