Ban New Gas Hookups in Corte Madera - YES
Three things have long been established:
One, greenhouse gas emissions are causing rapid changes in our climate, including prolonged droughts, flood-inducing deluges, rising sea levels, and significantly increased fire danger. Climate change has already cost hundreds of lives and billions of dollars across California, and we know the worst is yet to come—especially if we don't act now to mitigate its effects. Corte Madera, with nearly all of our homes, businesses, and schools sitting in either a flood or fire hazard zone, is more exposed than most California communities to these threats.
Two, buildings and transportation together represent the vast majority of Corte Madera's greenhouse gas emissions: our Climate Action Plan found that in 2018, fossil fuel use in buildings accounted for 25% of Corte Madera's emissions, while fossil fuel use in transportation accounted for 70%. Together, the burning of fossil fuels in buildings and vehicles constitutes a staggering 95% of our community's greenhouse gas emissions.
Three, local government has relatively little ability to directly lower a community's greenhouse gas emissions, making what tools we do have incredibly important in our mission to protect Corte Madera from the worst effects climate change will bring. Two of these tools are our ability to regulate the building sector, and to help people switch to lower-carbon modes of transportation, such as electric vehicles.
Today, our Council voted unanimously for Corte Madera to join the ranks of the communities across the nation leading the fight against climate change, by banning gas hookups in new construction, essentially ensuring that new construction in Corte Madera be all-electric.
The benefits of this wise policy are many. In addition to being a critical step toward reducing our community's greenhouse gas emissions, science and health professionals see a preponderance of evidence about the dangers to our personal health and safety that come with burning fossil fuels in the home, including: increased risk of fire or explosion at home, especially after an event like a storm or earthquake; the danger of gas utility infrastructure when damaged, as compared with electrical utility infrastructure; and the toxic and carcinogenic nature of fossil fuel gasses like methane and benzene, which virtually all gas appliances leak into our homes.
Despite the benefits of going green, we understand that some members of the community will naturally have questions about what this policy means, so I wanted to address a few here. First, the local green energy company, MCE Clean Energy, has provided assurances that it does not see any risk of energy demand outpacing supply as a result of this decision. Second, this decision applies only to new construction, not to remodels (although phasing out fossil fuels in existing buildings is an important conversation we will need to have as a community in the months ahead, as the vast majority of Corte Madera's building stock is existing, not new construction). Third, the Town stands ready to help residents, businesses, and developers take full advantage of the many benefits electric buildings offer over fossil fuel-burning buildings, including incentives provided by state and federal agencies.
Doing our part to protect our town from a global challenge like climate change was never going to be easy; there's no silver bullet, and no "perfect" way to power our homes and cars. We are committed to helping make the transition to a lower-carbon future as seamless for our community as possible, because we're all in this together. In the months and years ahead, I look forward to your continued guidance and engagement on how best to protect Corte Madera's health and safety, and position our town for a vibrant and successful future in a rapidly changing world.