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One City Canned Natural Gas for New Home and Business Builds—and It Won’t Be the Last

The fight to kick natural gas out of homes and businesses is intensifying.

In a vote late Tuesday, Berkeley—the city near San Francisco long known for its progressive politics—banned the use of the heating fuel in most new buildings. Environmentalists are hailing it as the first city to enact such a prohibition, opening up a new front in the battle against global warming.

The move comes as lawmakers and environmental groups from the U.K. to the Netherlands to New York are trying to kick natural gas—once seen as a “bridge fuel” to a low-carbon future—out of the home heating and cooking business. In California alone, more than 50 cities are considering banning the fuel’s use in all new construction, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The vote in Berkeley, which has also prohibited plastic straws and requires restaurants to use compostable food packaging, was unanimous. The city “has established itself as a leader by banning gas and creating a roadmap for other counties and cities across the country to follow,” Sierra Club campaign representative Matt Gough said in a statement.

Berkeley’s gas ban is scheduled to take effect next year. And while restaurants—which typically use gas stoves—are apparently no exception, the measure does allow for exemptions that city officials deem to be in the “public interest.”

The ban won the support of the utility that delivers both electricity and gas to Berkeley: PG&E’s Pacific Gas and Electric Co. sent a representative to Tuesday’s council meeting, saying the company backed the electrification measure. 

Gas use is responsible for 27% of Berkeley’s greenhouse-gas emissions, according to the city. While gas-fired power plants supply about a third of California’s electricity, the state has set a goal of going carbon-free by 2045.

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