What to Know
- When the I-Team reported on oil delivery drivers stealing from their customers, a New York City Council member pledged "bold action"
- Antonio Reynoso (D-Bushwick) wanted to reign in heating oil companies by licensing them through the city's Business Integrity Commission
- Then he did a 180, saying the opposition was too strong and too diverse; he went as far as to remove himself as a sponsor of the bill
After an I-Team investigation revealed heating oil delivery drivers stealing from their customers, NYC Council Member Antonio Reynoso (D-Bushwick) pledged bold action. As chair of the Council Sanitation Committee, Reynoso said he would bring a tough -- but unpopular -- reform bill to a committee vote.
The proposed law would seek to reign in heating oil companies by licensing them through the city’s Business Integrity Commission, the same regulator that helped drive organized crime out of the private garbage hauling industry.
"I guarantee that this bill will be put to a vote," Reynoso said, speaking to the I-Team last winter.
Fifteen months later, Reynoso has done an 180-degree reversal.
Not only has the Brooklyn lawmaker decided against bringing the heating oil bill to a vote, he's removed his name as a sponsor of it.
"I have the right to change my mind," Reynoso said.
When asked why he broke his pledge to advance the legislation, Reynoso said special interest opposition became too intense.
"The coalition that is fighting against this law is very broad and diverse," Reynoso said.
The International Brotherhood of the Teamsters, which represents heating oil drivers, and the New York Oil Heating Association, which represents fuel companies, both oppose the bill. They’ve argued that BIC would be an ineffective regulator and that new licensing fees would drive small and medium oil companies out of business. They’ve also insisted heating oil theft is a relatively minor problem.
"It wasn’t smart for me to push a bill just to see who was going to vote no and who was going to vote yes," said Reynoso. "It would have been a good thing to do on optics so people know where council members stand on this issue, but to actually get something done, it would not have achieved that."
Now that the heating oil bill is on ice, constituents won’t get to know how their lawmakers would have voted.
The I-Team asked every member of the Council Sanitation Committee if they support or oppose the legislation. None of them answered.
Jonah Allon, a spokesman for Council Member Rafael Espinal (D-Cypress Hills) said "Espinal still hasn’t had time to review the bill and be briefed on it, so he’s not sure where he stands on the legislation yet."
The City Council Speaker, Corey Johnson (D-Chelsea), also declined to voice an opinion on the bill.
"The Speaker is monitoring this bill as it goes through the legislative process," said Juan Soto, a spokesman for Johnson.
Reynoso says he is not abandoning all efforts to find a solution to heating oil theft. He said he plans to hold a new hearing on the issue, in hopes stakeholders will come up with a new way to crack down on dishonest heating oil drivers.
In the meantime, it’s business as usual in the heating oil industry. And Reynoso says he believe homeowners and businesses are still getting ripped off.
"I think we’ve done very little to address the issue of heating oil theft," he said.