Fossil fuels are a contentious subject in this country, with climate change supporters and deniers talking each other’s ears off about the pros vs the cons and whether or not the long term repercussions will be worth it, or even exist. No matter what way you feel about it, if anything, it doesn’t change the fact that soon Ashland, Oregon plans to ban the use of fossil fuels in newly constructed homes, most notably natural gas.
Following Eugene, Ashland is making a move to have new homes be completely electrical. While nothing is concrete, an electrification ordinance began being drafted back on Tuesday. Natural gas is a fairly large part of many buildings. In homes, natural gas can be used for cooking, heating, heating water, and drying clothes. With the technology we have now, however, all of these can be easily replaced with electrical appliances. If you already live in a home with natural gas, you don’t have to worry about the feds coming in and taking your stoves, but it is important to note for anyone who plans to buy a new piece of property.
The exception, however, comes with commercial and industrial constructions. Restaurants, factories, and all other such places will be in the clear, as a lack of natural gas can cause difficulties in some instances. This doesn’t mean it’ll stay that way, however, as the city council hopes to draft another ordinance directed towards electrifying new industrial buildings and remodeled homes.
Back in February, Eugene had become the first city in Oregon to pass a ban of natural gas hookups in new residential buildings. These residential buildings will be constructed with the intention of running on purely electrical energy, though they have no current plans to do anything about buildings that already have natural gas. Seeing as replacing natural gas hookups in current buildings would cost millions, it’s not likely that anything will be done in the near future unless the homes in question are already under remodeling.
It’s not the only city in the US to do so, however, as nearly 100 cities have already put similar bans into place. The ones that really catch our attention, however, are the state-wide bans.
The State Building Code Council in the state of Washington is on the lighter side of these sorts of bans. They changed their energy code last year, making it so that every new building, residential or otherwise, must have electric heat pumps.
New York state, on the other hand, is an example of how serious these bans can be, as the entire state is implementing a near total ban on natural gas starting in 2026. They’re aiming for each building to produce zero emissions, and that includes most industrial and commercial buildings. If there are exceptions, they haven’t cropped up as of yet, and the state stands firm on their position.
Now Ashland has decided to join the fold, making it another in a growing number of cities that have implemented these contentious laws. According to Ashland’s Mayor, Tonya Graham, this is all for a good cause.
“We have seen the impacts of climate change rolling in on us and we have to address the root causes,” Mayor Graham had said to news outlet The Oregonian. “We cannot simultaneously build out fossil fuel gas infrastructure and protect our children’s future.”
Many disagree, and just like with many cities before it, Ashland is ready to face a mountain of protest. That’s what Eugene had to go through, most notably from NW Natural, who are Oregon’s gas utility owned mainly by investors and had been funding most of the opposition. A petition was signed to make the matter a citywide vote for this coming November.
This is on top of the fact that they’re under legal scrutiny when the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco had struck down Berkeley, California’s natural gas ban back in April. Granted, this had been the first ban of its kind in the nation, and now that it’s slowly becoming more commonplace, Eugene might have hope for its ban. Last we heard, Berkeley has filed an appeal in the case, and that’s where it stands now.
To avoid going through the same troubles Eugene is, Ashland is considering different methods on tackling the gas ban. As explained by the chairman of Ashland Climate and Environmental Policy Advisory Committee, Bryan Sohl, the city plans on going for one of the options.
The first is the route that New York City had personally adopted, which had set a standard for the amount of indoor pollutants allowed. This includes carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxides, and nitrogen dioxide. These are what make up the emissions that plague our atmosphere, and by setting a standard, it forces the companies building these homes to lower natural gas usage themselves.
Option two would be changing the building code. It’s simple, broad, and yet effective, and was the option that Washington state took when trying to implement electrical heating to replace gas-based ones.
Option three, and perhaps the least effective, would be to ban new natural gas piping. In the city’s rights-of-way. While this would work for the most part, there are many underdeveloped areas of Ashland that would be unaffected by this ban.
One suggestion that has been offered, and also used before, is upping the rates for the local gas provider, Avista Gas. Last year the rate had been upped by 18%, but this year, the suggestion is merely at 8.1%. This will make a transition to electrical more preferable to homeowners, but if people are willing and able to pay for regular gas, they’re allowed to.
While some people may think these gas bans are one-time things, they’re only going to spread as they become more popular, especially in Oregon, where Milwaukie and Corvallis are considering these bans themselves. One can expect much more of these changes cropping up in the future as the consequences of climate change continue to do more harm to the planet.