NYC may become the largest U.S. city to ban the use of fossil fuels for building heat.
According to E&E News, due for a vote this afternoon by the City Council, the ban would apply in 2023 to new buildings that are less than seven stories tall and would cover all new construction by 2027. A majority of council members have signed on as co-sponsors of the bill, and Mayor Bill de Blasio is a lead backer, making its passage likely.
If enacted, the bill would effectively anoint electric heat pumps, stoves and water heaters as New York’s next generation of building energy and would place limitations on how utilities can introduce other alternative heating fuels, like hydrogen and biomethane.
“It’s pretty clear that if we’re serious about taking action on climate, the clearest path to do that is to make sure the next generation of buildings are relying on electricity,” said Ben Furnas, the city’s sustainability chief.
A gas ban in New York could set a national precedent for other cities, given its size and the complexity of decarbonizing its housing stock. It also could buoy markets for electric heat technologies by helping bring down costs.
A four-group coalition of national and local environmental organizations known as #GasFreeNYC celebrated a deal between City Council members and the mayor to pass the bill last week, calling it “a pioneering victory.” They also thanked the lead sponsor, Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel, who will soon join the Biden administration as a regional administrator at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Spawned in temperate California, building gas bans are rare on the East Coast. New York City’s cold winters and taste for huge buildings could complicate implementation, given how those factors can reduce the efficiency of electric heat pumps, thereby increasing the cost of building warmth.
Those complications were seized on by opponents, who said the mandates would raise the cost of power bills and discourage new housing, while increasing strain on the electrical grid.
The opposition includes national fossil fuel trade groups like the American Petroleum Institute, which lobbied against the bill, as well as Exxon Mobil Corp., which ran Facebook ads in the New York area encouraging consumers to “voice your support” for gas stoves. The ban also divided the city’s gas utilities and drew criticism from real estate developers, whose representatives predicted it would do little to reduce emissions but would “substantially increase utility bills for New Yorkers.”