Story at a glance
Natural gas use contributes to air pollution and can threaten gains made in the fight against climate change.
This week, California implemented a plan aimed at phasing out the use of natural gas heating appliances throughout the state by 2030.
Environmentalists hope the step will lead to other states implementing similar bans.
A new proposal passed by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) cements the state as the first to ban natural gas heaters and furnaces.
The decision, which was passed unanimously, aims to phase out sales of the space heater and water heater appliances by 2030.
The commitment is part of a broader range of environmental efforts passed by the board this week to meet the federal 70 parts per billion, 8-hour ozone standard over the next 15 years.
“While this strategy will clean the air for all Californians, it will also lead to reduced emissions in the many low-income and disadvantaged communities that experience greater levels of persistent air pollution,” said CARB Chair Liane Randolph in a statement.
Residential and commercial buildings in California account for approximately five percent of the state’s total nitrogen oxide emissions due to natural gas combustion, according to the originally proposed plan, released in August 2022.
In addition, space and water heating make up nearly 90 percent of all building-related natural gas demand.
When burned, natural gas does emit less carbon dioxide than oil or coal. However, natural gas leaks pose health risks to homeowners, as they contain varying levels of volatile chemicals linked with cancer.
“We’re really hopeful that this is the beginning of a domino effect and other states will follow California’s lead,” Leah Louis-Prescott, a senior associate at RMI, a non-profit focused on the transition to clean energy, told Bloomberg about the decision.
The new regulations will rely on adoption of heat pump technologies, which are being sold to electrify new and existing homes.
Although the proposal does not include gas stoves, several cities and towns in the state currently ban or discourage use of gas stoves in new buildings.
California’s Public Utilities Commission also eliminated subsidies for new natural gas hookups last week, marking the first state to do so. The move will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lower utility bills for consumers.
Randolph lauded the state’s steps towards achieving the ozone standard, but stressed more federal action is needed to reach the goal.
“California needs more federal action to clean up harmful diesel pollution from primarily federally controlled sources, from locomotives and ocean-going vessels to aircraft, which are all concentrated in communities that continue to bear the brunt of poor air quality,” Randolph said.
“We simply cannot provide clean air to Californians without the federal government doing its part.”