San Francisco regulators moved forward with regulations banning future sales of certain natural gas-powered appliances as part of the Democrat-led city’s climate agenda.
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District, which oversees air pollution and emissions regulations for the nine counties surrounding San Francisco, greenlighted amendments to regulations Wednesday evening related to eliminating nitrogen oxide emissions from natural gas furnaces and water heaters in the region. The action requires all commercial and residential furnaces and water heaters to be electric by 2027.
“The 1.8 million water heaters and furnaces in the Bay Area significantly impact our air quality, resulting in dozens of early deaths and a wide range of health impacts, particularly in communities of color,” Dr. Philip Fine, the executive officer of the Air District, said Wednesday in a statement.
“This groundbreaking regulation will phase out the most polluting appliances in homes and businesses to protect Bay Area residents from the harmful air pollution they cause.”
The action notably leaves out banning gas-powered stoves, which have been the subject of widespread attention since a federal agency signaled it would review the appliance’s impact on public health earlier this year. The Biden administration ultimately signaled it didn’t intend to ban gas stoves, but later introduced tight restrictions and asked the public for feedback on health impacts.
In addition, the Air District regulations don’t require consumers to immediately switch to electric alternatives once they go into effect. Rather, it prohibits the purchase of new gas-powered products.
“The rule amendments will improve overall regional air quality from the outdoor venting of these appliances, lower exposure to particulate matter, particularly in communities of color, and avoid up to $890 million per year in health impacts due to air pollution exposure,” the agency said in a statement.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed has also signaled support for cracking down on gas appliances as part of her Climate Action Plan, which calls for reducing city-wide emissions 60% below 1990 levels by 2030 and reaching net-zero emissions by 2040. She said appliances would be a focus of future climate regulation since buildings alone account for 41% of San Francisco’s emissions.
“I know that many people have connections to their gas-powered appliances like stoves and ovens, but if we want to be a city that truly leads, we need everyone to do their part,” Breed wrote in a blog post last year.
The amendments came after the Air District closed a 45-day public comment period for a draft environmental impact report on Feb. 6.
Meanwhile, a number of Democratic-led cities have also recently moved forward with gas appliance bans of their own. Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle and New York City have enacted varying restrictions on natural gas hookups impacting gas-powered furnaces, ovens and stoves over the last two years.
“New York City is proof that it’s possible to end the era of fossil fuels, invest in a sustainable future, protect public health and create good-paying jobs in the process,” former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in December 2021. “If the largest city in America can take this critical step to ban gas use, any city can do the same.”
Following his remarks, de Blasio signed a law requiring the phase-out of fossil fuel usage in new buildings. The law, which goes into effect this year and mandates new buildings are fully electric by 2027, made New York City the largest city and first large cold-weather city to phase out fossil fuel combustion in new construction.