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The city abruptly reverses its historic decision to ban gas connections: “We stopped enforcing the rules”

The city of Berkeley, California, is repealing its historic ban on natural gas hookups in new buildings, according to the New York Times. The ordinance, the first of its kind, passed in 2019, was dropped after a legal challenge from the California Restaurant Association.

What happened?

The groundbreaking law thrust Berkeley into the national spotlight and inspired more than 140 other cities to phase out gas in new homes and buildings, as detailed by the Times.

However, these efforts now face an uncertain future due to pushback from the gas industry, restaurants and builders.

The court battle ended in a settlement last week, with the city halting enforcement of the ordinance and pledging to officially rescind the rule.

“To comply with the Ninth Circuit’s ruling, we have stopped enforcing the gas ban,” said Farimah Brown, Berkeley city attorney, according to the Times. However, “Berkeley will continue to be a leader on climate action.”

Why is this policy reversal worrying?

The restrictions on gas hookups aim to combat a key source of pollution: carbon burned in furnaces, water heaters, stoves and other appliances.

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Homes and buildings accounted for 13% of the U.S. pollution responsible for global warming in 2022, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Letting gas connections expand means blocking decades of this pollution at a time when urgent action is needed to curb rising temperatures.

Research also shows that burning gas indoors poses health risks like asthma, especially for vulnerable groups like children: 12.7% of all childhood asthma cases in the United States are linked to the use of a gas stove, according to a study published in 2022 in the International Journal of Environmental Research. and public health.

What do we do in the face of this policy reversal?

Some cities say they will move forward with their electrification plans, believing their policies are carefully written to withstand legal scrutiny. Meanwhile, many cities and states have passed laws banning local gas bans altogether, as the Times reports.

Another path could be to adopt stricter building energy efficiency codes that would make gas more difficult to use but without an explicit phase-out. The White House also proposed new appliance standards to improve efficiency and promote electric stoves over gas.

Despite setbacks, many advocates remain committed to abandoning gas in buildings through alternative policy approaches. The good news is that modern electrical appliances are increasingly efficient and affordable.

What can you do to help?

When the time comes to replace your old gas boiler, stove or water heater, consider upgrading to an efficient electric model. Induction cooktops are stylish, high-performance options recommended by professional chefs.

Replacing even one gas appliance reduces your carbon impact. Plus, you position yourself to save money as more renewable energy comes online, making electricity cheaper and cleaner than gas in the long run. It’s a win-win for your wallet and the planet.

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