October 27, 2022

By Ramona du Houx

Within just six months, more than 30 local and state governments have passed or introduced new policies to limit methane gas and other fossil fuel use in buildings to protect local health, safety, and equity as well as to mitigate the climate crisis. A major way that they are being successful is by developing and passing building electrification policies.

 “This impressive wave of policies shows that people know we need to and can move off methane everywhere to secure a better, safer future for our communities and the world. The daily headlines about the weaponization of fossil fuels and other dirty energy make that even more clear. Building electrification works in cold climates, across borders, and in communities large and small. SAFE Cities is honored to support the thoughtful and committed people who are leading the end of fossil fuel expansion and the transition to clean energy,” said Anne Pernick, SAFE Cities Senior Advisor.

SAFE Cities works with local government leaders and advocates to stop fossil fuel expansion and phase out fossil fuels. Along with partners, they held a press conference where their joint policy announcement on Building Electrification was highlighted (above)

Notable developments in building electrification in the last six months include:

  • Governments that finalized and passed policies for electrification: Washington, DC; Vancouver, Victoria, and New Westminster, BC; Hercules, San Luis Obispo, Santa Monica, Martinez, and Pasadena, CA; and the State of Washington
  • Governments with policies introduced or in development: Montréal, Quebec; Los Angeles, CA; Eugene, OR; Hastings-on-Hudson, NY; and the State of Washington
  • Governments that adopted recommendations for electrification: Bethlehem, NY; Kansas City, MO; San Diego, CA; and the State of California
  • Governments that passed Home Rule Petitions for building electrification and have applied to be in the Massachusetts state pilot for all-electric new construction: Acton, Aquinnah, Arlington, Boston, Brookline, Concord, Cambridge, Lexington, Lincoln, Newton, Northampton, Somerville, Salem, and West Tisbury, MA; 10 of these communities, Acton, Aquinnah, Arlington, Brookline, Concord, Cambridge, Lexington, Lincoln, Newton, and West Tisbury, had their earlier building electrification policies blocked by the State

Governments taking action include cities with challenging cold weather climates, large and small jurisdictions, cities introducing innovative new approaches to decarbonization, cities that have inspired their state governments to take action, and cities that have acted despite restrictions from their states.

California is where the local building electrification policies began in Berkley in 2019.

“We all see the climate emergency we are in. A new study estimates that each year the amount of benzine that is emitted by gas infrastructure in buildings is the equal to the emissions 60,000 cars,” said Cheryl Davila was a Berkley Councilmember who championed the electrification policy, and is the founder of Climate Emergency Mobilization Task Force, EOPA California member. “Currently there are 61 cities in California that have followed Berkley’s lead and have developed building electrification policies. Many more are to come.”

Elected Officials to Protect America California has many members who have passed ordinances. EOPA is a partner of SAFE Cities.

Because of the local ordinances and actions, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has adopted a set of recommendations, including prohibiting the sale of gas space and water heating appliances after 2030.

Meanwhile, local governments are steaming ahead with their own policies. Los Angeles directed several city departments to develop a plan for citywide electrification of new construction.  

“Getting gas out of our buildings is critical for Los Angeles and people around the world and we need to do it as soon as possible and as equitably as possible. While we’re pleased to see that the State has taken inspiration from the actions of our City and so many communities around California, 2030 is much too late,” said, City of Los Angeles Councilmember, Paul Koretz, author of legislation to require decarbonization of both new and existing buildings EOPA California Leadership Council. “We need to stop producing and installing gas appliances immediately. That is the only way to work at the scale and speed we actually need to protect human health, safety, and a stable global climate.”

San Diego passed a climate action plan with recommendations for electrifying new construction and existing buildings. So has Hercules, San Luis Obispo, Santa Monica, Martinez, and Pasadena.

“One ordinance can establish a precedent,” said Hercules Vice Mayor Alex Walker-Griffin, author of the ordinance for his city, EOPA California Leadership Council. “Ours requires new development to be one hundred percent electric. Additionally, if anyone wants to remodel more than 50 percent of their home, they will have to switch it to electric. Building electrification’s time has finally come. I hope CARB’s Board establishes a strong specific policy.”

CARB staff are currently working on the creation of a specific policy for the Board to consider.

“The future of our communities and our planet depends on us getting off methane in our buildings. It’s heartening to witness the wave of policies to stem this life-threatening climate crisis pollution. Elected Officials to Protect America is proud to partner with SAFE Cities on building this movement and stands behind the efforts of all these governments to transition from a fossil-fueled economy to a clean energy economy,” said Dominic Frongillo, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Elected Officials to Protect America (EOPA) and former Councilmember and Deputy Supervisor of Caroline, New York.