Republican States Block Natural Gas Bans

Republican States Block Natural Gas Bans
Pump jacks used for gas and oil extraction are seen over the Monterey Shale formation in Lost Hills, Calif., on March 24, 2014. (David McNew/Getty Images)
Cara Ding

As initiatives to ban natural gas ramp up in some U.S. cities, especially Democrat-led cities, a growing number of Republican-introduced bills are seeking to preemptively quash any such bans on a statewide level.

Berkeley, California, was one of the first cities to implement a natural gas ban. Some cities in Washington, New York, and Massachusetts have followed suit. Most bans prohibit natural gas hookups in new construction only, but some have goals to gradually implement the bans in existing homes.

Iowa and Kansas passed state laws this month to prohibit their cities from imposing natural gas bans, following the example of Arizona, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Louisiana last year and earlier this year. Several other midwestern states have introduced similar bills.

“We are preventing folks from interfering with the free flow of energy at market prices, and we are preventing cities from interrupting local decision-making at the family levels,” Republican Iowa House Representative Jon Jacobsen told The Epoch Times. He is the one who introduced Iowa’s bill against natural gas bans.

Although cities in Iowa and Kansas haven’t explicitly moved to ban natural gas yet, the state bills were introduced preemptively. Some cities in those states have strong renewable energy goals, and the fear is that those goals will inspire gas bans.

In Iowa

Des Moines, the largest city in Iowa, has committed to a 100 percent carbon-free grid by 2035. But the city is not planning to ban natural gas to achieve it, said City Councilmember Josh Mandelbaum.

“In Des Moines, a number of new houses are built without natural gas hookups just because that’s what the customers want. You don’t need to ban it to move things in that direction,” he told The Epoch Times. He said, however, that he wouldn’t rule out a ban either.

He thinks Jacobsen’s bill was pushed by gas industry lobbyists.

Jacobsen said he is not against renewable energy, but coming from a financial investment background, he said he believes in the diversification of assets. “You don’t put all your eggs in one basket,” he said. “That’s precisely what we need to do in our energy policy.”

In Kansas

Republican Kansas State Sen. Mike Thompson proposed the bill that passed this month preventing future natural gas bans in the state. He led the move after the City of Lawrence, home of the University of Kansas, adopted the goal 0f 100 percent renewable energy by 2035.

Thompson felt Lawrence would likely try to ban natural gas in the future, so he took preemptive action.

“These policies are ideologically driven, and they’re cutting off their nose to spite their face,” he told The Epoch Times. “This is all part of the movement for the Green New Deal. We try to stem that tide from happening in Kansas.”

He said low-income residents would be hurt by the likely rate volatility caused by natural gas bans.

He pointed to backlash against bans from low-income communities in California. The bans there have met with bipartisan resistance.

Partisan Lines

Democratic California Assemblymembers Jim Cooper, Blanca Rubio, and Patrick O’Donnell wrote a letter to the California Public Utilities Commission last year, as quoted by Natural Gas Intelligence. They asked the Commission to consider energy affordability and reliability for low-income residents as it moves toward renewable energy.
Cooper said in an interview with The Power Hungry Podcast in December, “The growing ‘ban natural gas’ chorus ... has become more aggressive.” He said some of the lead environmentalists making the call, however, have not talked enough about the impacts on consumers struggling with utility costs.

“It appears their belief is cost increases should not be a determining factor with regard to approval of new energy policies, because the need to address climate change trumps all concerns.”

In Indiana, where a bill to quash gas bans is awaiting consideration in the House, Kerwin Olson, executive director of the environment-focused Citizens Action Coalition, told The Epoch Times, “This is hyper-partisan reactionary politics, based on fear of the clean-energy transition and the change that comes with it.”