Pa. lawmakers look to head off all-electric building codes

The Pennsylvania state Capitol in winter

The Pennsylvania state Capitol is seen, Monday, Dec. 14, 2020, in Harrisburg, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled Legislature signaled again Wednesday that it wants to stop municipalities in the nation’s No. 2 natural gas state from adopting building codes that prohibit gas hookups, as some states, cities and counties consider all-electric building codes as a way to fight climate change.

Legislation passed the GOP-controlled House, 118-83, three months after the state Senate passed a similar bill.

The bills prohibit municipalities from writing new building codes that restrict utility service based on the energy source.

The move protects the state’s hometown natural gas industry, and as well as utilities and companies that refine and deliver fossil fuels to residential and commercial buildings.

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Neither bill has reached Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk.

States, cities and counties elsewhere have begun looking at all-electric building codes that exclude gas infrastructure as a way to fight climate change and accelerate progress towards a carbon-free electricity grid.

In December, New York City barred most new building projects submitted for approval as early as 2024 from using natural gas or oil for heating, hot water and cooking. Hospitals, commercial kitchens and some other facilities are exempt.

The vast Marcellus Shale reservoir beneath Pennsylvania is the nation’s most prolific natural gas reservoir, and Pennsylvania has subsidized the build-out of gas infrastructure to help the industry find new customers.

Combustion of natural gas emits carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, while natural gas contains methane, which is far more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, according to researchers.

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