By Caleigh Wells
The Golden State just became the first in the nation to begin making fossil-fuel furnaces and heaters a thing of the past.
In its ongoing effort to slash ozone pollution, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) voted Thursday to ban the sale of new gas furnaces and water heaters beginning in 2030. Homes will be required to install zero-emissions alternatives, like electric heaters.
The vote is designed to meet EPA regulations limiting ozone in the atmosphere to 70 parts per billion. Much of California still exceeds that limit.
"We need to take every action we can to deliver on our commitments to protect public health from the adverse impacts of air pollution, and this strategy identifies how we can do just that," said CARB Chair Liane Randolph.
The heaters requirement was met with comments from the public, including opposition. Retired engineer Michael Kapolnek said the saved emissions don't justify the cost to homeowners forced into expensive retrofits, such as upgrading electrical service. Groups such as the American Lung Association and the Sierra Club supported the move.
"This will reduce the building sector's carbon footprint and improve public health. We also appreciate the commitment to equity-centered engagement and community input in all states of the process," said Daniel Barad, senior policy advocate at Sierra Club California.
Buildings account for about 5% of the state's nitrogen-oxide pollution, better known as a key ingredient in California's notorious smog. CARB says nearly 90% of those emissions are from space and water heaters. The rest comes from things like cooking and drying clothes.
According to a report from the policy research group SPUR, California homes and buildings generate four times as much nitrogen oxide pollution as all of the state's gas power plants combined. They also generate about two-thirds as much nitrogen oxide as all the passenger cars on the state's roads.
This latest action will speed California's transition away from fossil fuels to cleaner forms of energy. It's on top of other aggressive climate decisions state officials made this year.
Last month, CARB addressed the state's largest source of pollution, transportation, by banning the sale of new gasoline-powered passenger cars and light duty trucks beginning in 2035.
Then last week, the California Public Utilities Commission unanimously voted to get rid of subsidies that incentivized builders to install gas lines to new buildings, starting next year. Public health experts say household air pollution from cooking with gas increases the risk of childhood asthma.
Gas furnaces in California won't necessarily disappear in 2030. It just means that in eight years, there will only be zero-emission replacements as old furnaces and water heaters begin to break and need to be replaced. The legislation also comes with rebate money to help residents make the switch to zero-emission technology.
The decision is just one more step toward California achieving its most ambitious climate goal yet: carbon neutrality by 2045.
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