Northeast Natural Gas Bans Don’t Square With Energy Security or Emissions Reductions

On the cusp of winter, and after a summer of witnessing rolling electrical blackouts in California, natural gas bans are back on legislators’ plates.

As E&E News reported, Brookline town legislators – a suburb to Boston, Massachusetts – voted last week to ask the state Legislature for the right to prohibit natural gas infrastructure within its jurisdiction. A similar measure passed last month in Arlington, Massachusetts.

E&E News reports:

The aim is to make Massachusetts more like California, where energy officials grant towns and cities much greater latitude to pass building codes requiring electric technologies for heating and cooking. Several dozen California municipalities have placed such restrictions on gas infrastructure, including San Francisco and other large cities, in a policy intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Memories must be short.

Golden State electeds (and now Massachusetts local officials, too) have jumped the gun in the race to renewables by prematurely shedding fossil fuel infrastructure, particularly natural gas. A weakened natural gas supply and reliance on intermittent renewable resources (those that can’t generate energy round the clock) left the state without enough supply to meet demand.

Brookline could face a similar fate as winter settles in.  

Other oversights are baked into Brookline’s natural gas ban. Of importance is the complete disregard or acknowledgement of the environmental gains natural gas has afforded the country. The United States has been recognized as a global leader in emissions reductions, and the Environmental Protection Agency showed that increased natural gas use has allowed for greenhouse gas reductions by displacing more carbon-intensive resources.

Natural gas is eminently abundant, too. Few places are left wanting for the resource thanks to a growing infrastructure network and record setting production trends in Texas, Pennsylvania, and New Mexico.

State and local freedoms to conduct energy policies as they see fit are a great representation of the “laboratories” for public policy established by American federalism but the latest developments in Brookline are sure to deliver bad outcomes and bad outcomes only to constituents.

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