Encinitas considers ban on natural gas in new homes, businesses to fight climate change

Environmental Commission weighing proposal
Posted at 6:52 PM, Nov 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-20 22:29:34-05

ENCINITAS (KGTV) -- The Encinitas Environmental Commission is considering a proposal to ban natural gas hookups in all new construction projects as a way to combat climate change.

The plan, which will be heard by the commission again next month, was authored by environmental commissioner Jim Wang. Wang spearheaded the city’s bans on plastic bags and polystyrene containers, commonly known as styrofoam.

“The problem is that methane is a much more potent global warming gas than CO2, it’s approximately 85 times as potent,” he said. “Even a small amount of natural gas causes a big problem with global warming.”

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Wang’s proposal would impact both residential and commercial construction, but would not affect existing buildings.

In July, Berkley passed a ban on natural gas infrastructure in new construction that will take effect next year. Twenty other California cities are considering similar bans, Wang said.

“I’ve never seen a restaurant run on electric stove-tops. It would be quite the challenge,” said Daniel England, the corporate chef behind Union Kitchen and Tap in Encinitas and other restaurants.

England said he would not consider renting a building for a restaurant if it lacked natural gas.

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“As a chef, it’s something we’ve been trained on from day one from culinary school. I couldn’t imagine cooking without natural gas. I’ve tried to cook on an electric stove at home and you don’t get the same consistency,” he said.

Michael McSweeney of the Building Industry Association of San Diego County said the cost of electricity is typically about three times more than natural gas, so the cost of home ownership in Encinitas would rise.

“It seems that they want to reduce their carbon footprint, which is great, but the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Encinitas is automobile transportation,” he said. “Cutting down on car transportation, they’d get more bang for their buck.”

Transportation accounts for 54 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions in Encinitas. Electricity accounts for 23 percent. Natural gas ranks third on the list, at 13 percent, according to the city’s 2018 Climate Action Plan.

“Yes, it may be a little more expensive but it’s for the greater good,” Wang said.

In addition to cutting greenhouse gas emissions, restrictions on natural gas could provide safety and health benefits, Wang argued, citing the 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion that killed 8 people.

Homes that cook with natural gas at least once per week have air quality that would be illegal outdoors, he said, with levels of nitrogen dioxide and formaldehyde that exceed outdoor federal air quality standards.

The Environmental Commission will consider the proposal at its Dec. 12 meeting at 5:30 pm. If the commission approves it, the plan will move to the city council for consideration.