The Californian city of Berkeley has become the first in the country to pass a ban on natural gas piping in new buildings, including private homes. Although it is considered cleaner than oil, natural gas is still a fossil fuel and contributes to global warming. New buildings in Berkeley, with few exceptions, will have to rely on electricity for heating water and kitchen appliances starting in January 2020.
The natural gas ordinance was spearheaded by councilmember Kate Harrison, who told the San Francisco Chronicle, “It’s an enormous issue. We need to really tackle this. When we think about pollution and climate change issues, we tend to think about factories and cars, but all buildings are producing greenhouse gas.”
The legislation passed unanimously, but some critics outside of the city town halls and council meetings argue that electricity prices are higher than natural gas. The mandate will come at an expense to homeowners and renters in the Bay Area’s already stifling housing market.
The ordinance also comes with funding for a two-year position for one staff member in the Office of Planning and Development who will oversee the implementation of the ban.
David Hochschild, chairman of the California Energy Commission, reported that at least 50 other cities throughout the state of California are considering such a ban in hopes of addressing the contribution that buildings make to climate change and to encourage higher usage of electricity and renewable energy.
Berkeley has a history of progressive bans, including becoming the first city in the country to ban smoking in restaurants and bars back in 1977. Earlier this year, the city banned single-use plastic utensils in restaurants (such as plastic forks). Restaurants and cafes throughout the city must use compostable utensils for takeaway meals and beverages. The city also passed an ordinance adding a 25 cents tax onto single-use cups, such as coffee cups.
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