- Montgomery County, Maryland – the state’s most populous county, home to more than 1 million people north of the nation’s capital – will require new construction to only use electric energy equipment in 2027.
- The county council unanimously passed building decarbonization legislation this week, making Montgomery County the first county on the East Coast to ban natural gas as a source of heat in new buildings, E&E News reported. The buildings sector is the county’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the county council press release.
- Montgomery County previously passed a building energy performance standard policy earlier this year, a step that Maryland has also taken at the state level. The county’s latest action adds to building decarbonization momentum in the region, as the District of Columbia took action this year to require all new buildings and major renovations to be net-zero construction by 2026.
Along with transportation pollution, building emissions are often one of cities’ greatest sources of greenhouse gas emissions, making them a key area to target in pursuing climate and public health goals.
A report this fall from C40 Cities, a network of nearly 100 world cities pursuing climate leadership, delved into the health, economic and environmental implications of fossil fuels in cities. It said modeling revealed that fossil gas use for electricity, heating and cooking in buildings and industry “contributed almost as much as coal power plants to premature deaths” across its network cities in 2020.
Building decarbonization policies vary in how they tackle the issue. Some target new construction, while others address existing building retrofits. Some heavily incentivize electrification, while others prohibit new gas hookups. Many city leaders, including those in Boston and, very recently, Ann Arbor, Michigan, also want to pursue blocking the use of fossil fuels in new buildings.
In Montgomery County, leaders hope their actions will inspire a wave of change in the area. “We are confident that other Maryland counties will now follow our lead – and the state General Assembly will follow with its own mandate for fossil-free new construction in just a couple of years,” said bill sponsor and at-large Councilmember Hans Riemer, according to a press release shared by the Chesapeake Climate Action Network Action Fund.