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Debate rages over New York's law banning gas stove hookups for new buildings

“The 360” shows you diverse perspectives on the day’s top stories and debates.

An image of a globe on fire suspended over the flame of a gas burner.
Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Getty Images

What’s happening

In the wake of New York’s passage of a law banning natural gas hookups for new residential buildings, some conservatives are saying “I told you so” to those who dismissed warnings about Democrats plotting to get rid of gas stoves in order to fight climate change.

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., was mocked for having assured the public back in February, “Nobody is taking away your gas stove.”

Since a Biden administration proposal to ban federal gas stove ban was floated — and quickly abandoned — by commissioners of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in January, Republicans have seized on the issue and have portrayed New York’s law as indicative of government action to limit consumer choices.

Why there’s debate

Buildings account for 13% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and any plan to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says is needed, would have to eliminate or drastically reduce those emissions.

Those on the left argue that it is truthful to say no one is taking away your gas stove, because a requirement that new buildings be all-electric doesn’t mean anyone is coming into your existing home to take out your stove or furnace.

“This is the Republicans turning it into a culture war freak-out just because they can,” Alex Beauchamp, Northeast region director at Food & Water Watch, an environmental advocacy group that is campaigning for phasing out gas appliances, told Yahoo News. “Ripping your gas stove out: That is off the table, not just now, but sort of forever. No one is coming in to take anyone’s gas stove away. That is just a complete caricature of what anybody has said. Ultimately, we’ve got to decarbonize everything. I do think we should attempt to do that in a way that minimizes change to people’s lives. So you start with the easiest stuff. New buildings are clearly the easiest to do.”

Conservatives counter that any restriction on gas appliances takes away freedom of choice and will force developers to spend more on products like electric heat pumps.

“Changing the ways we make and use energy to decrease our reliance on fossil fuels will help ensure a healthier environment for us and our children,” New York Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Democrat, said in a statement on the New York law’s passage.

“A first-in-the-nation, unconstitutional ban on natural gas hookups in new construction will drive up utility bills and increase housing costs,” said New York state Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt, a Republican.

What’s next

Washington state has already adopted a similar measure through state building codes. Last year, the California Air Resources Board enacted a rule that will go further and end the sale of gas-fired furnaces, space heaters and water heaters in 2030. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, proposed a ban on new gas stove and furnace sales by 2028, but the state Legislature did not pass that. One New York social and environmental justice activist called what ultimately passed “a half measure” that is still “far behind what’s needed for climate justice.”

“That’s literally taking choice away, there’s no question about it,” said Jack Spencer, a senior research fellow for energy and environmental policy at the Heritage Foundation, in an interview with Yahoo News. “It’s literally bureaucrats, special interests and politicians dictating to New York consumers how they spend their money.”

While dozens of cities and counties, including the cities of Los Angeles, New York and Seattle, have passed bans on gas appliances in new buildings, 21 states — including virtually the entire South — have passed laws preemptively preventing cities from enacting such measures.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco recently overturned a ban by the city of Berkeley, Calif., on natural gas in new construction, holding that it circumvented the federal government’s power over energy regulations.

Although many environmentalists hope the Ninth Circuit ruling — which was made by a panel of all Republican appointees — will be overturned on appeal, some also say that consumers will voluntarily switch to electric appliances as they become more attuned to the advantages of increasingly efficient and affordable electric alternatives and to the drawbacks of gas.

“Having fossil fuel appliances in our homes, the science is increasingly clear, it’s very bad for our health,” Leah Stokes, an environmental policy expert at the University of California, Santa Barbara, told Yahoo News. “You wouldn’t sit in a garage with your car idling. And yet, in a certain sense, that’s what you're doing if you’re cooking with fossil fuels in your kitchen. You’re burning a fire in your house, and we know, just intuitively, that creates pollution. It’s not about taking things away from people. It’s about letting people get better machines.”

Perspectives

Government restrictions meant to address climate change are a hotly debated topic, as a tour of local news sources and Yahoo News’ partner network attests. Here’s a sampling:

It’s an attack on consumer freedom

“This is an anti-free market effort to strip consumers of their right to choose the energy source that best fits their needs.” — Will Barclay, leader of the New York state Assembly’s Republican Conference, Syracuse Post-Standard

It will reduce carbon emissions and air pollution

“The adoption of the All-Electric Building Act is a historic step forward that will address greenhouse gases and other harmful emissions from new buildings.” — Rich Schrader, New York legislative and policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council

It doesn’t go far enough

“In the end, we got a half measure. New York is far behind what’s needed for climate justice.” — Rachel Rivera, a member of New York Communities for Change, Canary Media

States have the legal authority

“The state enacts all sorts of building requirements all of the time. This is very much within the normal scope of business for the state of New York, as are decisions around where to distribute natural gas.” — Amy Turner, a senior fellow at the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University, CBS News

People will enjoy higher quality of life with electric appliances

“We don’t have to have a lower quality of life, but do you have to change some of the choices you make in your life? Yeah, I have now a solar field outside the house that’s feeding the house. I drive an electric car now. I didn’t do that five years ago. And when I got in the electric car, I said, ‘Why did I wait so long?’ It’s a fabulous drive. So I think that, yes, we have to make different decisions, but they do not have to — and shouldn’t, absolutely shouldn’t — reduce the quality of life of citizens.” — Former Secretary of State John Kerry, President Biden’s special envoy for climate, in a March 24 interview with Yahoo News

People may want gas stoves anyway

“[The environmentalists’ argument] obviously doesn’t account for people’s subjective preferences about cooking, and even though I don’t mind it, I do take seriously that consumers say they prefer it.” — James Coleman, a nonresident senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, in an interview with Yahoo News