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Berkeley Passes First In The Nation Ban On Natural Gas

BERKELEY (KPIX 5) -- By a unanimous city council vote, Berkeley has become the first city in the nation to ban the use of natural gas in new low-rise residential buildings.

What it means is that the gas-flame stove top and gas-powered heat many Californian's currently use won't be available in brand new residential spaces.

"First, it will be single family homes and buildings under three stories that are just residential. That will happen on January 1st," said City Council member Kate Harrison, who was one of the sponsors of the ordinance.

Harrison points out that the new ordinance runs parallel to the state's plan to reduce carbon use in buildings.

"State law says in 2030, 50 percent of building stock should be all electric so we'll have to adjust sooner or later, so we're helping people get ready early," she said.

In the Bay Area, Petaluma officials were also considering a similar ban.

"One of our mantras that we say constantly is 'How is this project going to be green?'" said Petaluma Commissioner Diana Gomez. "What we've found is generally the developers build to the code and no more. So if we can get some robust mandates in a code to make projects more green, that's wonderful."

According to the EPA residential and commercial greenhouse gas emissions account for nearly 12 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions nationwide. In Berkeley they account for 27 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions citywide.

"I'd prefer to keep the gas stove top," said Jesus Munoc, chef at Berkeley's Free House Restaurant.

In his restaurant, cooking with gas is more than just a turn of phrase.

"The gas is better, it's faster for the restaurant. Most restaurants use this traditional type of stuff because electric is slow for cooking," Munoc said.

The ordinance does not impact existing buildings, so Munoc won't be impacted. But as California moves toward more carbon neutral options, more chefs might have to adjust.

Harrison points out that one well-known chef is already on board.

"Wolfgang Puck supports all electric kitchens. It's safer, its cooler for the chefs, there's less chance of injury and I think after time people will get used to it," Harrison said.

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