Offering a national model, this New England town just banned natural gas and oil in new home construction

Setting a new standard for other communities in the United States and elsewhere to follow in this era of climate emergency, the suburban town of Brookline, Massachusetts this week passed a new general bylaw that bans almost all use of natural gas and oil in the construction of new homes or in the renovation of existing homes.

According to Boston Globe:

On Wednesday night, by an overwhelming majority, Brookline Town Meeting voted to ban oil and gas pipelines in future construction projects, becoming the first community in Massachusetts to adopt such a measure. And while more than 15 cities in California have passed similar bans, Brookline’s regulation goes further, banning the installation of new oil and gas infrastructure in gut renovations, in addition to new buildings.

Supporters say the regulation alone will reduce carbon emissions from Brookline’s buildings – which account for about two-thirds of the city’s overall emissions – by 15% over the next 30 years. It was adopted by 207 votes to 3 and is expected to enter into force on January 1, 2021.

“When you’re in a hole, you stop digging,” Brookline State Representative Tommy Vitolo said praising the measure. “We need to drastically reduce carbon emissions in our buildings.”

Climate action groups applauded the measure:

Kathleen Scanlon, a member of the Brookline Town Meeting and a major funder of the proposals, said that despite opposition from utilities and many developers in the area – many of whom have raised concerns about the costs of construction and feasibility – building new homes with energy efficiency in mind is the financially smart thing to do and will ultimately ease the transition to a future without fossil fuels.

“Our research indicates it’s cost neutral,” Scanlon said WBUR, “and, over time, the operating costs are lower to go with an electrical building system.”

The World notes that although the measure is far-reaching, some compromises have been incorporated. “Fuel piping will still be permitted for back-up generators, kitchens, laboratories and doctors’ offices, and hot water systems in large buildings,” the newspaper noted. “All other energy needs of new buildings, including heating and most hot water systems, will have to depend on electricity.”

About John A. Provost

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