NYC moves to stop new buildings from using natural gas

Dec 14, 2021, 11:44 PM | Updated: Dec 16, 2021, 4:06 pm
Climate activists from the #GasFreeNYC coalition and elected officials rally in City Hall Park on W...

Climate activists from the #GasFreeNYC coalition and elected officials rally in City Hall Park on Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021, in New York. New York City lawmakers are poised to decide whether to prohibit most new buildings from using natural gas, a move that would make the nation's most populous city a showcase for a climate-change-fighting policy that has been both embraced and blocked around the country. (AP Photo/Brittainy Newman)

(AP Photo/Brittainy Newman)

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City is poised to bar most new buildings from using natural gas within a few years, after lawmakers voted Wednesday to make the United States’ most populous city a showcase for a climate-change-fighting policy that has been both embraced and blocked elsewhere.

If Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio signs the measure, as expected, most construction projects submitted for approval after 2027 would have to use something other than gas or oil — such as electricity — for heating, hot water and cooking. Some smaller buildings would have to comply as early as 2024.

Hospitals, commercial kitchens and some other facilities would be exempt.

Supporters say it’s a substantial and necessary move to combat global warming. Heating, cooling and powering buildings accounts for nearly 70% of the city’s emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases.

New buildings’ stoves and furnaces would use electricity generated partly from burning natural gas and other fossil fuels, but backers say the change still would keep millions of tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere over time. They argue it would boost momentum ahead of a statewide requirement to use 70% renewable energy by 2030, up from about 30% now.

“This is a huge, huge step forward,” said Alex Beauchamp of Food & Water Watch, an environmental group. He called the legislation “a real game-changer on the national scene.”

Berkeley, California, debuted the idea of banning gas hookups for new buildings in 2019. The measure faces an ongoing court challenge from a restaurant association, but San Francisco, Seattle and a few dozen other U.S. cities — mainly in California — have followed suit.

It’s too early to gauge the impact, said Amy Rider of the Building Decarbonization Coalition, which advocates for such laws.

The town of Brookline, Massachusetts, has passed one twice. It was retooled and reapproved this summer after the state attorney general blocked the first version, saying it intruded on state authority. The AG hasn’t taken action against the new effort to date.

At the same time, states including Arizona, Oklahoma and Texas have barred cities from enacting such laws, saying that consumers should have their choice of energy sources. In Texas, the effort began before, but gained all the more steam after, a February storm spawned massive power outages that left many households shivering without electricity, heat or drinkable water for days.

In New York, shifts toward electric vehicles, furnaces and appliances are “expected to create long-term upward pressure” on electricity use, according to the New York Independent System Operator, which oversees the state’s electricity supply.

The organization said in a recent report that it’s still studying how those trends will affect the power system, but it forecasts that electricity demand in winter could surpass summer peaks by about 2040.

The state envisions big increases in wind and solar power, among other approaches to meet its renewable energy targets and growing demand. Some projects are in the works.

Still, some building interests worried at a City Council hearing last month that banning new natural gas hookups could strain the electrical grid. It already struggles during heat waves in the city, sometimes resulting in sizeable neighborhood outages.

James Whelan, who runs a landlords’ lobbying group called the Real Estate Board of New York, said Wednesday that it gets the importance of moving away from fossil fuels, but “these policies must be implemented in a way that ensures that New Yorkers have reliable, affordable, carbon-free electricity.”

Real estate groups also pressed to push back the deadlines for nixing gas, saying that alternative technologies — such as electric heat pumps that transfer heat between indoors and outdoors — need more time to develop, particularly for skyscrapers.

Utilities, meanwhile, have sounded economic alarms, while saying they support and are working on greening the energy supply.

“We have real concerns that, as envisioned, these (proposals) may result in increased energy costs for customers,” Bryan Grimaldi, a vice president of power provider National Grid, told council members last month. Con Edison, which serves much of the city, encouraged them to help poorer renters with what it characterized as increased costs of electric heating.

Both utilities greeted Wednesday’s vote with measured statements, with Con Ed saying that a “clear-cut path toward electrification of most new buildings is a sensible and necessary step.”

