NY statewide gas ban cut from budget proposal

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A provision to ban the use of natural gas in new apartment buildings in New York has been officially dropped from the state’s budget proposal.

The legislation initially aimed to ban the use of natural gas in new buildings because they are responsible for high levels of carbon emissions. The ban was an effort to work toward the state’s climate goals to cut air pollution and create clean energy jobs, as well as prevent premature death related to air pollution.

If the ban was enacted, it would have made New York the first U.S. state to stop adding fossil fuel burning stoves and heaters to new apartment units, the two main contributors of emissions in buildings throughout the state.

The exclusion of the ban is the result of a fierce battle between climate advocates and oil and gas companies, as their interests do not align.

State climate activists pressured New York State Gov. Kathy Hochul to push legislation through budget negotiations in order to address the alarming rates of emissions from the state’s buildings.

Prior efforts to cut back on carbon emissions in the state include legislation approved by the city council banning the use of natural gas in new buildings under seven stories tall starting in 2027.

Last year, New York State Sen. Brian Kavanagh and Assembly Member Emily Gallagher introduced the All-Electric Building Act, which requires all new buildings in New York to be electric by the end of 2023.

A protest last Thursday was planned by environmental activists in response to the news, they organized press conferences over Zoom and rallies in front of Hochul’s office.

The ban has received widespread support from hundreds of New Yorkers and advocates, according to Food & Water Watch. A Siena poll showed 62% of New Yorkers supported the gas ban in new buildings across the state.

Annually, buildings account for 32% of carbon emissions in the state and 40% in New York City including all five boroughs, according to the Urban Green Council in New York.

“New Yorkers will not stand by as the fossil fuel industry buys off our elected officials,” Alex Beauchamp, the Northeast Region Director of Food & Water Watch, said in a statement on Wednesday.

Experts estimate that $1 billion per year is needed to reduce emissions and meet the state’s net-zero goal by 2050.

Some New Yorkers who have tried to make the switch from gas to electric in their own homes to reduce dependence on fossil fuels have found from firsthand experience that it is extremely costly. The high costs are mostly associated with upgrading electrical panels and removing toxins like lead and asbestos.

Proponents of the bill and the widespread switch, however, say the electric pumps in the long run are cost-effective.

In addition to being a climate threat, emissions impact public health in the present. According to research published last year, pollution from New York’s buildings causes nearly 2,000 premature deaths a year, more than in any other state.