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Existing laws may be restricting efforts to cut carbon emissions

Outdated policies favor fossil fuels.

August 19, 2020 |

Municipalities attempting to enact new laws to cut carbon emissions are being restrained in some cases by existing laws that favor fossil fuels.

For example, the town of Brookline, Mass., enacted at ban on natural gas and oil heating systems and cooking appliances using fossil fuels in new buildings. But, the state’s attorney general overturned the law, citing the town’s lack of authority to create their own building permitting rules or to control the piping installed in buildings.

Though the attorney general supports the town’s carbon-cutting goal, she said that municipalities cannot legally override the state’s Department of Public Utilities on this issue. Environmental advocates say regulations and laws such as the one cited in the Bay State will have to be revisited to advance carbon-emission reduction policies.

New York State has a policy that guarantees access to natural gas service to all residents in areas where it is available. California’s Natural Gas Act requires the state’s energy planning agency to issue a report every four years that identifies strategies to maximize the benefits of natural gas. These laws may make it more difficult to fully electrify new buildings.

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