Statewide gas ban would prevent 4 million metric tons of CO2 beyond 2 million prevented by NYC ban

May 12, 2022

By Ramona du Houx

As sea levels rise, and the climate crisis worsens because the atmosphere is under siege from fossil fuel emissions, humanity needs more aggressive actions to combat this clear and present danger. According to a Harvard report over 8 million people die annually from breathing in the toxic particulates that fossil fuel companies produce. In an age where autocrats have grown wealthy off of oil and gas, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report found that nations are dramatically falling short of their pledges to mitigate the climate emergency.  Petrostates, like Russia, use oil and gas profits to abuse human rights and wage war because democratic nations are addicted to fossil fuels. All the while, storms are becoming increasingly more extreme.

Transitioning American homes off of fossil fuels is more than feasible.

“Architects know that with current technology and the broader adoption of sustainable design practices, we can design and build buildings that are fossil fuel free,” said Ben Prosky, Executive Director of the American Institute of Architects New York. “Building electrification can  mitigate climate change, provide New Yorkers with a more reliable source of power, develop the clean energy industry, and prevent future gas leaks and explosions.”

In New York, building emissions cause more than one third of the state’s climate pollution. New York burns more fossil fuels in its buildings than any state in the country, contributing to poor air quality, premature deaths and catastrophic explosions. Studies show that this air pollution leads to nearly 2,000 premature deaths annually in New York State. Furthermore, being dependent on gas and oil exposes New Yorkers to outrageous gas and oil price fluctuations. The All-Electric Building Act is poised to change these dire statistics for New York. 

On May 10, there was a rally in the New York State Capitol Building attended by the bill’s prime sponsors Senator Brian Kavanagh and Assembly Member Emily Gallagher, other elected officials and dozens of advocates from across the state to urge the bill’s prompt passage.

Senator Brian Kavanagh and Assembly Member Emily Gallagher, other elected officials and dozens of advocates from across the state rallied at the New York Capitol to urge the All-Electric Buildings Act prompt passage. Courtesy photo

“New York consumes more fossil fuels in its residential and commercial buildings than any other state in the country, contributing to poor air quality, premature deaths and dangerous explosions,” said Assemblymember Emily Gallagher, prime sponsor of the All-Electric Buildings Act (A8431A). “Working families are at the mercy of wild gas and oil price fluctuations that enrich oil companies, oligarchs, and authoritarian governments. Those outrageous ConEd bills we all got last month? They were because of our dependence on dirty, expensive and dangerous so-called ‘natural gas.’ We must chart a different path.”

When passed, the All-Electric Building Act would require that all new buildings use electricity for energy, instead of gas and other fossil fuels, beginning in 2024. 

“New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act mandates some of the most ambitious targets in the world to fight climate change. But we’re not going to meet those targets if we keep building structures that will require fossil fuels for many years to come,” said Senator Brian Kavanagh, the bill’s prime Senate sponsor (S6843B). “Enacting the All-Electric Building Act is one of several major steps we need to take as soon as possible to curb the rapid destruction of our planet being caused by the climate crisis, and usher in a cleaner, more secure future. Fossil-fuel free buildings are not only beneficial for the health of our planet; they also eliminate dangerous air contaminants that are emitted by indoor gas appliances, which have been linked to higher rates of respiratory illness in children. We have a chance to take decisive action to stop constructing buildings that make both people and the planet sick. This bill will bring us one step closer towards a future of healthy and sustainable homes.”

On May 12th, the legislature will heard testimony about the Act. 

“Everyone should feel safe in their own home, but as long as fossil fuels are used for heat and cooking no one is truly secure. With the dramatic fluctuations in oil and gas prices too many New Yorkers have been forced to turn down the thermostat during the winter to economize. Switching to clean energy in all our buildings with the aid of the All-Electric Building Act will give people security while improving everyone’s health outcomes. I urge swift passage,” said William Reinhardt, Albany County Legislator, Elected Officials to Protect America’s New York Leadership Council. “This is a logical step to decarbonize New York’s buildings and is supported by 217 national, state and regional organizations. New York is positioned to show the way for the nation. Humanity is depending on our leadership to mitigate the climate crisis and prevent ecosystem collapse before it’s too late.”

