By Bradford White Corporation
As states wrap up or continue their 2023 legislative sessions, nearly all of them have weighed in on the topic of natural gas. Hawaii and Rhode Island have introduced legislation this year hoping to enact all-electric policies statewide on the heels of dozens of communities throughout California who have previously enacted these ordinances, which effectively ban the use of natural gas in new construction or majorly renovated buildings. Moreover, other major cities outside of California have followed suit, most notably New York City, Boston and several surrounding suburbs, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Denver, and Seattle. Many of these policies are not yet in effect but are scheduled to be within the coming months or years.
One might look at this and conclude that all-electric dominoes are falling across the country, but that’s not quite the case. In other areas of the country, many state legislatures, 23 in fact, have enacted laws that would essentially prohibit municipal governments in their states from enacting all-electric ordinances. States like Idaho, North Dakota, and South Dakota have passed such legislation this year, and similar proposals are under active consideration in Maine, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, and Wisconsin.
While policymakers on both sides of this discussion jockey for position, there are inevitably going to be states considering both proposals, and in some places this debate is being taken to the next level. Perhaps nowhere is this truer than in Washington State where the building code council approved residential and commercial building codes that highly restrict the use of natural gas in any new buildings granted permits after July 1, 2023. Despite this policy being enacted, opponents of these amended codes have filed suit against the state questioning the impartiality of the council’s consideration during the rulemaking process, as well as their adherence to the state’s Administrative Procedure Act. It remains to be seen what the ultimate outcome of these actions will be in Washington.
Similarly, the City of Eugene, Oregon became the first local government in that state earlier this year to enact an all-electric ordinance. However, opponents of this policy are challenging the city council’s actions through the city’s own rules. By gathering petition signatures, they have succeeded in putting the ordinance before city voters on the November 2023 ballot where its fate will be decided. While debates elsewhere are not as hotly contested as they have proven to be in the Pacific Northwest, there is disagreement in other states as to what their future energy mix should look like and how big a part natural gas will play into it. These include Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. See a full map below.
As state and local policymakers continue to work towards deciding these matters, the big question for our industry is, “What should we prepare for?” For now, that’s going to depend largely on where you live, and who you elect to represent you. But to provide one area of apparent consensus, it does seem there is one thing most states can agree on, and that is utilizing hydrogen gas as part of their energy solutions.
Since January 2023, dozens of pieces of legislation have been introduced in 17 different states (and Congress) that looks to either further study, research, or utilize hydrogen gas within existing gas infrastructure. This is true of some of the country’s bluest states like California, Hawaii, and Massachusetts, as well as some of the country’s reddest states like Texas, Utah, and West Virginia.
So as local, state, and federal governments continue to piece together their respective energy policy puzzles, it is important for our industry to remain informed, nimble, as well as open to new methods and opportunities. To that end, the Government and Regulatory Affairs team at Bradford White and PHCC wants to do everything that we can to keep you informed of what is happening with building energy policy across the country, and doing this often requires your help. If you know of any proposed local ordinances or state laws in your area pertaining to building energy, please let us know about them by contacting us at BWCGovReg@bradfordwhite.com.