Natural gas bans are new front in effort to curb emissions

But as New York and other left-leaning states consider ways to limit natural gas and the greenhouse gas emissions it creates, 20 mostly Republican states have passed laws barring cities and counties from blocking gas hookups.

“Growing the demand for natural gas is exactly what the world does not need right now,” said New York state Sen. Brian Kavanagh, the Democrat who sponsored the natural gas phaseout legislation. “If you build buildings that rely on fossil fuels, you are baking in very long-term needs.”

Fossil fuel combustion in buildings, mostly for heating, is responsible for about 13% of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, according to 2019 figures from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Kavanagh’s bill would mandate all-electric buildings after 2023, except in cases where local permitting authorities determine they’re not feasible, which may depend on the availability of equipment and labor. His efforts were bolstered late last month when council members in New York City voted to pass a similar ban, albeit on a slower timeline, by 2027. New York legislative leaders did not respond to requests for comment about the prospects for Kavanagh’s bill in this year’s session.

The New York City vote in December was by far the biggest victory for advocates of natural gas bans. They say it’s a necessary step to curb future demand for fossil fuels and to limit the growth of climate change-causing carbon emissions.

Gas industry leaders and their political allies say the bans will raise construction costs and utility bills, while doing little to stop climate change.

“This is not really a climate solution,” said Daniel Lapato, senior director of state affairs with the American Gas Association, an advocacy group for the natural gas industry. “When you start eliminating these options, you have to look at the cost implications to the homeowner.”

Lapato pointed to gas companies’ efforts to produce more renewable natural gas, which is methane captured from landfills, farms and other sources. Laws to force electrification could stifle industry efforts to scale up that more climate-friendly option, he said.

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