New York City is banning natural gas hookups for new buildings to fight climate change

Good News Notes:

The New York City Council on Wednesday voted to pass legislation banning the use of natural gas in most new construction, a move that will substantially slash climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions from the country’s most populous city.

The bill now goes to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s desk for signature. Once signed, the measure will go into effect at the end of 2023 for some buildings under seven stories, and in 2027 for taller buildings. Hospitals, commercial kitchens and laundromats are exempt from the ban.

Under the law, construction projects submitted for approval after 2027 must use sources like electricity for stoves, space heaters and water boilers instead of gas or oil. Residents who currently have gas stoves and heaters in their homes will not be impacted unless they relocate to a new building.

New York state was the sixth largest natural gas consumer in the country in 2019, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. While the state’s electricity today comes primarily from natural gas, which generates carbon dioxide emissions when burned, nuclear power and hydroelectricity are also significant sources, supplying 29% and 11% of generation in 2020, respectively — and neither of those power sources generate carbon dioxide emissions. Moreover, the state’s grid will continue to become cleaner during the transition to renewable energy sources.

Buildings in New York City account for about 70% of its greenhouse gases. Today’s ban will likely push forward a New York state requirement to obtain 70% of its electricity from renewable sources like solar, wind and water power by 2030 and achieve a net-zero emissions electric sector by 2040.

“If the largest city in America can take this critical step to ban gas use, any city can do the same,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “This is how to fight back against climate change on the local level and guarantee a green city for generations to come.”

The bill will cut about 2.1 million tons of carbon emissions by 2040 — equivalent to the annual emissions of 450,000 cars — and save consumers several hundred million dollars in new gas connections, according to a study by the think tank RMI.

The ban will also minimize the risk of gas explosions and reduce exposure to air pollution that poses health risks to residents, particularly low-income communities of color that are disproportionately exposed to pollution.

Similar policies have been debated across the country. A few dozen cities, including San Francisco, Berkeley and San Jose in California; Cambridge, Mass.; and Seattle, have moved to ban natural gas hook ups in some new buildings as a way to combat climate change.

However, states like Texas and Arizona have barred cities from implementing such changes, citing that consumers have the right to pick their energy sources.

Real estate groups, the oil and gas sector and the National Grid — the utility that provides the city with natural gas — have strongly opposed the bill, arguing that it will cause a spike in demand for electricity that could prompt winter blackouts.

Opponents also argue that the legislation will prompt higher costs for buildings that use electricity for heat compared to those that use natural gas.

“The real estate industry is committed to working with policymakers to develop proven policies that meaningfully reduce carbon emissions from the built environment,” said James Whelan, president of the Real Estate Board of New York, a trade association for the city’s real estate sector.

“While we appreciate that the efficient electrification of buildings is an important component of realizing these goals, these policies must be implemented in a way that ensure that New Yorkers have reliable, affordable, carbon-free electricity to heat, cool and power their homes and businesses,” Whelan said….”

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