weighs ban on natural gas hookups for new construction
Barbara Henry, November 20, 2019
from city that banned plastic bags and polystyrene containers
would not impact existing homes or businesses.
First came the plastic bag and polystyrene container
bans. Now Encinitas may be exploring whether to limit natural
City Environmental Commissioner James Wang, who was instrumental
in the citys polystyrene and plastic bag ban campaigns,
is asking his fellow commissioners to seek City Council approval
for an ordinance prohibiting the installation of natural gas
infrastructure in new buildings.
most energy-efficient, environmentally friendly options for
home heating and cooking are electric-powered these days,
not gas, Wang told his fellow commissioners as he unveiled
his proposal last week.
recommended that they check out the energy-efficiency statistics
for electric water heaters with heat-pump systems and look
into induction stoves, which directly heat peoples cookware.
These systems are not as expensive as people might think,
he added, saying that 20 years ago they might have been costly,
but thats not the case now.
His proposed natural gas ban met with a mixed reaction at
Thursdays commission meeting. Three of his fellow commissioners
said they wanted more information about the new heating and
cooking equipment options before they would consider backing
the proposed ban, and the nine public speakers on the item
were roughly evenly divided. Ultimately, the commission decided
to collect more information and revisit the proposal at its
Dec. 8 meeting.
Building Industry Association of San Diego is expecting to
send a representative to that Dec. 8 meeting, BIA policy advisor
Angeli Calinog said Monday. The association, which represents
750 member companies, informed the city in a letter late last
week that it opposes the proposed ban, saying natural gas
is a cheaper power source and eliminating peoples right
to choose it will increase the already high cost of housing
cost of living in California is among the highest in the nation,
the letter from Mike McSweeney, the BIAs senior public
policy advisor, states. Eliminating natural gas from
homes and businesses will more than double the energy bill
for everyone, further compounding that financial burden and
will limit economic development opportunities in the city.
told his fellow commissioners that he thinks natural gas use
will eventually be phased out, even though people have previously
described it as a clean burning fossil fuel and
promoted its use over other options like coal or oil.
view of natural gas doesnt take into account the environmental
harm that occurs when natural gas is extracted from the ground
using fracking techniques, nor does it acknowledge
that leaks occur when natural gas is piped from one spot to
another, he said. And, he added, theres also indoor
air quality concerns with burning natural gas and theres
the potential for household fires.
all those issues are considered, natural gas doesnt
look like such a great choice, Wang said. The trouble, he
said, is that once natural gas pipe systems have been installed
in peoples homes, theyre likely to remain in use
for decades to come. Thats why hes now proposing
to ban their installation in new construction.
of all, this proposal only applies to new buildings,
he stressed. Its not like were going to
go to your house and rip out your gas stove ... or anything
public speakers, including several San Diego Gas & Electric
Co. employees, told commissioners that they didnt agree
with Wangs views about the use of natural gas or the
figures he included in his presentation. A gas technician
and an electrical lineman, as well as the companys public
affairs manager for the Encinitas area, all said the proposal
was irresponsible and would harm the community.
Scanlan, the public affairs manager, said she applauded the
city for being concerned about greenhouse gas emissions and
climate change issues, but said this proposal would eliminate
peoples right to chose what energy they used. Many people
like having natural gas as a reliable backup power source,
so they can have hot showers or cook a meal when the electricity
goes out, she said.
opposed to taking that safety net away from them, Scanlan
people urged the commission to back Wangs proposal,
saying anything that helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions
is a huge benefit given the ever-growing concerns about global
warming and rising sea levels.
speakers, who included a representative for the San Diego
chapter of Surfrider Foundation, said the world is running
out of time to halt global warming and needs to do all it
can as fast as possible.
has been in the forefront of city campaigns to ban other substances
on environmental grounds, including the polystyrene cup and
takeout container ban that took effect in 2017 as well as
the single-use plastic bag ban in 2015.
week, he told his fellow environmental commissioners that
proposals to restrict natural gas use are gaining momentum
in California. More than 20 California cities are considering
encouraging people to only use electricity, including Los
Angeles and San Francisco. In recent months, city councils
in Berkeley and San Jose both have approved bans on the installation
of natural gas lines in new construction projects and those
bans will take effect next year.
arent the only ones re-thinking their use of natural
gas, Wang wrote in a report he produced for last weeks
meeting. In 2018, the University of California system began
prohibiting the use of natural gas in new buildings and began
banning its use in renovated buildings earlier this year,
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