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New York City gas ban on the cards

The potential New York City gas ban includes a proposed new “Cap-and-Invest” programme to speed up the energy transition.

New York City skyline (Photo credit: Adobe Stock/beatrice prève)

The Governor of New York City has proposed a gas ban in new buildings along with a new “Cap-and-Invest” programme aimed at slashing pollution across the state and accelerating the transition to renewable energy.

In her annual “State of the State” address on January 10, New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced a plan to electrify new building construction on a phased-in schedule, barring gas in new small buildings  beginning in 2025 and for larger buildings by 2028. And by 2030, the state would end the sale of all fossil-fuel-powered-heating equipment.

“Buildings are the largest source of emissions in our state, accounting for a third of our greenhouse gas output, as well as pollution that aggravates asthma and endangers our children,” Governor Hochul said in her address.

Hochul also proposed a new programme that she dubbed “Cap-and-Invest,” which would require major polluters to buy permits to emit greenhouse gas emissions, with the cap declining over time, targeting state-wide emission reductions of 40 percent by 2030 and 85 percent by 2050, compared to a 1990 baseline.

“We know that the key to long-term sustainability – for our wallets and our planet – is weaning ourselves from fossil fuels,” Hochul said.

The programme could generate $1 billion in proceeds, which would be invested in energy efficiency, retrofitting homes and schools, defraying the cost of energy bills, electric vehicle recharging infrastructure, and other initiatives to reduce air pollution, according to the proposal. It would also aim for the benefits to flow to disadvantaged communities.

The plan is being warmly received by environmental groups and labour groups, who have been pressuring state lawmakers to take bold action to address the climate crisis.

“Governor Hochul’s directive to state agencies to create a Cap and Invest system could set a national standard for climate action,” NY Renews, a coalition of more than 340 environmental justice, community, faith, labour, and multi-issue state-level organizations, said in a statement. “Now the hard work begins to plan and implement both a programmatic and spending plan while avoiding the mistakes made by other states, such as deepening pollution hotspots in ways that exacerbate environmental racism and injustice.”

Other states, including California, Oregon, and Washington, have some version of a cap-and-trade programme already. However, New York’s has the potential to be “the most rigorous,” according to New York Focus, a nonprofit state-focused news outlet.

Meanwhile, the initiative comes as concerns about the health dangers of gas stoves hit a fever pitch nationally. New research in both Europe and the U.S. shows mounting evidence of the health hazards of cooking with gas, and federal regulators said they were looking into the issue. In response, Republican lawmakers lashed out.

“I’ll NEVER give up my gas stove,” Texas Republican Rep. Ronny Jackson tweeted on January 10. “If the maniacs in the White House come for my stove, they can pry it from my cold dead hands. COME AND TAKE IT!!”

While a national ban on gas stoves appears highly unlikely, restrictions are coming at the state level, as the New York Governor’s new proposal demonstrates.

“We are taking these actions because climate change remains the greatest threat to our planet, and to our children and grandchildren,” Hochul said.

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