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Denver City Council Punts on Residential Natural Gas Ban as Arctic Cold Front Moves In

Denver City Council Punts on Residential Natural Gas Ban as Arctic Cold Front Moves In

Gas bans are all the rage these days among environmentalists and progressive lawmakers.

The town of Crested Butte got the ball rolling this August by becoming the first jurisdiction in Colorado to ban the use of gas in all new construction. The city of Louisville, not content with the pain its current cost-raising green energy codes have caused Marshall fire victims, is reportedly vying to become the second city to take the plunge—though it faces some competition in that push.

Colorado’s largest city had the opportunity this week to beat Louisville to the punch, but balked at the prospect at the last minute.

According to the Colorado Sun:

Denver City Council declined for now to ban natural gas hookups in newly built homes as a way to combat climate change, tabling the question as part of a larger revision to building codes that were praised by many as progressive and environment-friendly.

 

A coalition of climate and environmental justice advocates had asked a key city council committee to amend the new building code to include a ban on fossil fuel hookups, saying full electrification of new homes will send another signal that Denver is a national climate change leader.

 

But the council’s land use and transportation committee said it needed more study of such a sweeping change, and sent the new building codes on to a full council vote in January without the gas prohibition.

The caution displayed by the city council is welcome, if unexpected. Perhaps the optics of banning the most common source of home heating in the state just as Coloradans are set to experience some of the coldest temperatures on record proved to be too perilous.

At the same time, there’s no reason to think that the effort to ban gas in Denver is going away anytime soon. In fact, the city council appears set to try again as soon as spring of next year.

“There’s always benefits and there’s always burdens to every proposal,” committee chair Councilwoman Amanda Sandoval said. “What are those benefits and what are the burdens that we are putting on people? I don’t know those and I don’t think any of us do at this time.”

 

Sandoval encouraged Councilman Jolon Clark, who had considered bringing the natural gas ban amendment, to continue working with city officials to study it. Clark said the building codes can always be amended after passage, and he would target a decision on a natural gas ban in new home construction by late spring.

It’s also worth noting that the codes advanced by the council do in fact ban gas, just not for residential homes.

The regulations, while for now leaving out the ban on natural gas in homes, do include all-electric requirements for space and water heating in new commercial buildings.

So while the city councilors rightfully expressed trepidation at the possible costs and consequences of restricting gas for homeowners, they apparently had no such compunction regarding commercial building operators.

Electric heating alternatives to natural gas still struggle with effectiveness and efficiency in cold climates and are often quite costly to install. Not to mention that the state’s grid is already facing looming reliability risks without added demands of electrified space heating.

Progressive city councilmembers may be eager to show off their climate bona fides, but they would be wise to consider the consequences of doing so.