Bay Area/ San Francisco/ Health & Lifestyle
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Published on May 28, 2024
Bay Area Cities Pause Natural Gas Bans in New Buildings, San Francisco Holds Course Amid Legal ScrutinySource: Ivan Radic, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Amid the recent upheaval in Bay Area municipal regulations, several cities have pumped the brakes on enforcing bans on natural gas in new buildings, a decision blowing hot and cold responses from local stakeholders. The cooling of climate ambitions comes when a recent federal ruling has effectively turned up the heat on the widespread shift to all-electric buildings, a key strategy in California's climate action playbook.

According to Mercury News, Sunnyvale, Cupertino, and other Bay Area locales, like San Mateo County and San Luis Obispo, have temporarily suspended their natural gas bans for new constructions. The shift in policy aims to swiftly avoid potential legal quagmires following the Ninth Court's ruling, which saw Berkeley's landmark ban on natural gas in new buildings get struck down in April 2023. "We do not anticipate that this short pause will negatively affect our ability to meet our climate action targets," Sunnyvale city spokesperson Jennifer Garnett told Mercury News.

On the other hand, San Francisco has chosen to hold firm on its version of the gas ban in new buildings. Local lawmakers believe the city's policy, focusing on building safety and including some exceptions, may safeguard it from legal challenges despite Berkeley's recent capitulation. "No one has come to us asking us to change or repeal our law," Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who proposed the city's 2020 policy, told KQED. "We will continue to enforce it, continue to implement it, consistent with this court decision in the Berkeley case. We think we can do that."

Environmental activists warn that suspending gas bans could hurt public health and the state's ambitious goal of hitting 100% zero-carbon energy by 2045. Dashiell Leeds, conservation coordinator at the Sierra Club Loma Prieta Chapter, told Mercury News, "Every new gas pipeline installed is a public health liability and step backward on climate change." Meanwhile, business owners such as Claudio Bono, managing director for the Cupertino Hotel, expressed support for all-electric buildings and concern over the practical aspects of such a large-scale transition.

Silicon Valley Clean Energy remains committed to promoting eco-friendly initiatives despite the legal challenges. In an act to still make progress, they are focusing on education and awareness efforts to keep the community engaged. "There’s a climate benefit, of no longer polluting as you’re putting in new buildings that are going to last 50 to 100 years, but there is also a cost aspect — it costs more to build with gas," Pamela Leonard, deputy director of marketing and communications for Silicon Valley Clean Energy, told Mercury News