NYC to phase out fossil fuel combustion for construction projects with local law

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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into local law a mandate phasing out the combustion of fossil fuels in new buildings and accelerating the construction of all-electric buildings. The law, the first of its kind for a large cold-weather city, represents a major shift in how buildings use energy to provide heating and cooling, by prioritizing air quality, public health, and greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

“New York City is proof that it’s possible to end the era of fossil fuels, invest in a sustainable future, protect public health, and create good paying jobs in the process,” De Blasio said on Dec. 22. “If the largest city in America can take this critical step to ban gas use, any city can do the same! Thank you to the City Council for getting this done. This is how to fight back against climate change on the local level and guarantee a green city for generations to come.”

“This is a historic step towards reaching our carbon neutrality goals and reducing our reliance on fossil fuels,” said Ben Furnas, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Climate and Sustainability. “In addition to tackling the climate crisis, all-electric buildings help protect the health of vulnerable New Yorkers, like our children and the elderly, by improving the quality of our air indoors.”

The new law sets restrictions on fossil fuel usage in newly constructed residential and commercial buildings by phasing in strict emissions limits beginning in 2023, bringing immediate climate and health benefits to New Yorkers at launch. The benefits exponentially increase as more buildings are covered by the law and as the grid gets cleaner in line with the city’s existing commitment to 100% clean electricity.

Buildings of all sizes must be constructed fully electric by 2027. The new law provides limited exemptions for certain uses, such as commercial kitchens and emergency or standby power. It also requires the Mayor’s Office of Climate and Sustainability to conduct studies on heat pump technology and electrical grid readiness.

New York City has already been a global leader in building emissions reductions, notably through the passage and implementation of the Climate Mobilization Act and its centerpiece, Local Law 97, which places caps on greenhouse gas emissions from existing large buildings. By signing Intro. 2317 into law, New York City is once again leading the charge toward building decarbonization.

Research by the Rocky Mountain Institute finds that the law will prevent 2.1 million tons of carbon emissions by 2040 — equivalent to taking 450,000 cars off the road for a year. The new law will help accelerate a green transition and help achieve the city’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2050, consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius to prevent the most devastating impacts of the climate crisis. The law also prioritizes the health of New Yorkers by restricting the installation of fossil fuel appliances, which are a primary source of indoor air pollution, like carbon monoxide and formaldehyde, that harm lung and heart health.

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