- The Arizona legislature has passed a bill that would preempt local governments from banning natural gas infrastructure in new buildings. Gov. Doug Ducey, R, is expected to sign the bill, according to the Arizona Republic.
- The bill, which was backed by major utilities and homebuilders groups, comes after a series of cities in California and elsewhere have instituted requirements that new residential buildings be electric-only to wean consumers off fossil fuels. No Arizona city had publicly discussed such a ban.
- Phoenix and Tucson, two of the fastest-warming cities in the U.S., have opposed the bill. In a statement to Smart Cities Dive, City of Phoenix spokesman Nick Valenzuela said the city disapproves because the bill "eliminates the city’s ability for local control and we do not support bills that erode local control."
In July 2019, Berkeley, CA became the first city to pass a natural gas ban for new low-rise residential buildings as a climate change initiative. It also requires that all new buildings be "electric-ready," with the panels and wiring conduits to support electric infrastructure.
Since then, other municipalities have followed suit, with Brookline, MA becoming the first municipality on the East Coast. Seattle is also considering its own ban in a bid to reduce emissions from buildings and encourage developers to use cleaner, electric appliances and heating.
The California Energy Commission voted to approve nine local ordinances this week that would ban natural gas infrastructure.
The Arizona bill was pushed by utilities, notably Southwest Gas Holdings Inc, and other business groups. According to Reuters, Arizona Chamber of Commerce President Glenn Hamer wrote in a letter to Ducey that "irresponsible local policies that limit or reduce energy options could undermine the state’s economic competitiveness." Advocates also worried that natural gas bans could increase home prices.
Valenzuela, however, said the bill "preempts the city from denying a building permit application based on the utility provider who is proposed to serve the project and requires all permit fees to be uniform."
Opponents also worry the bill would hinder cities from taking action on climate change. Many Democrats are among these opponents, while many Republicans at hearings on the bills denied that greenhouse gas emissions contribute to climate change, according to AZ Central. They reported the term "climate change" is not used once in the bill even though it's become central in the debate.
Sandy Bahr, director of the Sierra Club Grand Canyon Chapter, likened the bill to ones the Arizona legislature has passed preempting plastic bag bans and energy benchmarking policies. The result, she said, is that cities are unable to take control of their climate futures and are left without potentially innovative policies.
"The federal government isn’t doing its job on climate, and the state of Arizona certainly isn’t," Bahr told Smart Cities Dive. "It’s clear we have to get off burning fossil fuels, and communities should be forward-thinking about whether they want to build and have this outdated infrastructure in place ten or 15 years from now."