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San Francisco Supervisors Approve Ban On Natural Gas In New Building Construction

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) -- San Francisco supervisors have approved a ban on natural gas in newly-constructed buildings in the city, but some are questioning whether now is the right time to go "all-electric."

Critics say transitioning to all-electric buildings isn't the smartest move considering the number of PG&E public safety power shutoffs recently.

San Francisco is among at least 30 cities now across the state to implement this ban. The natural gas explosion on Geary Boulevard in February 2019 is one reason the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to ban it in newly constructed buildings starting in June of next year.

"Natural gas is dangerous," said Supervisor Rafael Mandelman who authored the legislation. "Maybe most significant is natural gas is a very potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change."

Since 2010, as hundreds of coal-fired power plants have closed, natural gas plants in many cases have replaced them. Energy experts say natural gas produces about 40% of U.S. energy needs.

Former San Francisco mayoral candidate and community advocate Richie Greenberg doesn't believe California can make the transition from natural gas to all-electric.

"The state of California doesn't have the ability to meet the energy needs and electricity needs and home heating needs through electricity at this time," said Greenberg.

Environmental groups like Earthjustice cite the growing wildfires as a reason to move away from natural gas and the methane that is produced.

"We're not going to be relying on fossil fuels in our buildings. There's huge greenhouse gas-saving, public savings, and the cost of construction goes down because you don't need to install all the gas pipelines," said Matt Vespa of Earthjustice.

"The sky was orange because of all the fires. We have to do something, that means getting off fossil fuels," said Vespa.

Greenberg pointed to transmission lines that have been blamed for many of the devastating wildfires in California in recent years, and not a change in climate.

"There's going to be unfortunately wind that causes transmission lines to fall and cause fires. That has nothing to do with gas lines," said Greenberg.

Developers can apply for permits that would allow them to build with gas lines for commercial kitchens and restaurants through the end of 2021.

After 2021, a developer would have to apply for a waiver explaining how a restaurant needing a gas line would be incorporated into the building plan.

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