In a bold move to embrace carbon neutrality, New York City Council voted to ban natural gas hookups in new buildings and deny any new construction permits that would require natural gas as well.

Bill Int. 2317-A, sponsored by Councilmember Alicka Ampry-Samuel, aims to phase in the gas ban by December 31, 2027, with some exceptions where electric hookups might not be a “feasible substitute.” Some of the exemptions are buildings with 50% or more affordable housing units.

“This bill was about putting people first. This was about prioritizing people over property and profits. We know that if we don’t act to lower emissions the impact will continue to be fatal,” said Ampry-Samuel. “We know that we have to move towards clean energy. We know that many of the changes will be inconvenient and unpopular, but how else will we reach our goals if we don’t codify serious measures? This passage of this gas ban bill in NYC is a breakthrough moment for climate justice.”

Ampry-Samuel’s office said that at full enactment, the ban is expected to reduce fossil fuels of about 2,000 buildings each year. Other locales have already shifted toward clean energy, which served as a “serendipitous litmus test” for the city to adapt this approach. 

Buildings account for 70% of greenhouse emissions and carry a 33% higher propensity to harm Black and and Brown communities, said her office.

The #GasFreeNYC coalition, a combination of climate activist organizations, is wholly behind the gas ban as a victory for environmental justice. “Our climate movement is winning,” said the coalition in a joint statement. “The nation’s largest city is about to end gas hookups in new buildings and set a big precedent for other cities and states to follow.”

AIA New York (AIANY), a center for architecture, also threw in their support for the electrification of buildings through the gas ban. AIANY said that New York City is also behind most of the state, which has already largely phased out fossil fuels in buildings by mandate or choice.

Going with electricity instead of gas would reduce greenhouse gas emissions since electric power will soon originate from a clean wind and solar-powered grid, said AIANY. But many still worry about older buildings that still rely on gas and the impact to the city’s electrical grid. 

“Future legislation is needed to address existing buildings, most of which are still reliant upon these non-renewable energy resources. As comparatively few buildings undergo the types of alterations covered in this bill, additional legislation is needed to cover most other existing buildings,” said AIANY in a statement.

The Associated Press reported that New York State’s shift away from a reliance on natural gas is “expected to create long-term upward pressure” on electricity use. The New York Independent System Operator said in a recent report that it’s still studying how electrical demand will change, said the AP. It predicts that electricity demand in winter could surpass summer peaks by about 2040.

Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about culture and politics in New York City for The Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting:

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