Led by Alicka Ampry-Samuel, 29 New York City Council Members sponsored a bill that passed on December 15, to prohibit the use of gas-powered heaters, stoves and water boilers in new buildings in an effort to reduce carbon emissions.
As to its purpose, outgoing Speaker Corey Johnson cited the ‘climate crisis,’ and said that the legislation was required because he believed the city “must take all necessary steps to fight climate change and protect our city.” The bill was met with enthusiasm by the Mayor’s Office of Climate and Sustainability as it will assist the city in achieving its goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.
By prohibiting the combustion of any substances that emit carbon dioxide in the amount of 25 kilograms or more per million British thermal units of energy, the law in effect, calls for electricity to be used as a substitute.
It will not apply to residents who currently have gas stoves and heaters and they would not have to switch unless they moved to a new building or one that undergoes a major renovation under the time frame specified below.
Significance, Impact and Concerns
The legislation makes New York City the largest in the nation with such restrictions on natural gas, joining others such as Berkeley, San Jose, Seattle and Sacramento. New York State is currently considering similar measures.
A primary concern relates to the impact that the increased demand for electricity might have. Some real estate developers have warned that blackouts could result during winter months and there is the potential for price increases for consumers. Consolidated Edison, one of NYC’s main utility companies currently supplies electricity as well as gas, while National Grid only provides gas.
As to this concern, the legislation requires that the city office of long-term planning and sustainability conduct a study, “regarding the reliability and resiliency of the city’s electrical distribution grid, and transmission lines into the city, in relation to the anticipated use of such grid and lines for the [the law’s] implementation,” and specifically make assessments as to the following:
- The current and projected 2030 load on the electrical grid for both winter and summer
- Specific recommendations regarding the capacity that could be added to the current energy supply to meet such projected demand
- Actions the city should take in connection with the above recommendations; and
- Recommendations for improved infrastructure coordination and planning to support electrification
The results of the study must be submitted to the Speaker of the New York City Council and the Mayor no later than June 1, 2023 and must also be made available publicly online.
Compliance and Enforcement
Exempt entities include hospitals, manufacturers, laboratories, commercial kitchens, laundromats and crematoriums.
Additionally, use will be permitted where gas powered devices contain no connection to a building’s gas supply line or fuel oil piping system, are used on an intermittent basis, and are not used to supply a building with heat or hot water.
For buildings less than seven stories, enforcement is to begin on January 1, 2024, with this date being relevant to the submission of applications for the approval of constructions documents and permits to the Department of Buildings, the agency designated to oversee the requirements. Such requirements will be for new buildings and those undergoing a major renovation.
For buildings seven stories or more, enforcement is to begin on July 2, 2027.
The full list of exemptions and time issues can be found in the text of the legislation.
The legislation instructs the department’s Commissioner to deny applications for approvals of construction documents and permits for buildings that fail to comply and also enables it to issue monetary penalties.