Eugene first Oregon city to phase out gas use in new homes

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EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — The city of Eugene, Oregon, will join other local governments throughout the country in phasing out gas appliances in some types of new construction in an effort to cut climate pollution.

The Eugene City Council passed the measure by a 5-3 vote Monday night. The ordinance, believed to be the first of its kind in the state, bans natural gas hookups in the new construction of residences that are three stories or less.

Existing buildings are not affected by the new requirements.

Council members in favor said the move would reduce carbon emissions and eliminate the air quality hazards of gas stoves, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.

“We have a governor who has pledged to build 36,000 new houses a year,” Eugene Mayor Lucy Vinis said. “We do not want those houses with natural gas hookups.”

Council member Mike Clark said the change will discourage developers.

There is good evidence that gas stoves emit harmful levels of oxides of nitrogen, which is known to cause asthma, Dr. Aaron Bernstein, interim director of the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said last month.

Research has found that gas stoves in California are leaking cancer-causing benzene, while another study has determined that gas stoves in the U.S. are contributing to global warming by putting 2.6 million tons (2.4 million metric tons) of methane in the air every year even when turned off.

In a statement Tuesday, Jerrel Brown, environmental and climate justice organizer with the NAACP Eugene-Springfield, said Eugene had taken an important step to increase access to healthy, all-electric homes.

“Communities of color in Eugene are more likely to breathe hazardous air in our neighborhoods – our homes should be places of refuge, not one more source of pollution for overburdened lungs,” Brown said.

Dozens of local governments throughout the country have moved to restrict the use of gas in some types of new construction, including in Seattle and Bellingham, Washington, and San Francisco and Berkeley, California.

Multnomah County, home to Portland, in 2021 approved a resolution to prohibit the use of fossil fuels such as natural gas in new and remodeled county buildings.

Some federal lawmakers have called for addressing the potential health risks of natural gas usage through regulation, such as requiring that gas stoves be sold with range hoods to improve ventilation or issuing mandatory performance standards for gas stoves.

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