Con Ed, along with supporters like the Urban Green Council, a nonprofit group that promotes sustainable construction, argued during council hearings that the city’s network could handle the increase, in part because its biggest constraints come in summer, from air conditioning. The switch to electric heating actually has the potential to reduce demand in the summer, the group’s analysts have argued, as many manufacturers are expected to switch to heat pumps, which are already common in Europe, and which heat and cool. spaces and consume less energy. than air conditioners.
“In my opinion, this new law would mark the beginning of the end of the fossil fuel industry in America’s largest city and world capital,” said Pete Sikora, climate director of New York Communities for Change, which is part of a coalition of community and environmental groups whose year-long campaign of street protests and rallies has helped rally council members.
“New York City is responsible for 5% of the gas burned in buildings nationwide, which is huge,” Sikora said. “As the world fails to grapple with the crisis in earnest, NYC will take a big step forward. “
Banning gas connections is the latest challenge for an industry already besieged by campaigns against hydraulic fracturing, pipelines and gas-fired power plants; permits for two of these factories were recently denied by state regulators. The fuel long known as natural gas, which climate advocates prefer to call methane or frack gas, is less harmful to respiratory health than oil and emits less carbon, but its production releases methane, an even more potent greenhouse gas.
In fact, trends have made the gas industry nervous enough to pressure states to ban localities from passing gas bans. So far, 20 state legislatures, all controlled by Republicans, have passed laws preventing the bans.
But in New York City, where city and state leaders have stressed that the law will help the state meet its ambitious climate goals, its main skeptics, National Grid and the New York Real Estate Board, have been relatively discreet in their criticism.
James Whelan, the chairman of the real estate group, who lobbied successfully for tall buildings to be exempted initially, stressed in a statement that he supports reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but “in a way that ensures New Yorkers have reliable, affordable carbon and free electricity to heat, cool and power their homes and businesses.