Climate activists push for shift from fossil fuels

Members of the Beacon City Council plan on Monday (Nov. 7) to introduce a proposal that would effectively ban natural gas hookups in new homes and commercial buildings, as well as major renovations.

The proposal, modeled after legislation passed last year in New York City and Ithaca, was announced at a rally on Oct. 29 at the Beacon waterfront, where climate activists celebrated the state’s denial a year ago of a request by Danskammer Energy to build a natural gas-fired power plant on the Hudson River in Newburgh.

While state law does not authorize municipalities to ban natural gas hookups, Council Member Dan Aymar-Blair said he plans to propose adding emissions limits to the building code that gas appliances cannot meet. In doing so, Aymar-Blair said he hopes Beacon will “light a spark in the Hudson Valley in taking bold action to fight climate change.”

The shift could save homeowners money. According to Win Climate, a collective of data scientists, financial analysts and policy researchers, new single-family homes in New York state could save $904 per year if built with an electric-powered, air-source heat pump, instead of a furnace or boiler that uses natural gas or oil. The average annual savings would be about $260 higher if builders opt for ground-source, or geothermal, heat pumps.

Win Climate published its analysis of heating costs in New York’s climate zones in October to illustrate the potential benefits of the All-Electric Building Act, which the state Legislature is expected to consider next year. Gov. Kathy Hochul’s fiscal 2023 budget proposes ending the use of fossil fuels in new construction statewide by 2027.

A study published earlier this year in the journal Environmental Science & Technology found that gas stoves emit methane and carbon dioxide — the two most abundant greenhouse gases — and nitrogen oxide, which it said increases the risks of cardiovascular problems and respiratory disease. The stoves emit methane even when turned off, researchers found.

“It would be very wise to get these appliances out of homes for public health reasons,” Aymar-Blair said in an interview this week.

New York City’s legislation limits the emissions allowed in newly constructed buildings, with exceptions for hospitals, laundromats and crematoriums. Ithaca’s measure, approved a year ago, goes further and will require new and existing buildings in the city to be electrified by 2030, the same year the city has pledged to become carbon-neutral. Dozens of cities in California have enacted similar laws.

In Beacon, the renovated Tompkins Hose firehouse, which could open in 2024, will be all electric. The city currently draws about 70 percent of the power used in municipal buildings from a solar panel farm near Dennings Point. Additional solar installations are also planned for the city Highway Garage.

Yvette Valdés Smith, one of two Dutchess County legislators who represent Beacon, attended the waterfront rally and said this week that she could introduce a countywide plan if the proposal to electrify passes the City Council.

“Once we see this strong example and see it working in Beacon, I will have data to stand on” to make the pitch at the county level, Valdés Smith said.

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Simms has covered Beacon for The Current since 2015. He studied journalism at Appalachian State University and has reported for newspapers in North Carolina and Maryland. Location: Beacon. Languages: English. Area of expertise: Beacon politics

5 replies on “Beacon Council Members to Propose Gas Ban”

  1. And you wonder why your Central Hudson electric bill is so high. Thank those politicians for all they do to restrict your choices. Closing the Indian Point nuclear plant and stopping a new electric power facility in Newburgh are adding to an electric shortage and higher prices.

    Before mandating how and what you can use in your home, why not build the power grid up first by adding new nuclear power plants and other sources? Stop forcing your visions on the whole community.

  2. I have to heartily agree with the comments from Charlie Symon. The destruction of our energy supply which comes mostly from fossil fuels is not going to do anything about “climate change” but instead will cause massive deaths from the cold and starvation.

    Where do these people think that the electricity comes from to sustain our electric grid which right now is seriously compromised because Indian Point was shut down, taking out 25 percent of the power for downstate New York.

    ISO New England, the region’s power grid operator, warned last week the tight supply of natural gas could result in rolling blackouts this winter if the weather turns unusually cold. Diesel is in short supply and rising in cost. How can this be justified with imaginary energy from windmills and solar panels?

    All Americans rely on fossil fuels to power their businesses, transportation systems and utilities. Taking out these facilities will destroy these our jobs, capital and imperil the U.S. economy.

    None of the people advocating this insanity are scientists or experts in the field of climate change — they are politicians for the most part, who are grubbing for votes and stirring up the populace. There is no reason to be in such a rush for ineffective “renewables” when we have the cleanest oil, gas and nuclear energy available.

  3. Wisdom bids us to not abandon what we have unless, and until, we can obtain something better. I understand that the electric power grid has little, if any, excess capability to substitute for the loss of natural gas power.

    If the time comes when there is enough power generated to make the transition to an all-electric future seamless, then it will be time to reconsider the use of natural gas. It is fine, as an intellectual exercise, to consider what may be to come but as a practical matter we must act only on what we know works in the here and now.

    1. As much as we need to effect changes to preserve our environment from ongoing climate change, we can’t simply throw out one system and impose one that is not yet ready to supply the masses.

      But I do think the time is coming when we will be able to do so, and so the idea that we should put rules into place for future development is a wise, not foolish, one. Old technology will be grandfathered in; no one is going to rip your gas stove out of your home.

  4. I switched to heat pumps from a gas-based furnace. The heat pump is far more efficient, using less energy overall, and my heating bill fell by about 50 percent to 60 percent. Sure, the electricity is still largely generated by burning fossil fuels, but that is improving slowly with more solar and wind. Plus, burning fewer fossil fuels at the local level (and in your home) is safer and may lead to decreased rates of asthma in local communities. [via Instagram]

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