The hearing on May 12th on the All-Electric Buildings Act

The All-Electric Building Act aims to cut carbon emissions by millions of tons across the state and require new buildings to have all-electric appliances for space and water heating and cooking by 2023. It also mandates that state agencies identify policies to make electricity affordable and ensure its access to low-income residents.

Moving New York’s buildings from their dependency on fossil fuels will slash deadly air pollution, create thousands of good paying jobs, and transition to new climate-friendly, healthier and cost-efficient homes and businesses.

A study found that in the New York City metropolitan area, communities of color are disproportionately exposed by 17 percent more PM2.5 emissions from residential gas stoves than the population average. Black New Yorkers specifically face 32 percent higher exposure. This disparity in PM2.5 exposure highlights the need to safeguard the health of these marginalized communities.

“New York State can lead the country on decarbonizing buildings by becoming the first in the nation to end fossil fuel infrastructure in new construction, and transitioning older buildings to become fossil free. We can do it with the All-Electric Buildings Act.”  said Robin Wilt, Brighton Councilmember, EOPA New York Leadership Council. “Other states need to follow our example in order to help mitigate the climate crisis and start to bring environmental justice to communities of color who suffer disproportionately from the hazards of fossil fuel pollution.”

Governor Kathy Hochul’s budget included funds for the electrification of an additional 50,000 homes as part of the state’s plan to electrify one million homes and make another one million electrification-ready by 2030. This measure along with the All-Electric Building Act will ensure that more than 800,000 low-to-moderate income households will be able to secure clean energy upgrades. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority has already implemented $10 million in heat pump grants for consumers.

“The All-Electric Building Act helps level the playing field for alternative energy sources, which are more economical, and reliable because they are sustainable and won’t fluctuate in price like fossil fuels do,” said Dominic Frongillo, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Elected Officials to Protect America (EOPA), former Councilmember and Deputy Supervisor Caroline, New York. “EOPA was instrumental in helping to ban fracking in New York and divesting the state’s pension fund from fossil fuels. Importantly, the All-Electric Building Act recognizes the need to bring environmental justice to communities of color in New York that have suffered for decades from polluting factories, shipping terminals and highways that were built adjacent to them because their zip codes were redlined decades ago. Decarbonizing their homes is the first of many steps that must be taken with the help of the groundbreaking Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA).”

New York has been leading the charge to fight the climate crisis with the CLCPA law that mandates that 70 percent of all electricity generated in New York be renewable sources by 2030. Building electrification is a critical part of the path to transition away from fossil fuels and to meet the CLCPA aggressive climate goals. 

The All-Electric Building Act has 56 co-sponsors and a January Siena poll reported that 62 percent of New Yorkers support requiring zero emissions buildings.

According to the New York Independent  System Operator, there is an adequate electricity supply to handle the increased demand from new buildings relying on electric power through 2031.

The technologies to replace oil and gas infrastructure exist. Heat pumps perform well in cold climates to below -10°F, radiant underfloor heating systems create heat via thermal radiation and there is solar thermal heating technology to name a few. Weatherization insulates buildings, so heat isn’t lost. Electric stoves and heat induction burners are available to replace gas stoves.

A partial summary of the All-Electric Building Act: 

  • Provides that the state energy conservation construction code shall prohibit infrastructure, building systems, or equipment used for the combustion of fossil fuels in new construction statewide no later than December 31, 2023 if the building is less than seven stories and July 1, 2027 if the building is seven stories or more.

Elected Officials to Protect America is a network of current and former elected officials who care deeply about protecting the planet and people. EOPA is committed to solving the climate crisis, ensuring environmental justice, and protecting our lands and waters. EOPA educates through value-based storytelling, training lawmakers, and connecting elected officials to inspire strong environmental leadership.