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Relax, New Yorkers. Nobody’s Coming for Your Gas Stove.

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Electrification is much harder than the culture wars would have you believe.

On January 9, in an interview with Bloomberg, an agency commissioner at the US Consumer Product Safety Commission floated the idea of regulations, or a potential ban, on new gas stoves—citing the “hidden hazard” of natural gas pollutants. As Mother Jones reported in 2021, this is not a new finding. Gas stoves, and the pollutants they emit (formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen oxides for example), have been linked to increased risk of heart attack, asthma, and other respiratory issues for years—findings that gas companies have challenged with heavily-funded lobbying efforts and influencer campaigns. Recently, Republicans have also come to the industry’s defense and, in doing so, fueled yet another culture war.

But as the gas stove battle focuses on the twists and turns of influencers, lobbyists, and public health advocates, it is missing something fundamental: how complicated the transition from gas to electric stoves and heating turns out to be—even in the view of those who understand the environmental urgency of this move. Over the last few years, and especially recently, New York State has offered a preview of this struggle.

While officials in New York have dealt with some disagreement over gas stoves—mostly led by Speaker of the Assembly Carl Heastie—the state generally has moved forward with plans to phase them out. A proposed law, the “All-Electric Buildings Act,” would mandate electric energy in all new construction by the end of the decade. The legislation specifically requires new infrastructure to prohibit gas hookups in smaller buildings by 2024 and larger buildings by 2027. (Governor Hochul supported the initiative in her 2023 State of the State and executive budget, but pushed both deadlines back.)

Now that the governor and the State Senate have shown interest in the proposal, officials look to the Assembly—which previously blocked the bill—to include the All-Electric Buildings Act in its “one-house” budget due next month. If the act is not included in the April 1 final budget–negotiated on by the legislature and the governor—it has one last chance in the legislative session that wraps June 1.

Buildings are the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in both New York City and New York State, where they are responsible for one-third of emissions collectively. So, in December 2021, New York City—which accounts for the vast majority of the state’s fossil fuel emissions from gas stoves to boilers—passed a bill to phase out fossil fuels in new construction citywide starting in 2024. The measure excluded certain buildings from the mandate, notably laboratories, laundromats, hospitals, crematoriums, and commercial kitchens.

One staunch supporter of the electrification initiative is Brooklyn Assemblymember Emily Gallagher, who first got involved in environmental organizing in her neighborhood in Greenpoint in 2010, which was when Newtown Creek, which snakes along the neighborhood’s border, was declared a Superfund site by the federal government. In 2017, while on the community board, she learned that National Grid was getting permits to dig underneath East Williamsburg and Greenpoint to put in new gas infrastructure. She heard from residents who got up for work in the morning and saw that streets in front of their small businesses had been torn up.She recalls, “It was like they were putting something in so that they could then use it as an excuse to continue the bad behavior,” referring to new fossil fuel hookups.

In January 2021, Gallagher was elected to the New York state assembly to represent the 50th district, which includes Greenpoint. Ten months later, Gallagher proposed a version of the “All Electric Buildings Act” which was co-sponsored by Senator Brian Kavanagh. It failed.

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