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New York Becomes First State to Ban Natural Gas in New Buildings

New York recently passed a first-in-the-nation law to ban natural gas and other fossil fuels in most new buildings. The state legislature approved the ban as part of a state budget bill, however it is likely to face court challenges from groups aligned with the fossil fuel industry. The legislation will require new buildings to have only electric hookups for appliances and utilities beginning in 2025. It goes into effect for buildings as tall as six stories beginning in 2026, and for taller buildings by 2029. Some buildings, including hospitals, critical infrastructure, and commercial food establishments will be exempt from the requirements, as will buildings in areas with inadequate electric capacity to handle the increased load. The law does not affect existing buildings and appliances. The idea of requiring all-electric heating and appliances has been seen by some as a way to reduce carbon emissions and the effects of climate change while improving public health. Residential and commercial buildings account for about 29 percent of the energy consumption in the U.S. While a large majority of electricity is presently generated from burning natural gas and coal, renewable energy sources, primarily solar, have been providing an increasing share. The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s recently released annual energy outlook projects that the majority of newly built capacity will be from renewable sources, which will continue to lower greenhouse gas emissions. "Changing the ways we make and use energy to decrease our reliance on fossil fuels will help ensure a healthier environment for us and our children,” New York Speaker Carl Heastie said in a statement to Reuters. Some municipalities have approved legislation prohibiting natural gas hookups for new building construction in an effort to reduce GHG emissions and electrify buildings so they can be powered in the future by renewable energy sources. However, a number of states have pushed back on those efforts by prohibiting cities from banning natural gas in buildings. One such bill was approved by a Pennsylvania state House committee in the last session but did not advance. New York, however, is the first state to institute a ban. Gas stoves were thrust into the spotlight earlier this year when a Consumer Products Safety Commission member told Bloomberg that the agency should consider regulating or banning gas stoves because they emit pollutants that can aggravate respiratory problems, according to the Environmental Protection Agency and the World Health Organization. The CPSC quickly backpedaled on those comments. Several fossil fuel groups, including the American Public Gas Association, have expressed opposition to legislation prohibiting the use of natural gas in buildings. “Natural gas has been one of the principal drivers to achieving our nation’s environmental and economic goals. From providing affordable energy to consumers to driving down emissions, the benefits this fuel has for our nation are tangible and impossible to ignore,” said AGA President and CEO, Karen Harbert. “Any push to ban natural gas would raise costs to consumers, jeopardize environmental progress and deny affordable energy to underserved populations.”

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