Sierra Club and Environmental Groups Call on EPA to Ban Natural Gas for Home Heating | Environment

More than two dozen environmental organizations have called on the Environmental Protection Agency to ban the use of natural gas for home heating nationwide, arguing that the federal agency must regulate “deadly pollution from household appliances.” heater”.

The petition, sponsored by the Sierra Club, claims that fossil fuel home heaters, water heaters, clothes dryers and stoves emit enough nitrogen dioxide (NOx) and carbon dioxide (CO2) to be classified as “new stationary sources” of air. pollutants, placing them under the same regulatory regime as power plants and factories.

The petition looks like — but goes beyond — Governor Jared Polis’ greenhouse gas roadmap for a clean heat program, a key part of efforts to transition to a natural gas-free heating economy.

“Gas heaters, such as water heaters, furnaces, boilers, ranges, and clothes dryers, make up about 80% of fossil fuel-fired heaters and emit the majority of pollution from appliances, including climate-disrupting GHG emissions and pollutants that directly impact human health,” the petition reads.

“The data is indisputable: heaters in residential and commercial buildings contribute significantly to pollution that endangers public health and well-being. Emissions from these sources are major drivers of the twin crises of climate change and polluted air,” the petition adds.

Some critics have described the petition as a sham and an excuse to tackle carbon dioxide emissions, with regulating nitrogen dioxide being the way to achieve this goal.

Reading the petition would require the EPA to set NOx standards that would effectively ban the use of natural gas in all new construction within one year of implementing the regulations. Even existing gas appliances would eventually need to be replaced – at the end of their life cycle or when they break down.

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“Building emissions have a detrimental, and frankly frightening, impact on human health and contribute significantly to the climate crisis,” Amneh Minkara, deputy director of the Sierra Club‘s building electrification campaign, said in a statement. Press 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 from fossil fuel systems to electric technology.”

News of the petition prompted Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, to say federal agencies and state regulators are “out of control.”

“Our federal and state regulators are creating uncertainty by trying to push everyone to use anything electric that we don’t have enough electricity to power,” he said. “No one wants this except regulators, who refuse to see the harm they are doing.”

Sonnenberg added, “The power these agencies want to wield over families trying to make ends meet with high inflation is ridiculous. I trust people to make the decisions that best suit their budget and their needs, rather than the government telling them they know what is best for these families. Reducing consumer choices to one option is never good policy.

The petition, if implemented by the EPA, would require homeowners to replace gas appliances when they fail or need to be replaced with expensive new heat pump technology.

Critics said the mandate would also increase the cost of new homes, including multi-family units.

“We just don’t have enough resources to go around, especially when we start looking at how we can reach our most vulnerable Coloradans who are on the verge of solvency,” said Peter LiFari, executive director of the Adams County Housing Authority.

Most heat pumps are installed in temperate climates, where indoor and outdoor temperatures are reasonably close, and they are not certified to operate in temperatures below 17 degrees, according to the US Department of Energy.

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Developer Tim Walsh, who won his Republican primary race for legislature in June, told The Denver Gazette that his industry has been talking to manufacturers about developing larger-scale advanced cold weather heat pumps to lower their cost, but there just isn’t a demand out there to do that.

“So it’s quite expensive,” he said. “If your furnace breaks down and you need to replace it with a heat pump instead of a gas furnace, it will probably cost between $10,000 and $12,000. I think this is going to disproportionately hurt the lowest paid people in Colorado. »

The petitioners acknowledged that “financial assistance may be required for many consumers to transition from gas, oil and propane appliances to non-emitting alternatives.”

Other expenses they mentioned can increase the cost of owning a home, including additional insulation and weatherization, upgrades or replacements to electrical panels and services, and “more basic home improvements. health and safety before weatherization can begin”.

Some newer heat pump technologies perform better at lower temperatures, but the initial costs of installing ground source heat pumps, which use buried heat exchange coils, are more than twice as expensive as installing ground source heat pumps. the more common air heat. pumps, according to the US Department of Energy.

Carrier, one of the largest heating and cooling manufacturers in the United States, said high-efficiency heat pumps in warmer climates “generally use less source energy on average than gas furnaces. “.

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In colder climates, 95% efficient gas furnaces fare better than heat pumps, the company said, adding that lifetime operating costs should be considered, especially given the relatively lower cost of natural gas compared to electricity.

The Sierra Club petition calls the fact that home heaters are not regulated like power plants “a dangerous oversight.”

U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Silt, balked at the petition, saying “unelected bureaucrats don’t have the power to unilaterally decide major issues,” such as how Americans heat their homes.

“We are facing the worst energy crisis since Jimmy Carter, but these inflation-loving leftists are more concerned with depriving Americans of reliable heating than creating workable solutions,” she said. .

The petitioners argued for stricter regulations noting that the EPA previously regulated emissions from woodstoves in 1987. EPA’s woodstove regulations did not include limits on NOx – only on the amount of particles they can emit.

In the press release, the Sierra Club also said fossil fuel heaters “are permitted to emit without limits or oversight by the federal government.”

EPA regulations limit particulate emissions — but not NOx — from home heaters, and manufacturers must certify their products before marketing them.

Colorado Oil and Gas Association President and CEO Dan Haley described the petition as the latest in a series of efforts by environmental groups to limit the use of natural gas.

“The Sierra Club is always looking for ways to ban natural gas, but Americans love natural gas because it’s safe, affordable and convenient,” Haley said. “Consumers will not take lightly the Sierra Club taking away their gas fireplaces, stoves and barbecues. This petition is going nowhere.

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