New York City Passes Milestone Law to Ban New Gas Hookups


Climate activists from the #GasFreeNYC coalition and elected officials gather and hold a press conference in City Hall Park to celebrate the city’s expected approval of a bill to end gas use in new construction buildings across the city on Wednesday, December 15, 2021. Photo: Brittany Newman (AP)

Gas will soon be a thing of the past in New York City, thanks an invoice approved by the city council on Wednesday. It’s a landmark bill, one that puts the weight of the nation’s largest city behind a growing movement to ban gas and electrify everything.

New buildings in New York may no longer be connected to the gas infrastructure from 2023. That means heating, cooking and hot water systems will be all-electric. The 2023 timeline is for smaller buildings. Structures over seven floors have until 2027 before the ban goes into effect, a concession developers made during the bill’s negotiations. There are also several exemptions within the bill, including for affordable housing, laundromats and commercial kitchens.

Despite these delays, the bill will have a real impact on emissions. The natural gas ban means that electric alternatives, such as heat pumps, would replace gas boilers in city buildings. Developers could also use fuels like hydrogen and biomethane for heating, but only after clearing some hurdles. Induction and other electric heaters and heat pump water heaters are also on the table.

A analysis of nonprofit, the Rocky Mountain Institute found that the bill could save 2.1 million tons of carbon dioxide by 2040 — about the equivalent of taking 450,000 cars off the road — and save taxpayers money that would otherwise have been spent on new gas hookups. More than 70% of the city’s carbon emissions are tied to buildings, meaning electrification can really pay off and help the city meet its climate goals. In addition, electrification will help cleaning up indoor air quality from polluting gas stoves.

“It is a historic step forward in our efforts to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels,” said Ben Furnas, climate and sustainability director of the mayor’s office. told the New York Times earlier this week. “If we can do it here, we can do it everywhere.”

New York, the nation’s largest city, is now the heavyweight of the several dozen other cities in the US that have banned natural gas connections. In 2019, Berkeley, California, became the first place in the world to do so. Legislators in the New York state house have proposed a separate bill which would require new buildings across the state to be free of fossil fuels by 2024, with the added requirement that buildings no longer be able to switch from electrical sources to fossil fuels. In August, California passed new building regulations that lasted a huge step towards electrification of all its buildings.

Unsurprisingly, the utility and fossil fuel lobby — that is: in a panic as electrification efforts ramp up across the country — threw its weight against the city measure. Not content to let local utilities like National Grid do all the heavy lifting, the American Petroleum Institute lobbied against the bill. And in October, Exxon Facebook Ads Targeting New Yorkers, with reports that households “forced to go all-electric” could spend “more than $25,600 to replace major appliances” — despite the fact that the proposed bill would only apply to new buildings and would not affect anyone with existing appliances. force to switch. (In an interesting change of allegiance, ConEd, a huge supplier of natural gas in New York, has been quietly support the bill.)

Despite the fossil fuel lobby’s claims that a gas ban would increase energy bills, analyzes have found that electric heating systems in new buildings would be cost-competitive with gas systems, largely due to higher energy efficiency. Some major housing projects in the city are already being built with electrical systems. A external analysis of Urban Green Council, a non-profit organization for clean buildings, found that New York’s peak load in winter is much lower than in winter. summer, which means that the grid must be able to accommodate electrifying residential heating.

While they may not have had success in New York, dirty interests have made their way to state and city lawmakers in other parts of the country to ensure gas remains king. States, including Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Arizona, and Oklahoma have now prohibited new natural gas connections in buildings, while at least eight other states were considering similar bills this year. But the New York bill is a stronghold in the electrification race.

Of course, the bill still needs to be signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio before it becomes law, but a representative from his office told the New York Times he would sign the measure “enthusiastically.”


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