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New York to Ban Fossil Fuels in Most New Buildings

The state is set to become the first in the nation to prohibit the use of natural gas and other fossil fuels in most new buildings, starting on Dec. 31, 2025. Some exempt buildings are hospitals and commercial food establishments.

(TNS) — New York is set to become the first state in the nation to prohibit the use of natural gas and other fossil fuels in most new buildings under a tentative state budget agreement expected to be voted on by state lawmakers next week.

Beginning Dec. 31, 2025, developers and builders will be required to comply with "zero emission construction" standards for most buildings of seven stories or fewer, said Katy Zielinski, a spokesperson for Gov. Kathy Hochul. By 2028, taller buildings will also need to adopt emission-free technologies, trading fossil fuel appliances such as gas stoves and furnaces for electric or induction cooktops and electric heat pumps.

The plan will exempt some types of new buildings, including hospitals, manufacturing facilities and commercial food establishments, and will allow for back-up generators, Zielinski said. It does not include any provisions meant to phase out or replace existing gas appliances, environmental advocates told The Buffalo News, though the exact terms of the deal have not yet been made public.

"Everyone knows we've seen the effects of climate change — the storms, the hurricanes coming to New York, the record snow amounts — we're seeing the effects every single day," Hochul said in Thursday remarks. "... Our budget prioritizes nation-leading climate action that meets this moment with ambition and the commitment it demands."

Advocates cautioned that they're still awaiting key details of the budget plan, including more information on a potential "poison pill" provision that they said would allow local governments to veto the policy.

The tentative budget deal also does not appear to include a measure, championed by climate activists, that would have capped consumer utility costs at 6 percent of household income and restricted the future expansion of gas utilities.

New York's ban still represents the largest victory to date for the 4-year-old national movement to "decarbonize" buildings — and a hard-fought triumph for state environmentalists. The measure faced months of fierce opposition from fossil fuel companies, Republican lawmakers and many consumers, who argued that transitioning to all-electric heating systems, in particular, could raise home energy bills and increase the potential harms of lengthy power outages.

Environmental advocates have largely dismissed these concerns, asserting that all-electric systems offer greater safety during extreme weather events and lower utility costs in the long run. The provisional budget deal includes more than $400 million in utility relief, Zielinski said, including $200 million allocated to the state EmPower Plus program, which assists low-income residents in weatherizing their homes and upgrading to energy-efficient appliances.

Approximately 90 municipalities, including Los Angeles, New York City and Washington, D.C., have also enacted measures to phase out fossil fuels in new construction. Last year, Washington state also prohibited gas heating in new commercial and multifamily buildings through a revision to its statewide building code.

Fossil fuel combustion in buildings accounts for around 13 percent of national greenhouse gas emissions, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"At the precipice of global climate disaster, it's long past time to stop building new buildings that burn fossil fuels for heat and hot water," a coalition of state climate groups said in a statement Friday.

(c)2023 The Buffalo News (Buffalo, N.Y.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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