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A worker installs a central gas heating system. (Photo: welcomia via Getty Images)

'Big Climate Win': California to Ban Sale of Gas Heaters and Furnaces by 2030

"This is the first state to do it," noted one advocate. "Who's next?"

Brett Wilkins

California on Thursday committed to prohibiting the sale of so-called "natural" gas heaters and furnaces by the end of the decade, a first-in-the-nation move climate campaigners and environmentalists hope will serve as an example other states will follow.

"We're really hopeful that this is the beginning of a domino effect and other states will follow California's lead."

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) unanimously approved a plan primarily aimed at attaining the federal health-based standard for ozone, which is usually experienced as smog.

CARB says its plan contains "an unprecedented variety of new measures to reduce emissions from sources under the state's authority," including zero- or reduced-emission trucks, trains, and space and water heaters.

"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 Chair 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."

"But to truly meet the ozone standard, California needs more federal action to clean up harmful diesel pollution from primarily federally controlled sources, from locomotives and ocean-going vessels to aircraft, which are all concentrated in communities that continue to bear the brunt of poor air quality," Randolph added. "We simply cannot provide clean air to Californians without the federal government doing its part."

Leah Louis Prescott, a senior associate at the clean energy nonprofit RMI, told Bloomberg that "we're really hopeful that this is the beginning of a domino effect and other states will follow California's lead."

"Together furnaces and water heaters typically that run on gas account for 90% of gas use in the average California household," Prescott said in a separate interview with KSWB. "So just eliminating these two sources of pollution is going to be a big win for our air quality and our health as well as for addressing climate change."

"I do think a lot more states are going to be following in California's footsteps and looking at this as an opportunity to reduce the pollution in our homes and businesses," she added.

While CARB's plan does not include gas stoves, dozens of California municipalities—including Los Angeles, San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley—have banned or limited their use in new residential buildings.

According to Canary Media:

Indoor fossil fuel use accounts for roughly 12% of total U.S. carbon emissions, making it an important target for efforts to combat climate change. But CARB's proposal, which is part of a much broader plan to move the state toward compliance with federal Clean Air Act standards, isn't primarily justified by the goal of reducing carbon emissions. Instead, it's intended to reduce the nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions that contribute to smog-forming and health-harming ozone and particulate air pollution.

A growing body of scientific evidence shows that emissions from burning gas to heat buildings, cook food, and dry clothes are a far more significant source of NOx emissions than previously realized. Beyond being a precursor to the formation of smog, NOx can be a significant cause and exacerbator of asthma, heart disease, and other health problems on its own.

California's move toward ending sales of gas heaters and furnaces will likely mean an increased reliance upon heat pump technology, which uses electricity to transfer heat from warm to cool places, and is already in widespread use in Europe.

Fossil fuel and utility lobbyists have successfully fought attempts to ban or limit the use of gas appliances. At least 20 Republican-controlled states have passed laws to outlaw such bans.

Thursday's CARB announcement came two months after California moved to outlaw the sale of new gasoline-powered cars by 2035.

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