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Cities get creative after legal setbacks in quest to make homes healthier: ‘They just need to work through new avenues’

“Momentum was slowed for a bit, but it’s picking back up.”

"Momentum was slowed for a bit, but it’s picking back up."

Photo Credit: iStock

A number of United States cities and states are finding creative ways to ditch natural- gas-powered appliances in buildings — in favor of electric alternatives — despite legal challenges.

In April 2023, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a Berkeley, California, law that banned new buildings from connecting to natural gas lines. The ruling affected 11 Western states and territories and forced states and cities with similar policies to put them on halt.

In the face of this setback, some cities are finding creative alternatives to banning gas, including setting carbon pollution targets, updating building codes, and restricting air pollution, Canary Media reported.

For instance, Seattle recently passed a law that requires size-qualified commercial buildings to reach net-zero pollution by 2045. Multifamily buildings must meet the same standards by 2050

Though not banning the use of dirty energy outright, it would largely have the same effect — in order to meet standards, most buildings would need to swap out natural gas-powered appliances in favor of electric options.

Similarly, Ashland, Oregon, is considering setting maximum thresholds for indoor air pollutants like carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and methane — this would effectively eliminate the burning of planet-warming gases inside buildings.

Across the country and globe, governments are finding other ways to cut planet-heating pollution. For instance, New Jersey recently announced a rule that will require all new car sales to be electric by 2035 — the EU recently went public with a similar policy with the same target year.

Meanwhile, the Berkeley city attorney is requesting a rehearing of its case by the 9th Circuit judges.

“Elected officials’ and regulators’ resolve to address this issue has not gone away,” Dylan Plummer, a senior field organizing strategist with the Sierra Club, told Canary Media. “They just need to work through new avenues that are legally defensible.”

Jan Hasselman, a senior attorney at Earthjustice, shared similar sentiments.

“Momentum was slowed for a bit, but it’s picking back up as cities and local governments lead into the future, away from burning gas in homes,” she said, per Canary Media.  “That is the future. It’s just a matter of how fast it’s going to happen.”

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