As one of the most active hubs for green technology and innovation, officials in Bay Area are pushing to be at the forefront of the environmental movement by implementing rules that would ban the sale of water heaters and furnaces that run on natural gas effectively within a decade. The counties affected by the new rules are Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, and San Francisco. The southern portions of Solano and Sonoma counties also fall within the jurisdiction.
On March 15, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s board will vote on a proposal at their meeting. Proponents say it is likely that these rules would be considered the most sweeping regulations of their kind if passed. The rules would enforce a ban on nitrogen oxide, or NOx, emissions from water heaters and furnaces in new residential construction. Starting in 2027 to 2029, the mandate would apply to homeowners buying replacement appliances: electric water heaters, gas furnaces, and boilers.
Another argument in favor of banning natural gas appliances is that their use can cause environmental pollution, including respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. The Air District estimates that implementing these rules, it will prevent an estimated 37 to 85 premature deaths and around 110 cases of asthma per year in the Bay Area. The rules would require water heaters and furnaces to be zero-NOx emissions, which would effectively lead you’re going electric. The rules do not apply to large water heaters installed in apartments and commercial buildings until 2031.
The Air District’s proposal, which limits or outright bans the use of natural gas appliances in constructing new residences and businesses, has been implemented by more than 60 counties and cities in California—including San Francisco and the Bay Area. Although a ban on gas water heaters and furnaces has not been approved, state air quality regulators have set a target date of 2030.
The Bay Area’s efforts to ban two major gas appliances found themselves in the middle of a cultural conflict between natural and manufactured environments. Environmentalists and public health advocates have long argued that the shift away from gas appliances to electrical ones will reduce a host of pollutants—including greenhouse gases, which cause climate change. One U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission member states that a ban on gas stoves may be necessary for safety reasons; however, the comment caused right-wing media to misreport and spread misinformation about the issue—which only exacerbated it further. The Federal Consumer Safety Commission has made clear that it will not be considering any bans on gas stoves.
Air regulators in the Bay Area have not considered gas stove rules because they aren’t a major pollutant. But some counties and cities have banned them in new homes anyway, citing health risks from carbon monoxide leaks. Despite the uproar, environmentalists said that controversy over gas stoves showcases how politicians and fossil-fuel interests have sought to undermine energy conservation.