Proposal to ban local limits on natural gas killed in Colorado House committee

    BRIEF

    Food cooks on a gas kitchen range. (Quentin Young/Colorado Newsline)

    A Colorado House of Representatives committee on Wednesday defeated a proposal that sought to ban local governments from placing restrictions on the use of natural gas by homes and businesses.

    House Bill 21-1034, sponsored by Republican Rep. Dan Woog of Erie, was postponed indefinitely on a 7-5 vote following debate in the House Energy and Environment Committee.

    The bill would have enacted a sweeping ban on any state or local policies that “limit or prohibit” the installation of heating systems and appliances powered by natural gas or propane.

    “When I brought this bill forth, I thought there would be some support on both sides of the aisle,” Woog told committee members prior to bill’s defeat. “The bill does not force anyone to use propane or natural gas. It’s to support choice.”

    But environmental advocates and local government officials testified on Wednesday that the bill would have dealt a serious blow to efforts to curb climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

    Lafayette Mayor Jamie Harkins. (lafayetteco.gov)

    “Local communities across the state need tools to reduce their carbon pollution,” said Lafayette Mayor Jamie Harkins in a statement released through the group Colorado Communities for Climate Action. “This bill would have undercut the ability of towns, cities and counties all over Colorado to make these basic decisions.”

    In Colorado, the burning of natural gas by homes and businesses — mostly for heating and cooking — accounted for roughly 10 million tons of carbon emissions in 2015, about 8% of total emissions, according to state data. Replacing gas-powered furnaces, hot water heaters and cooking appliances with electric alternatives can help reduce emissions, but because of the high costs of retrofitting existing buildings, experts say the transition will likely take decades.

    Dozens of cities across the country have begun to restrict or ban natural gas in newly-built homes, prompting a backlash from the fossil-fuel industry. Woog’s bill followed a similar statewide ballot initiative that was backed last year by oil and gas group Protect Colorado, before being withdrawn in a deal struck by Gov. Jared Polis.

    A plan released earlier this year by Denver’s Office of Climate Action, Sustainability and Resiliency envisions severe limitations on natural gas in new homes and businesses built within the city by 2027, though officials have stopped short of calling for a ban.

    “We have to move in a direction that gets us away from using all these forms of energy that emit gases that are harming our climate,” Rep. Brianna Titone, a Democrat from Arvada, said prior to Wednesday’s committee vote. “I have a gas range, and I like cooking on that. I do. But eventually, I’m going to change that out. … These are things that we have to do.”