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New York City Council Votes To Ban Natural Gas From New Buildings

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Amid surging energy prices and demand, Democrats leading the New York City Council voted Wednesday to prohibit new construction buildings from having natural gas hookups.

The bill, which will now head to Democrat Mayor de Blasio’s desk for approval prior to him leaving office on Jan. 1 due to term limits, bans fossil fuels in new developments. It passed 40 to 7 and would go into effect in 2023 for buildings seven stories tall and under. All buildings would have to abide by the law by 2027.

All new buildings would have to use energy sources that are not oil or natural gas for heating, cooking, and water. That means they’d likely use electricity instead, which is largely powered by gas and oil. New York City would join other cities, such as Berkley, California, which started the “green buildings” initiative two years ago, in prioritizing an arbitrary climate change agenda over economic ends.

Marc Morano, a former senior staffer on the Senate environment and public works committee and publisher of the energy blog ClimateDepot, told me he thinks Democrats in the city are taking a course of action that will only harm everyday citizens. He sees the natural gas ban as inevitably going to burden New Yorkers after months of economy inhibiting lockdowns.

“New York City took ‘a historic step’ in further punishing its citizens by restricting energy, creating shortages, and promoting price spikes,” Morano said. “After two years of COVID-19 lockdowns, it appears the city government has still not reached the limit to how much it is willing to destroy the lives of New Yorkers.”

Mark J. Perry, a professor emeritus at the University of Michigan and a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, displayed a similar sentiment to me. Perry described how switching to electricity from gas will still use lots of natural gas.

“In 2021, more than 38 percent of electricity was produced with natural gas, along with 23 percent from coal,” Perry said. “Also, the substitution of natural gas for coal to produce electric power is the main reason that CO2 emissions fell last year to the lowest level since 1983. So, the NYC ban on natural gas won’t reduce CO2 and its main result will be to raise the cost of energy for New Yorkers!”

Councilmember Alicka Ampry-Samuel, who sponsored the measure, essentially acknowledged it would have its shortcomings. Samuel said that there would be “some exceptions where electrification might not yet be a feasible substitute,” which would include things such as commercial kitchens, hospitals, laboratories, and crematoriums. This of course constitutes a significant portion of buildings.

Trade unions and groups such as the American Petroleum Institute, Exxon Mobil, and the Plumbing Foundation voiced concerns about the bill. James Whelan, who is the president of The Real Estate Board of New York, a long-time trade association, described in May his discontent with the Democrat-led effort. He thinks it will “upend the lives of millions of residents across New York City and significantly increase costs for homeowners and renters.”

“While we appreciate that the efficient electrification of buildings is an important component of realizing these goals, these policies must be implemented in a way that ensures that New Yorkers have reliable, affordable, carbon-free electricity to heat, cool and power their homes and businesses,” Whelan also said Wednesday upon the bill’s passage.

Republican Joe Borrelli, minority leader of the city council, voted against the bill. Borrelli says the measure would not allow the city to meet its electricity demands. “To think about how problematic this bill is, nearly every single building in the city of New York would not be able to comply,” said Borrelli Wednesday. “Natural gas has made our city air quality cleaner than it ever was, and abandoning it when our electrical grid can’t sustain this proposal is going to be a real issue.”

As of 2019, the state of New York ranked sixth in terms of natural gas usage for power generation. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the majority of the state’s electricity was powered by gas. In December, the New York Independent Systems Operator — a group of “engineers, operators, analysts, economists and technologists dedicated to a reliable, sustainable grid,” warned in a report that canceling gas usage could have serious ramifications.

“We have to move carefully with the grid in transition in order to maintain reliability and avoid the kind of problems we’ve seen in other parts of the U.S.,” Zach Smith, the group’s vice president described, with the company adding that, “our reliability margins are thinning to concerning levels beginning in 2023.”

Democrat-strongholds have continued to move forward with the initiative to root out natural gas usage amid a supply-chain crisis. Seattle approved a ban in February on natural gas in all new commercial buildings, hotels, and high rises. While Massachusetts’ town of Brookline voted to prohibit natural gas from new buildings two years ago, the effort was overruled by Attorney General Maura Healey. Healey claimed the town’s measure usurped state authority, but Brookline moved to approve two similar bills in June.

TC Energy sees that North American natural gas demand will continue to increase. The major energy group headquartered in Canada told investors earlier this month that it sees growth being as high as 25 percent by 2030. If that happens, it remains unclear how New York will meet this demand amid its attempt to squash natural gas innovation.

Some red states have pushed back on efforts by the left to inhibit natural gas usage. In June, Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill mandating cities continue to use fossil fuels. Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Arizona, and Oklahoma are some of the states that have approved similar laws. Similar measures are currently in the works in several state legislatures.

“The climate won’t notice the city’s ban on natural gas, but New Yorkers sure will,” Morano said.