California is set to become the first state to ban natural gas heaters, water heaters, and furnaces. The rule, which passed through the California Air Resources Board (CARB) unanimously last week, will outlaw the sale of new natural gas heaters by 2030.
“We need to take every action we can to deliver on our commitments to protect public health from the adverse impacts of air pollution, and this strategy identifies how we can do just that,” CARB Chairperson Liane Randolph said in a statement. “While this strategy will clean the air for all Californians, it will also lead to reduced emissions in the many low-income and disadvantaged communities that experience greater levels of persistent air pollution.”
Environmentalists applauded the ban and the path it creates toward the prohibition of all natural gas appliances in the future.
The current iteration of the rule does not include gas ovens, cooktops, or ranges — which have been shown to substantially contribute to indoor air pollution, a cause of significant health and environmental issues. Included in the proposal is a directive that state agencies begin drafting a rule prohibiting all gas-powered appliances, which will be voted on in 2025.
A recent study found that even when turned off, natural gas stoves and ovens leak toxic gases like benzene, a tightly regulated and well-known carcinogen. Experts agree that there is no safe level of exposure to benzene — any exposure at all is harmful — yet 95% of the samples studied contained benzene.
Another dangerous gas, nitrogen dioxide, is also dispersed in large quantities by gas-powered appliances. Nitrogen dioxide is hazardous for people with pre-existing respiratory conditions and is thought to contribute to the development of childhood asthma.
Researchers have also determined that methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gases, is released in large quantities from gas ovens and stoves. Seventy-five percent of gas ovens leak methane when turned off, and over the course of one year, gas ovens will have the same environmental impact as 500,000 cars.
In California, environmentalists are optimistic that other states will follow suit and ban natural gas appliances. “We’re really hopeful that this is the beginning of a domino effect and other states will follow California’s lead,” Leah Louis-Prescott, a senior associate at RMI, a non-profit dedicated to the widespread move to clean energy, told Bloomberg.
While the prohibition will have an impact, Californians say they can’t do it alone. “We simply cannot provide clean air to Californians without the federal government doing its part,” Randolph said.