New buildings in New York will no longer be able to use natural gas if a new law passes the city council this week, following in the footsteps of dozens of smaller U.S. cities attempting to move to alternate forms of energy.
Council members are widely expected to vote on the new measure on Wednesday.
Under the legislation, the combustion of substances with certain emissions profiles would be prohibited in new buildings within the city, and the commissioner of buildings will deny construction documents and permits in connection with a building that would require the combustion of these substances, although some exceptions will be made.
“No person shall permit the combustion of any substance that emits 25 kilograms or more of carbon dioxide per million British thermal units of energy, as determined by the United States energy information administration, within such building,” the legislation states.
Specifically, it would prohibit the use of natural gas in new buildings under seven stories high at the end of 2023 and those over seven stories in 2027, according to an earlier summary of the legislation.
However, some exceptions are made, for example in buildings that will be primarily used by a utility regulated by the public service commission for the generation of electric power or steam, and in buildings where 50 percent or more of the units are operating under affordable housing.
The bill would further require the Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability to conduct a study regarding the use of heat pump technology, and a study of the impact of the bill on the city’s electrical grid.
According to the Urban Green Council, New York City buildings emit 40 percent of the city’s carbon each year, which is more than the total emissions from electricity use citywide.
The #GasFreeNYC coalition, led by the New York Communities for Change, the New York Public Interest Research Group, We Act for Environmental Justice, and Food & Water Watch, has advocated for the gas ban legislation for months, along with Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel, the bill’s sponsor. Mayor Bill de Blasio also supports the legislation, which has 26 co-sponsors.
“Our climate movement is winning. The nation’s largest city is about to end gas hookups in new buildings and set a big precedent for other cities and states to follow,” the coalition said in a statement.
“As climate action stalls at the federal and international level, New York City is leading the way on fighting climate change, cutting air pollution, and creating good jobs. The evidence is clear: an immediate shift to requiring gas-free buildings is both feasible and necessary. We have the technology and the skills to build all-electric buildings, many of which are already built or under construction across the city,” the coalition said.
However, the new law could result in higher costs for buildings using electricity for heat as opposed to those relying on natural gas.
According to an October report by the Energy Information Administration, nearly half of U.S. households heat their homes with natural gas, and they will pay 30 percent more on average this winter, while homes warmed with electricity will pay just 6 percent more when compared to last year.
However, Eversource Energy stated earlier this month that customers could see natural gas heating prices rise by 15 percent, costing an average of $30 per month more compared to 2020.
Members of the oil and gas industry have opposed the bill, noting that using gas for space heating would both lower emissions and keep costs low for customers, particularly at a time when the economy is already volatile.
“Energy-efficient, low-carbon buildings could be powered by an innovative combination of natural gas and renewable energy (such as hydrogen) to both lower emissions and utility bills,” the American Petroleum Institute, an oil and gas lobby group, said as part of the city council hearings on the bill.
Until now, the most populated U.S. city that has banned natural gas in new buildings is San Jose in California, which is home to just over 1 million residents.
Reuters contributed to this report.