MANHATTAN (CN) — In a significant step towards the Big Apple’s goal of carbon neutrality, New York’s city council voted late Wednesday to enact a ban on the installation of gas heat and stoves in new construction.
With a 40-7 vote by the city council, New York City became the largest U.S. city to bar the use of natural gas for building heat, setting a significant precedent for other cities and states to follow as part of a nationwide effort to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
The legislation, which will ban natural gas hookups in new buildings by mandating nearly all new buildings under seven stories to be all-electric by Jan. 1, 2024, and taller ones after July 1, 2027, is an incremental advance towards a “Green New Deal”-type electrification of New York City.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who supports the bill, applauded the city council’s passing vote on Wednesday evening.
“New York City is proof that it’s possible to end the era of fossil fuels, invest in a sustainable future, protect public health, and create good paying jobs in the process,” said de Blasio. “If the largest city in America can take this critical step to ban gas use, any city can do the same! Thank you to the City Council for getting this done. This is how to fight back against climate change on the local level and guarantee a green city for generations to come.”
According to the Urban Green Council, building utilities — boilers, furnaces, and hot water heaters — in New York City buildings emit 40% of the city’s carbon, which is greater than the total emissions from electricity use citywide.
The new all-electric constructions will instead rely on electric heat and hot water systems, as well as induction stoves that use electricity for cooking.
“We’re in a climate crisis and must take all necessary steps to fight climate change and protect our city” outgoing Council Speaker Corey Johnson said Wednesday afternoon, during the final hearing of his legislative session as Speaker of the New York City Council.
Outgoing councilmember Brad Lander praised the legislation, which he said seeks to “transform our city into an all-electric city.”
“We do not have time to continue to burn fossil fuels,” said Lander, who will be the next New York City comptroller. “We have a lot of work to do to make sure that we convert our energy grid to solar and wind and renewables, so that the energy power that is powering our buildings is clean and renewable as well and I look forward to fighting hard to continue that in the Comptroller’s office.”
The bill was sponsored by councilmember Alicka Ampry-Samuel, who represents the Bedford-Stuyvesant, Ocean Hill-Brownsville, East Flatbush, and Crown Heights neighborhoods in Brooklyn.
“Climate justice is racial justice, so let’s keep putting people first,” Ampry-Samuel said at the council’s final stated meeting on Wednesday.
“The responsibility has always been on individuals: multi-use water bottles, shorter showers, home recycling; this council also prohibited single-use straws, plastic bags, and reduced the usage of plastic flatware. We have literally made personal environmental responsibility a letter of the law, but buildings are responsible for nearly half of the greenhouse emissions that are destroying our Earth every day.”
Some burning of fossil fuel in new buildings will be allowed, but not for heat and hot water. The measure allows the combustion of 25 kilograms of carbon dioxide per million British thermal units of energy or more if it has nothing to do with the building’s heat or hot water and is only used intermittently.
The legislation would also direct the Commissioner of Buildings to deny construction documents and permits in connection with a building that would require the combustion of the fossil fuels, with some exceptions.
The bill additionally requires the Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability to conduct two studies: one regarding the use of heat pump technology, and another studying the impact of this bill on the city’s electrical grid.
Food & Water Watch Northeast Region Director Alex Beauchamp said on Wednesday that that the city council’s vote proves “America’s biggest city is serious about climate change.”
“New York City is taking a massive step off fossil fuels, paving the way for the rest of the state and country to follow,” Beauchamp wrote in a statement. “With a gas free NYC, we can deliver better public health outcomes and make real strides to cut climate-warming emissions. Next up, New York state and the nation must follow suit.”
In 2019, New York state passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which committed the state to 100% zero-emission electricity by 2040.
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