More than two dozen environmental organizations petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to ban the use of natural gas for home heating nationwide, arguing the federal agency must regulate “deadly pollution from heating appliances.”
The petition, sponsored by the Sierra Club, claims fossil fuel-fired home furnaces, water heaters, clothes dryers and stoves emit enough nitrogen dioxide (NOx) and carbon dioxide (CO2) that they must be classified as “new stationary sources” of air pollutants, placing them in the same regulatory regime as power plants and factories.
The petition resembles – but goes beyond Gov. Jared Polis’ Greenhouse Gas Roadmap for a clean heat program, a key component of efforts to transition to a natural gas-free heating economy.
“Gas heating appliances, such as water heaters, furnaces, boilers, stoves, and clothes dryers represent about 80% of fossil fuel-fired heating appliances and emit the majority of appliance pollution, including both climate-disrupting GHG emissions and pollutants that directly impact human health,” the petition says.
“The data is incontrovertible: heating appliances in residential and commercial buildings contribute significantly to pollution that endangers public health and welfare. The emissions from these sources are major drivers of the dual crises of climate change and unclean air,” the petition adds.
Some critics described the petition as a sham and excuse to go after carbon dioxide emissions, with regulation of nitrogen dioxide as the vehicle to accomplish that goal.
The petition’s reading would force the EPA to set NOx standards that would effectively ban the use of natural gas in all new construction within a year after the regulation is implemented. Even existing gas appliances would have to be replaced eventually – at the end of their life cycle or when they break down.
“Emissions from buildings have a harmful, and frankly scary, impact on human health and contribute significantly to the climate crisis,” Amneh Minkara, Sierra Club’s Building Electrification Campaign Deputy Director, said in a news release.
The petitioners said policymakers “must act at the local, state, and federal levels to ensure that marginalized communities are among the first to benefit from the transition away from fossil fuel systems in favor of electric technology.”