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Published in Energy

State lawmakers consider bill to preempt local natural gas restrictions

BY Tuesday, May 25, 2021 01:46pm

Michigan lawmakers have joined nearly two dozen other states looking to stop local climate change efforts that involve electrifying various building and transportation components to reduce carbon emissions.

House lawmakers today debated House Bill 4575 — sponsored by state Rep. Michele Hoitenga, R-Manton — in the House Committee on Regulatory Reform. 

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The co-owner of an oil and gas drilling consulting business with her husband Philip, Hoitenga introduced the largely preemptive bill as an effort to stop local governments from adopting, maintaining or enforcing an ordinance that “prohibits the use of an appliance that uses gas in a new or existing residential building or structure.” The bill, introduced in late March, would amend the Stille-DeRossett-Hale Single State Construction Code Act of 1972. It’s cosponsored by seven other Republicans.

Hointenga said during the committee, which she co-chairs, that the bill is meant to “protect consumers from unintended consequences.”

“Gas plays a significant role in sustaining a clean energy future,” she said, referring to the broader transition away from coal. “We must be realistic … when undergoing such profound energy usage changes.”

Representatives from the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, the Home Builders Association of Michigan, DTE Energy and the Utility Workers Union of America testified in support of the bill. Multiple oil and gas trade groups, Michigan Realtors, the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association and the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association also support H.B. 4575.

Citing a potential “patchwork” of local ordinances, DTE Gas Director of Sales and Marketing H.J. Decker said the gas utility “supports policies and regulations that expand the use of natural gas.” DTE Gas’ parent company, DTE Energy, has also publicly announced a net zero carbon emissions target by 2050.

According to a House Fiscal Agency analysis, more than 20 states have either adopted or introduced bills that would “prohibit local governments from making building code changes that would ban the use of gas appliances in new construction.”

The legislation is opposed by the city of Ann Arbor, where officials have adopted the A2Zero Plan that includes strategies to electrify homes and businesses. The plan more broadly calls for the city to reach net zero emissions by 2030 through renewable energy generation and purchases, energy efficiency, weatherization measures and electrifying transportation.

Cities across the country, including in the states of Massachusetts and California, are exploring a ban on natural gas hookups in new construction or at least requiring an electrical connection for appliances. 

As the electric grid includes a growing amount of renewable energy, climate advocates say electrification can play a key role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“Ban on the ban (legislation) is in no way, shape or form going to help us achieve this goal,” Julie Roth, who works in Ann Arbor’s Office of Sustainability, testified today.

Bill opponents include the city of Grand Rapids, the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council and multiple statewide environmental advocacy groups.

While bill supporters raised concerns about energy affordability and reliability, clean energy advocates say building infrastructure that’s equipped for electrification coupled with energy efficiency measures would produce long-term cost savings.

“More and more often state politicians are striking down or preempting local ideas,” Roth said. “Our leaders should listen to communities and not corporations.”

Read 9845 times Last modified on Tuesday, 01 June 2021 12:42
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