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Berkeley Bans Natural Gas Buildings

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The city of Berkeley made a bold move at Tuesday’s City Council meeting by banning natural gas pipes in future building developments. The legislation makes the East Bay city the first in the state to pass such a strong anti-natural gas policy.

There will of course be exceptions to the new rule, which becomes effective Jan. 1, 2020. According to Berkeleyside, new building developments will be pseudo exempted only if developers can prove that “it is not physically feasible to construct the building” without use of natural gas. However, the exempted buildings must be constructed in a way that allows for future conversion to all-electric operation.

Additional exemptions include those for accessory dwelling units and projects deemed by the Zoning Adjustments Board or planning staff to be in the public’s best interest.

The push to rid the city of natural gas use is meant to shore up efforts to reach the 2020 Climate Action Plan goal, which is currently 18 percent behind the mark. It is reported that natural gas accounts for 73 percent of emissions coming out of the building sector and 27 percent of the overall greenhouse gas emission total.

Although Berkeley just boarded the electric train legislatively, the conversion away from natural gas has been quietly gaining traction prior to the council’s vote. Ryan Bell, sustainability associate director for University of California’s Office of the President, explained in the chamber that the university has already adopted a similar policy that formally went to effect as of July. The campus is currently constructing all-electric buildings “in all climate zones,” according to Bell.

The legislation had seemingly unanimous support from community members and representatives of the UCOP, PG&E and the Sierra Club, among others. During the public comment period, residents who had converted from natural gas to electric burners in their own homes expressed an ease in the shift and happiness with the change.

Supporters hope other cities will follow suit and that the state and national level will eventually turn to similar measures. As California Energy Commission Chairman David Hochschild said during the meeting:

“That’s how change happens.”

Mayor Jesse Arreguin joined those applauding the shift and Berkeley’s being on the forefront of pragmatic change.

Arreguin said:

“Ideas start here and movements are born here.”

“Phasing out natural gas is a necessary action, not some radical pie in the sky idea.”

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Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Journalist, editor, student, single mom to a pack of wolves, foodie, music lover, resident smart ass, and champion of vulgarity and human kindness.