Petaluma City Council moves to ban natural gas in new construction
The Petaluma City Council has agreed to prohibit natural gas in nearly all future construction, unanimously approving the ban this week in a bid to limit greenhouse gas emissions and become a carbon neutral city by the end of this decade.
The move propels Petaluma onto a growing list of California cities that have passed similar measures, and when the local ban goes into effect, likely in late June, Petaluma will join Santa Rosa as the only two municipalities with natural gas bans.
The proposal collected full-throated support from the city’s Climate Action Commission and Planning Commission in recent weeks, and city council members expressed similar enthusiasm ahead of Monday’s vote.
“This is an historic night,” said council member D’Lynda Fischer. “This is my third time hearing this presentation and I’m happy to see how it’s evolved – proud to be a Petaluman.”
Petaluma’s ban, which will not apply to additions or alterations to existing structures, requires a second vote May 17, and would take effect 30 days after that.
The local effort to establish an all-electric building code has been in the works since early last year, but hit delays as neighboring Sonoma County cities with similar bans were sued and as the coronavirus pandemic eroded staff time.
Along with Windsor, which walked back its ban under legal threat, Santa Rosa was also slapped with a lawsuit following its January 2020 decision to ban natural gas in new construction. Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Patrick Broderick earlier this year ruled against the developer who challenged Santa Rosa’s ordinance.
City Attorney Eric Danly says he’s confident Petaluma’s ban won’t face the same legal threat, describing it as a different type of amendment that alters the building code instead of the energy code.
The move toward all-electric requirements is finding traction throughout the Bay Area and across the state, with dozens of cities enacting the requirements in recent years in an effort to combat a key source of greenhouse gases contributing to climate change.
Natural gas combustion, distribution, and usage in buildings accounted for 17% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the Bay Area, according to 2015 data from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. In Petaluma, the Sonoma County Regional Climate Protection Authority estimated 26% of the city’s 2018 greenhouse gas emissions could be attributed to building energy usage.
Nearly all of those who spoke during Monday’s city council meeting supported the city’s move away from natural gas infrastructure in new construction.
“You guys are leading the effort here, and don’t let fear of change or lawsuits that have happened in Windsor and Santa Rosa deter you from what you’re doing,” said Ted Tiffany, a local sustainability expert.
Contact Kathryn Palmer at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter @KathrynPlmr.