New York may soon become the first state in the nation to ban natural gas in new construction under a budget deal announced by Gov. Kathy Hochul.
The proposal, revealed on Thursday night, has been a priority for environmental groups, who see it as a critical step in reducing New York’s dependence on fossil fuels and helping it meet its emission reduction goals. But it was opposed by the oil and gas industry and treated skeptically by some consumers.
Environmental groups warned that the details of the plan were still unclear and said they worried it may contain a provision that would allow local governments to effectively veto the measure. But Katy Zielinski, a spokeswoman for the governor’s office, said on Friday that no such measure was included in the deal.
“The new law will not have any loopholes that will undermine the intent of this measure,” said Ms. Zielinski. “There will not be any option for municipalities to opt out.”
It is part of the sprawling $229 billion state budget deal announced by the governor, which capped weeks of heated negotiations that have delayed the budget’s passage by almost a month. State lawmakers are expected to vote on the deal next week.
The New York ban would be a significant expansion of a nationwide movement aimed at addressing climate change in part by reducing the use of gas as well as oil. Previous bans have been enacted at the city level in other left-leaning states, including California, Massachusetts and Washington.
Ms. Hochul said on Thursday the deal was a “conceptual agreement” whose broad strokes needed to be “fine tuned” before a final vote was held. The proposed ban would not apply to existing buildings.
Ms. Zielinski said the measure would also allow exemptions for facilities that may need to use fossil fuels for emergency backup power, including hospitals and laboratories. And she said the governor’s office was still “figuring out” how the measure will be applied to new construction in areas where the electrical grid may not be up to the task.
“We are looking at reliability issues still, meaning if there is a proposal to build a new building after 2025 but there is a lack of electric capacity in that region, how will we handle that?” she said. “We don’t want to build new buildings if the local grid does not have the energy to be able to power them.”
The idea of banning gas hookups in new construction has been derided as government overreach by Republicans around the country and in New York. Its inclusion in the budget deal was criticized by Ms. Hochul’s opponents, including Lee Zeldin, a former member of Congress whom she narrowly defeated last November to secure her first full term.
“The Democrats enthusiastically pummeling New York into the ground are about to pass a statewide ban of gas hookups on new construction,” he said on Twitter. “Kathy Hochul and her cohorts are fast tracking the downward spiral of a once greatest state.”
A similar ban passed by New York City in 2021 will begin to take effect in December, when gas hookups will be banned in all new buildings shorter than seven stories, effectively requiring all-electric heating and cooking. The measure will not apply to taller buildings until 2027.
Natural gas is widely used in the United States. According to the U.S. Energy Department, 61 percent of American households used natural gas for either space heating, water heating or cooking in 2020, the most recent year for which data is available.
That number is higher in the Northeast, where 67 percent of homes use gas, including 52 percent of households in New York State.
In addition to the environmental concerns raised by such widespread use of natural gas, some health experts have also argued that using it in the home, especially when cooking, may pose a health risk to consumers.
When lit, gas stoves emit poisonous gases called nitrogen oxides, similar to a car or boat, that irritate the respiratory system and are thought to trigger asthma. While there are no agreed upon safety standards for indoor exposure to nitrogen oxides, a study published last year found that a cook using a gas stove can rapidly exceed the national standard for safe outdoor exposure.
Discussion about the potential health and environmental risks of gas stoves on the federal level has drawn backlash in recent months from consumers and industry groups. In January, a White House spokesman said President Biden does not support a nationwide ban.
On Friday, environmental advocates said they were holding their applause until the Legislature votes on the final deal.
“New Yorkers are watching carefully to make sure the final budget includes real action and doesn’t defer to the gas lobby,” #GasFreeNY, a statewide coalition of advocacy groups that campaigned for the gas ban, said in a statement. “Taken on its face, this will be an enormous victory, but the devil is in the details.”