Like you, I pay my bills every month. This time of year, home heating oil prices weigh heavily on all of our minds here on Long Island. I wanted to update you on what I've been doing.
Former President Clinton recently released $155,650,000 in emergency Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funding. I had urged the president to take this important step forward, but much more needs to be done to address this winter's severe energy crisis.
According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA) and state energy officials, home heating bills have increased by as much as 35 to 67 percent from last year's extremely high prices. In addition, according to EIA, the home heating oil supply is "very low for this time of the year." In fact, the supply of heating oil throughout the country is 24 million barrels below last year's level, 59 percent lower than two years ago in the New England area, and 45 percent lower than two years ago in the Northeast. In the week ending December 8, 2000, distillate fuel stocks fell 4.7 million barrels nationally, a very significant drop. Half of that reduction was heating oil on the East Coast.
Due to the dangerously low supply and skyrocketing price of energy, I contacted former President Clinton and plan to contact President Bush with a request they take the following actions:
* Release the $300 million in non-emergency LIHEAP funding that was included in the Fiscal Year 2001 Omnibus Appropriations bill as soon as possible. In addition, half of the $300 million in emergency LIHEAP funding that was included in this bill should be released. At the present time, two-thirds of LIHEAP households have incomes of less that $8,000 per year and even with the assistance, the average LIHEAP family spends over 18 percent of income on home energy costs - compared with 6.7 percent for all households. Senior citizens, families and children should not be forced to go cold in the winter.
* Release all two million barrels of home heating oil in the recently-established Northeast Home Heating Oil Reserve. Title III, Section 182 of Public Law 106-469 gives the president authority to "sell, exchange, or otherwise dispose of petroleum distillate from the Reserve."
Given the dangerously low supply and skyrocketing price of home heating oil, immediately release all 2 million barrels of heating oil from the Northeast Home Heating Oil Reserve. If this release is to have any positive impact on increasing the oil supply and providing relief to heating oil consumers, it must be done as soon as possible.
* Increase funding for the Weatherization Assistance Program: Through weatherization, Long Islanders could save hundreds of dollars in winter heating bills each year. More than 5 million homes in the U.S. have been made more energy efficient by this program since 1979. Yet, more than 20 million homes are still waiting for weatherization services. Last year, I supported a $45 million amendment to the Interior Appropriations bill to increase weatherization.
Clearly, if we are going to prevent severe economic hardship for millions of Americans, we must act expeditiously. I pledge to keep you updated and continue working to help bring the costs down. If you have a heat emergency, please call the Emergency LIHEAP office in Hempstead at 565-4327. If you want to apply for heat assistance in the future, please call 571-7778.