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Groups Press CA to Ban Natural Gas in New Building Construction

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Gas appliances in homes and buildings are responsible for almost a quarter of California's greenhouse gas emissions. (Donnie B/Morguefile)
Gas appliances in homes and buildings are responsible for almost a quarter of California's greenhouse gas emissions. (Donnie B/Morguefile)
 By Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA - Producer, Contact
November 12, 2020

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Climate advocates are pressing the California Energy Commission (CEC) to ban natural gas in new construction, starting in 2022. The CEC updates building codes every three years.

In December, the agency is expected to consider a less aggressive plan to offer developers pollution credits as an incentive to go all-electric.

Jonny Kocher, building electrification program associate with the Rocky Mountain Institute said allowing new gas-powered buildings would be counterproductive.

"All-electric is cheaper, better for the climate," Kocher contended. "It'll reduce emissions by three million tons by 2030 if we do it now rather than waiting 'til 2025. So we can't wait. We should just do it immediately."

In August, SoCalGas sued the CEC, accusing the agency of improperly establishing an anti-gas policy.

Thirty-nine California cities already have passed so-called "reach codes" that limit natural gas in new construction.

Environmental groups oppose the fossil fuel because it emits methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. In addition, gas appliances pollute indoor air, leading to more childhood asthma and other ailments.

For consumers, electric heat pumps, clothes dryers and stoves can be a bit more expensive but are highly efficient, and thus cheaper to run.

Amy Rider, local government and policy lead for the Building Decarbonization Coalition, stated in order to meet the state's goal of 100% carbon-free energy by 2045, we need to go all-electric.

"That's the fuel source we know how to clean," Rider asserted. "The electrical supply in the state of California will be entirely renewable and carbon free in a relatively short amount of time."

Jed Holtzman, senior policy analyst for the nonprofit 350 Bay Area, said a system of green credits would just let developers throw in electric appliances but be less green elsewhere.

"The CEC's proposal is incredibly weak, it's short-sighted, it's out of step with the state's own goals and targets," Holtzman remarked.

Evan Gillespie, western director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign, noted the climate crisis has hit California hard.

"We just watched record-breaking heat waves," Gillespie observed. "We've seen four million acres in California burn, with all the health impacts, ecosystem impacts that come along with that."

By some estimates, almost a quarter of the state's greenhouse gas emissions come from burning natural gas in homes and buildings.

Disclosure: 350 Bay Area contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Environment, and Environmental Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
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