Cities' Goal To Lower Climate Emissions Could Be Blocked By Gas Utilities

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In the struggle to slow down climate change. Bitter fight has erupted over natural gas about half of all. Americans use that fossil fuel to heat their homes but cities with ambitious climate. Goals are adopting rules. That forced some developers build without it to go all electric instead. Npr's dan charles has the second part of an npr investigation into how the gas industry is fighting back. Flagstaff arizona is a town with a lot of environmentalists. The city's director of sustainability nicole. Upolu says last year the city council passed a climate emergency declaration which sets the flagstaff community on a path toward reaching carbon neutrality by the year. Twenty thirty and has been working on a for one of the city's biggest sources of heat trapping gases. The fuel used to heat buildings including your own home. I have a gas furnace and a gas stove for years. The industry sold gas as a relatively clean fuel but now energy experts like michael gartner at the consulting group are am. I say it's time has passed because burning gas releases carbon dioxide. And if you look at what's required to avoid the worst effects of climate change it becomes very clear very quickly that at twenty fifty. We can't have any of that. Gas at all environmentalists like ali hundred mahia cunningham at the natural resources defense council are pushing an alternative electrification because electric heating can be totally clean. That electricity comes from solar and wind. And hydro we have the technology. It's really one of the more cost effective least regrets strategies. We have available in california. Dozens of communities are now forcing builders to go all electric their not allowing gas hookups from most new buildings and about a year ago. Nicole antonoff opelousas. Flagstaff was thinking of doing the same thing that was one of our strategies. Could we say no new. No natural gas in new construction at exactly the same time the the gas industry was preparing a counterattack at a meeting of the american guests. Association's executive committee in december two thousand nineteen the group ceo. karen harbored. Call these moves by cities a challenge for the industry and environmental group. The climate investigation center obtained a document describing this meeting and it describes a new industry initiative to fight those municipal ordinances half a dozen gas companies were involved among them. Southwest gas the biggest gas provider in arizona. In of two thousand and twenty a senior member of the arizona. Legislature who'd received political contributions from southwest gas introduced a bill that made it illegal for cities to limit gas hookups. Republicans lined up to support it. Here's representative mark. Finchem from tucson. We've been able to observe what happens in cities like berkeley california. The take these radical steps to tell people. This is what you will use whether you like it or not. The bill sailed through the legislature and was signed within a month after that. The gas industry expanded their campaign. Here's one of the top lobbyists for the american gas association. George low on a conference call with industry colleagues in november. We've run pro gas choice legislation. Arizona tennessee louisiana those states. Now you can't deny someone natural gas service at their home. We're looking about fifteen or twenty different states to run this that in this year. Bills that block cities from restricting or discouraging. The use of natural gas have since been introduced in a dozen state legislatures including florida georgia. Utah kansas jasmine. Moore's the sustainability director for lawrence kansas which has set a goal of one hundred percent renewable energy. It really seems like it's intended to slow down our progress more and officials in other cities. Say it's not exactly clear what the proposed laws will allow cities to do so the getting creative recruiting allies for electrification city. That includes a construction company. This is our like six all electric apartment building that we've done tyler hala with wiedeman corporation showing off a six story structure framed but not yet finished its intended for affordable housing so it had to be built affordably to holland says his company. Did its first all electric building because an environmentally-minded developer force them to they thought it would cost a lot extra turns out cheaper. You eliminate do and gas taps you eliminate running all those gas lines through your building instead of a gas furnace in each unit releasing exhaust into the air. There's an electric heat pump on the wall super efficient heating and cooling. When electricity comes from renewables. It'll be great for the climate. In the meantime it makes the city's air cleaner. We just want everybody to do it. I mean it's it's everybody's air that we're all breathing makes my mountain bike ride that much easier. His companies now sharing its blueprints and budgets with other builders if the city government can't drive electrification. Maybe those numbers will do the job. Dan charles npr news.

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