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Offering National Model, This New England Town Just Banned Natural Gas and Oil in New Home Construction

"Brookline is making history."

A tree-line street in the city of Brookline, Massachusetts outside Boston. The city council this week voted overwhelmingly to approve new rules that would forbid fossil fuel infrastructure for new residential construction. (Photo: John Allspaw/flicker/cc)

A tree-line street in the suburb of Brookline, Massachusetts outside Boston. The town council this week voted overwhelmingly to approve new rules that would forbid fossil fuel infrastructure for new residential construction. (Photo: John Allspaw/flicker/cc)

Setting a new standard for other communities in the United States and elsewhere to follow in this age of climate emergency, the suburban town of Brookline, Massachusetts this week passed a sweeping new bylaw that prohibits nearly all use of natural gas and oil in the construction of new homes or in the renovation of existing ones.

According to the Boston Globe:

By an overwhelming margin Wednesday night, Brookline Town Meeting voted to ban oil and gas piping in future construction projects, becoming the first community in Massachusetts to pass such a measure. And while over 15 cities in California have passed similar bans, Brookline’s bylaw goes further, prohibiting the installation of new oil and gas infrastructure in gut renovations, in addition to new buildings.

Supporters say the bylaw will singlehandedly decrease carbon emissions from buildings in Brookline — which account for about two-thirds of the town’s overall emissions — by 15 percent over the next 30 years. It passed by a vote of 207 to 3 and is slated to take effect on Jan. 1, 2021.

"When you're in a hole, you stop digging," said Brookline state Rep. Tommy Vitolo, praising the measure. "We must reduce the carbon emissions in our buildings dramatically."

Climate action groups applauded the measure:

Kathleen Scanlon, a member of the Brookline Town Meeting and one proposals key backers, said that despite opposition from the utilities and many area developers—many of whom raised fears about construction costs and feasibility—constructing new homes with energy-efficiency in mind is the financially smart thing to do and will ultimately ease the transition to  a future without fossil fuels.

"Our research indicates that it's cost neutral," Scanlon told WBUR, "and, over time, the operating costs are lower to go with an electric building system."

The Globe notes that the while the measure is far-reaching, there were some compromises built in. "Fuel piping will still be allowed for backup generators, cooking, laboratories and medical offices, and hot water systems in large buildings," the newspaper noted. "All other energy needs for new buildings—including heating and most hot water systems—will be required to rely on electricity."

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