A policy blueprint endorsed by New York’s governor aims to implement the United States’ first state-wide natural gas ban for new buildings, in line with a larger state decarbonization plan for an “orderly downsizing” of the gas distribution system.
“A statewide natural gas ban would raise the national bar for climate action for buildings, a top source of emissions and an area where state-level policy-makers can exert an unusual degree of influence,” reports E&E News.
Governor Kathy Hochul’s support for the ban was “part of a flurry of announcements on clean energy,” E&E says. Her support does not mean the ban will become law, but it does add momentum to similar initiatives already being considered by the Democrat-controlled Congress.
The policy blueprint’s ban would push all new buildings to use electricity instead of fossil fuels for heating by requiring zero-emissions heat sources by 2027. The buildings sector accounts for nearly one-third of New York’s greenhouse gas emissions, mostly produced by burning fossil fuels for heating, a reality that led to New York City to pass a similar ban on gas heating and appliances in new buildings more than seven stories tall. That rule will be enforced starting in 2023.
According to the state blueprint, the 2027 target “sends an unmistakable signal to the New York market, the nation, and the world that the future of buildings must be decarbonized,” says E&E News.
Hochul’s support for the ban could generate pushback from the gas industry and real estate developers who opposed New York City’s earlier ban.
Response to the ban among electric and gas utilities is less certain, though one large utility hinted it would prefer a policy that promoted hydrogen as a substitute for natural gas. Hydrogen-based renewable generation is seen as a “false solution” by state environmentalists.
Hochul’s policy blueprint also supports other big plans for clean energy, including funding for renewables installations, doubling the state’s energy storage development target, and pushing for an all-electric school bus fleet by 2023, says E&E News.
Many of the blueprint’s decarbonization actions align with a draft scoping plan recently released by the 22-member New York State Climate Action Council. The council’s plan aims to fulfill New York’s climate law, with an end to fossil fuel use in smaller new buildings in 2024 and a ban in all new buildings by 2027. Eventually, the plan would incorporate existing buildings and take on larger projects, like requiring gas utilities to stop building distribution infrastructure, E&E reports.
“All the information before the Council indicates that achievement of the emission limits will entail a downsizing of the fossil gas system,” wrote the Council.
A 120-day public comment period for the Climate Action Council plan opened on January 1, 2022.