Renzi Calls For State Action On Unfair Heating Deals

Submitted article

State Senate candidate Dave Renzi today called on the Attorney General and state Consumer Protection Board to help homeowners and senior citizens who are paying thousands of dollars more to heat their homes this winter because they got stuck in high-priced oil heat contracts.

Renzi said tens of thousands of homeowners, stunned by rising oil prices over the past year and looking for ways to make their winter heating costs more bearable, locked into high-priced contracts, betting that costs would continue to rise throughout the winter.

Instead, heating oil prices have plummeted, from a statewide average of $4.70 a gallon in June, to an average this week of $3.33 a gallon in the Oswego County region, and $3.45 a gallon in the Jefferson and St. Lawrence Counties region, according to the state.

Still, these homeowners are forced to pay the higher price – meaning an average family using 1000 gallons of heating oil could pay as much as $1500 above the market price to heat this winter – or face exorbitant fees of $350 or more to break the contract and get a lower price.

“Big oil companies should not be allowed to profit off the backs of hardworking families, already digging deeper to stay warm this winter,” said Renzi. “State government needs to step in to help bring relief.”

Renzi said he had been approached by several voters while on the campaign trail who alerted him to the problem.

Fixed-price contracts are popular with homeowners – especially senior citizens and others living on fixed incomes – because they help families set their home heating budgets. Of course, the contracts also contain some risk, as prices often fluctuate throughout the season.

“But just as we had never seen the kind of price run-up for oil and gas that we all witnessed this summer, no one expected prices to drop so fast either,” said Renzi. “The result is more profits for big oil companies and more pain for everyday families.”

Renzi said he is asking the Attorney General and the state Consumer Protection Board to investigate whether the contracts violate state price gouging laws, and said he would explore legislation to prevent the exorbitant fees for breaking the contract when prices fall so quickly.

More than a third of families in St. Lawrence County, a quarter in Jefferson County, and about 20 percent in Oswego County heat with oil, according to the Census Bureau.

Renzi has been focused on heating prices throughout his campaign, and already has proposed a plan to help lower- and middle-income families stung by rising fuel costs.

Renzi’s plan calls for steering more heating aid to Upstate communities where winters are longer and colder. Right now, weather and temperature is not a factor in distributing heating aid. As a result, Oswego, Jefferson and St. Lawrence Counties receive just 2 percent of state heating aid, while downstate gets more than 75 percent, even though winters there are milder.

Renzi also supports additional funding for weatherization to help homeowners conserve energy and lower their heating costs.


  1. “But just as we had never seen the kind of price run-up for oil and gas that we all witnessed this summer, no one expected prices to drop so fast either,” said Renzi. “The result is more profits for big oil companies and more pain for everyday families.”

    How silly, and how wrong.

    The only people making money from these fixed price contracts are not “big oil” but the local suppliers that sell and deliver the fuel. The oil companies sell to suppliers biased on the market price at the time of delivery, they do not collect any additional monies regardless of what the supplier charges to sell the fuel oil. And, more importantly, if the cost rose above the contracted price the local distribute would be left holding the bag and being under contract to sell at a loss.

    When the home owners bought into the contracts the forecasters said oil was going up, up, up. If it had continued to rise above the price of their contract the consumers would have won their bets and the oil distributes would have to have provided oil to them at a loss. How is it fair that when the consumer “wins” it’s good, but when the mom and pop fuel oil provider does it’s unfair?

    What is unfair is the government trying to step into private commodities contracts and void legal agreements made by consumers and their vendors. Contracts they understood, and with risks of market fluctuations should have expected one of three things, WIN, LOSE, or BREAK EVEN. So some people lost this winter, last winter some people won, this winter the winners were the ones that didn’t sign a fixed price contract, last year it was the reverse.

    What if I the consumer leased a truck last year for $499 a month but now because of incentives on the exact same truck it can be leased for $449 a month today? Should we really be bailing out everyone that makes a financial mistake or didn’t get the best deal available, even months, or years after they signed their agreements? No Mr. Renzi we should not, and you should stop flapping your gums for a feel good sound bite and start finding ways to take care of the things you were elected to do.

  2. Dave, you are a lawyer, explain to the masses how contracts negotiated in good faith, at fair market value, can be construed as violating state price gouging laws? I know it is common for lawyers to straddle the fence, and step to either side as the shoe fits, but lets not be so blatant about the matter, especially when you are trying to win election to the State Senate. I thought you were different, but you are proving to be just another shark in the water.

  3. I am one of the many who locked my fuel oil in. The price was going up at the time and it seemed like I might save a little. Now it will cost a few cents more than the actual price. That was the risk I took in trying to save. Not the government’s problem as I would have benefitted from the lower price. My supplier told me they pay up front or also lock in the price so they are stuck with the higher price as well. Not sure how accurate that is but that was their side of things. Either way the contracts are fair and are part of the free market. Helping out with the cost based on our location up north is one thing but don’t intervene with legal contracts.

  4. Look, Dave Renzi. I am a republican and plan on voting republican. I feel that the republican ticket offers us 2 things that are very much a must for this nation. The republican presidential candidate can be counted on to protect this nation from that which many Americans past and present have given the supreme sacrifice in defense of. The republican vice presidential candidate is the only one in the running that is change. She is not like the rest who are all insiders that represent the same old thing. She has as much on the ball as Obama in all aspects of politics. So as I see it, the republican ticket has the most to offer our nation.

    This heating oil thing is not any different than the housing market deal. Irresponsible people entered into legal contracts and now these irresponsible people want to be held unaccountable for their actions. So you feel we all pay for the irresponsible actions of others. Right? Well Dave, this sounds a lot like Obama redistribution of wealth in the nation. Last summer I had the option to enter into an agreement for locked in fuel oil price. I refused. Yes I took a chance. And heating oil season isn’t over yet so I am still taking a chance. But now you suggest that I, a tax payer pay for the irresponsible actions of these people. Yes me a tax payer and all tax payers will pay for this. Unless you have a secret tree that grows $100.00 bills. The suppliers have contracts that they have to honor from their suppliers. They are literally caught in the middle of this thing.

    Let’s get real. It is time for us to be resposible for our actions.

    Finally, the oil companies. There are a lot of us responsible and irresponsible tax payers out here that have retirement accounts and such that receive dividends from oil money. So you suggest that you take more taxes from us to pay for irresponsible actions and suggest that our retirement plans be jeopardized as well. That’s a double whammy.

    Today we can admitt wrong doing to the public media and get away with our wrong doing. It sure is great to be American. But I do rather prefer the older America where a mans word was his honor and honor meant something.

    The decision as to who to vote for gets easier every day. I know if my vote turns out to be the wrong vote for America I won’t be held responsible. It was after all not my fault that teh candidates on the ballot didn’t respresent that which they spoke.

  5. I couldn’t agree more with you Michael Lee. It is a gamble that you take when you sign in to those contracts. Most of the time the consumer “wins” because of prices going up in the winter time. This time (and probably just for now) the local companies that supply the oil are getting their chance for a break from these contracts. Lets not let government keep getting involved in bailing out the people of this country, it isn’t their job. People have a responsibility to make their own decisions, and if they decide to sign that contract, then they have to abide by it.

    Go Dave Renzi?!? He is only hurting our economy more by calling for relief from these contracts. We should not be depending on the government to help us.

  6. Renzi is supposed to be a lawer, so how does he justify his call to void a legal contract between a homeownre and fuel supplier? I believe that between his flawed thinking and his mud-slinging attacks on his opponent, we should all realize that a vote for for Dave Renzi is a vote for more dirty politics!

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