New York lawmakers have just passed the nation's first statewide ban on fossil-fuel use in new construction.
Late Tuesday evening, the state Senate and Assembly approved a much-delayed budget deal that sets an all-electric standard for most new buildings; Governor Kathy Hochul (D) is expected to sign the law imminently. Starting in 2026, new buildings under seven stories won’t be allowed to include stoves, furnaces or water heaters that burn gas and other fossil fuels. Larger buildings are required to comply starting in 2029.
“The adoption of the All-Electric Building Act is a historic step forward that will address greenhouse gases and other harmful emissions from new buildings,” Richard Schrader, the New York legislative and policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement.
Buildings account for nearly a third of New York state’s greenhouse gas emissions. Indoor air pollution from gas stoves in particular is likely to blame for 19 percent of childhood asthma cases in the state, more than the national average of 13 percent, according to recent research.
The regulation doesn’t apply to existing buildings or affect property owners looking to retrofit equipment, and it lays out a slew of exemptions for commercial and industrial facilities. Notably, policymakers didn’t include a provision pushed by the gas industry that would’ve allowed local governments to effectively block the law in their own backyards.
The landmark policy arrives as building-electrification efforts catch on in cities and states across the country — and as legal challenges begin to roll back some of advocates’ earlier progress.
Last month, a federal appeals court tossed out Berkeley, California’s pioneering 2019 legislation to ban fossil-gas hookups in new buildings, following a lawsuit that was bankrolled in part by SoCalGas, the nation’s largest gas utility. While the April ruling might impact some municipalities with similar ordinances, experts say most other local policies likely won’t be affected.
In New York’s case, a state law is far harder to scuttle than a local building ordinance. And the fact that the Democrat-led state Senate and Assembly approved the zero-emissions building rules shows the policy has broad political support.
“It’s super relevant that politicians are coming around to the idea,” Amy Turner, a senior fellow at Columbia University’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, told Canary Media. “This is not something that other state legislatures have been able to accomplish.”
California and Washington state have previously adopted measures to limit gas use in new buildings, though both have done so by adjusting state building codes. Nationwide, more than 100 state and local governments have adopted some form of zero-emissions building ordinance, according to the Building Decarbonization Coalition.
While environmental groups applauded the passing of New York’s all-electric building law, they stopped short of praising Gov. Hochul, who pushed back the implementation date from 2024 to 2026 in response to pressure from the state’s gas utilities and propane and heating oil industries. Green groups claim the delay will make it harder for New York to meet its statewide targets of reducing emissions by 40 percent by 2030 and by no less than 85 percent by 2050 (both from 1990 levels).
“In the end, we got a half measure,” Rachel Rivera, a member of New York Communities for Change and a resident of Brownsville, Brooklyn, said in a statement. “New York is far behind what’s needed for climate justice.”
The law includes a narrow list of exemptions for new construction, including hospitals and laboratories that use gas- or diesel-powered generators for emergency backup. Manufactured homes are also largely exempted, along with commercial establishments including restaurants, car washes and crematoriums, plus industrial operations such as wastewater treatment facilities.
Turner said New York’s first-of-a-kind law may have a “modest ripple effect” across the country.
“Over the next couple of years, seeing whether this is technologically feasible in a state that is as big and cold and politically diverse as New York state could lead some other states to enact their own requirements,” she said. Still, that’s not likely to happen for the 20 states where Republican-controlled legislatures have adopted “preemption laws” prohibiting cities from banning fossil gas.
Although New York’s rules are novel because they’re coming from the state legislature, Turner added, they reflect years of efforts by local governments and advocates to push buildings away from fossil-fuel combustion and toward electrification.
“It’s really something that sort of trickled up from the local level to the state level,” she said.