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Natural gas banned in Contra Costa new construction

New homes and buildings in unincorporated Contra Costa County will be powered by electricity instead of natural gas, the county Board of Supervisors decided Tuesday.

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The vote was 4-1, with District 2 Supervisor Candace Andersen saying many of her constituents believe the ordinance is an overreach. She also said she has her own concerns:

I’m concerned about the state of California’s ability to provide sufficient clean electricity that really could power the entire state, as there seems to be this shift. … And we saw such a loss of hydroelectric power in the drought, in the wake of wildfires, so I really think it’s a little premature to be jumping this far.”

The ordinance will prohibit the installation of natural gas piping in all new residential buildings and hotels, offices, and retail buildings in unincorporated parts of the county.

Board members have pointed out there are new state rules mandating solar power for most new development. The county ordinance will affect unincorporated areas where the California Energy Commission has accepted studies demonstrating the cost effectiveness of the new requirements.

The 2019 California Energy Code allows local jurisdictions to establish stricter building codes if that local authority finds it necessary because of local climate, geological, topographical, or environmental conditions.

In September 2020, Contra Costa adopted a climate emergency resolution, saying the county should require electricity over gas in new construction. A county staff report in August said:

The built environment is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the county and in California.”

The ordinance won’t apply to future developments already approved before the new law is enacted. The ordinance also won’t prohibit emergency backup power sources, like generators, that run on fossil fuel sources.

The new law would have to be approved by the California Energy Commission before being enacted. Staff recommended the county put the new ordinance in effect July 1.

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