Mayor Jesse Arreguín officially signs natural gas ban into Berkeley law

Kristen Tamsil/Staff

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Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín signed an ordinance banning the use of natural gas in new construction into law on Tuesday, accompanied by City Council members and representatives from environmental organizations in support of the bill, Ordinance No. 7,672-N.S.

The primary author of the bill, Councilmember Kate Harrison, said at the signing that this ordinance is a “new step” to combating climate change, especially in light of the increasing information demonstrating its consequences. According to a press release published by the mayor’s office Tuesday, the transportation and burning of natural gas accounts for 27 percent of Berkeley’s greenhouse gas emissions. Electrifying new buildings can help to lower Berkeley’s greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent, Harrison said at the meeting.

Nick Young, a senior project manager at the Association for Energy Affordability, said at the signing that he thought the ordinance would lead to “less smog and a more stable climate” in Berkeley.

“The health benefits (and) the environmental benefits of electrification are enormous,” said Councilmember Sophie Hahn, a co-sponsor of the bill, at the signing.

Along with the environmental reasons, speakers said this ordinance could help to make more housing available in Berkeley. Sasan Saadat, a research and policy analyst at the nonprofit Earthjustice, said during the meeting that avoiding natural gas would make the construction of new housing more efficient.

At the signing, Arreguín and other speakers said they hope this bill will encourage other cities to put similar laws in place. Since the council approved the ordinance July 16, more than 50 jurisdictions have shown interest in the bill, according to Arreguín.

“(This law can) send a method and a model to other cities,” Arreguín said at the signing.

Members of environmental organizations and Berkeley residents at the signing expressed gratitude toward the City Council for approving the ordinance. Harrison said the community’s response to the bill has been “very positive” and that there had not been any comments against the bill at previous City Council meetings.

According to Harrison, though the bill has been signed, there is still additional action that must be taken to further reduce the use of natural gas in Berkeley. Harrison said she thinks that one of the next steps is to “figure out how to incentivize people” in already existing housing to move away from natural gas use, as the bill only applies to new construction.

The law will go into effect Jan. 1, 2020, and will apply to nearly all new construction, unless the use of all-electric infrastructure is deemed “not physically feasible,” according to the ordinance.

“We are moving into a future that is cleaner, better for the environment and safer,” Harrison said.

Contact Ella Langenthal at [email protected].