Environmental groups say electric doesn’t necessarily mean more expensive. In fact, they say it’s just the opposite in some new, energy-efficient buildings. They also note that natural gas prices fluctuate, having risen notably this year before recently dropping somewhat.

Considering that residents have been told to forgo plastic bags and straws and take other steps to preserve the planet, it’s time for legislators to look beyond individual behavior to building emissions, Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel told her colleagues Wednesday before they approved her legislation by a 40-7 vote, with one abstention.

The Democrat, who represents an overwhelmingly Black Brooklyn district, has said the legislation also aims to fight air pollution, particularly on behalf of communities of color. Researchers have found that non-white people are exposed to more air pollution than whites across the country.


Associated Press writers Kathleen Ronayne in Sacramento, California, and David Klepper in Providence, Rhode Island, contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

French MPs want abortion rights inscribed in constitution

PARIS (AP) — A group of lawmakers belonging to French President Emmanuel Macron’s party will propose a bill to inscribe abortion rights into the country’s constitution, according to the statement by two members of parliament on Saturday. The move comes after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a 50-year-old ruling and stripped women’s constitutional protections for […]
4 hours ago
A strike sign is displayed by an entrance at Waterloo train station, in London, during a railway wo...
Associated Press

Here we go again: Strike snarls UK trains for a third day

LONDON (AP) — Train stations were all but deserted across Britain on Saturday, as the third day of a national strike snarled the weekend plans of millions. Train companies said only a fifth of passenger services would run, as about 40,000 cleaners, signalers, maintenance workers and station staff walked off the job in Britain’s biggest […]
4 hours ago
Local resident Tetyana points at her house heavily damaged by the Russian shelling in Bakhmut, Done...
Associated Press

Russia pushes to block 2nd city in eastern Ukraine

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian forces are trying to block a city in eastern Ukraine, the region’s governor said Saturday, after their relentless assault on a nearby city forced Ukrainian troops to begin withdrawal after weeks of intense fighting. Russia also launched missile attacks on areas far from the heart of the eastern battles. Serhiy […]
4 hours ago
Bangladesh's longest bridge, which took eight years to build amid setbacks involving political conf...
Associated Press

Bangladesh marks opening of country’s longest bridge

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Saturday celebrated the opening of the country’s longest bridge, which took eight years to build amid setbacks involving political conflict and corruption allegations. The 6.51-kilometer (4.04-mile) bridge spanning the Padma River cost an estimated $3.6 billion and was paid for with domestic funds after the […]
4 hours ago
Police prepare their equipment and gather prior to a demonstration ahead of the G7 summit in Munich...
Associated Press

Protests expected as G-7 leaders set to arrive in Germany

MUNICH (AP) — Tens of thousands of protesters are expected to gather in Munich on Saturday as the Group of Seven leading economic powers hold their annual gathering in the Bavarian Alps in Germany, which holds the G-7´s rotating presidency this year. Police were expecting at least 20,000 protesters in the Bavarian city, the German […]
4 hours ago
A model displays the collection by Russian designer Slava Zaitsev during the opening of the Fashion...
Associated Press

AP PHOTOS: Moscow Fashion Week sprawls across the capital

MOSCOW (AP) — Chic and adventurous models and couturiers have been spread all over the Russian capital for Moscow Fashion Week, flaunting their designs in venues ranging from a sprawling Stalin-era propaganda exposition to a large park near the Kremlin admired for its innovative features. More than 100 shows are being held during the week […]
4 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.
Christina O’Haver

BE FAST to spot a stroke

Every 40 seconds—that’s how often someone has a stroke in the United States. It’s the fifth leading cause of death among Americans, with someone dying of a stroke every 3.5 minutes.
Canvas Annuity

The secret to guaranteed retirement income

Annuities aren’t really a secret, but they are so misunderstood that they might as well be. Once you understand what an annuity is and how it can benefit you, you could decide this “secret” is the perfect supplement to your retirement plan.
NYC moves to stop new buildings from using natural gas