06/09/2020 - State & Regional Climate Strategies

The Legal Dynamics of Local Limits on Natural Gas Use in Buildings

by Caitlin McCoy

Cities and states implementing climate plans have started to look for more opportunities in the building sector, going beyond energy efficiency toward decarbonization. Buildings not only consume a lot of electricity, but also generate emissions by burning natural gas for space and water heating and cooking.

Local governments in California have adopted policies that prohibit or restrict the use of natural gas in new and/or remodeled buildings. This policy movement has spread to the East Coast as Brookline, Massachusetts adopted a similar local law in late 2019. Differences between California and Massachusetts law have brought state and local legal dynamics into sharp focus and raise questions for local governments in other states considering options for action.

In this new white paper, I describe the growing movement to limit natural gas use and electrify buildings, and I break down the legal mechanics of local laws and the role of state laws in facilitating or constraining local policies. I also discuss other local actions like restrictions for city-owned buildings as well as statewide evaluations of how to transition away from natural gas. I include almost all recent activity even though it’s a quickly evolving area of law and policy.

Read the full paper here.