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San Anselmo requires new homes to be all electric

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San Anselmo will require all-electric utilities in new residential buildings.

City Council voted 4-0 on Tuesday to approve an ordinance prohibiting the installation of gas lines when building new residences to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Council member Ford Greene was absent from the meeting.

The move follows a Marin County civil grand jury report that called on local governments to expedite the transition from gas to electric appliances. San Anselmo, San Rafael, and MCE — the electric utility formerly known as Marin Clean Energy — have been working on such efforts, and Fairfax passed a similar ordinance in 2021.

Mayor Alexis Fineman said the ordinance is an important step and she looks forward to “continued efforts to electrify and decarbonize our built environment.”

“The science is clear: we have an urgent moral imperative to move away from fossil fuels and greenhouse gases,” Fineman said. “As we begin to phase out natural gas infrastructure, we must also look for creative opportunities to support our residents and businesses to ease this difficult, but necessary, transition for our community.”

Fineman said methane, the main component of natural gas, is a dangerously potent greenhouse gas and plays an outsized role in contributing to climate catastrophe, locally and globally.

At this point, Susannah Saunders, vice chair of the city’s climate commission, said cooking on gas stoves gives off the same fumes as car exhaust and is more powerful than carbon dioxide in trapping heat.

“I hope you will vote to pass this ordinance because the consequences of not taking this action are nightmares,” she told the council.

The city had released a community survey on the matter. Of 96 respondents, more than 50% said they opposed the all-electric ordinance, citing concerns about cost, vulnerability during outages, and distrust of Pacific Gas and Electric Co., among other reasons.

However, those who commented during the meeting were encouraged by this decision.

While the council also wanted to impose the ordinance on commercial construction, city staff said that would require a rewrite of the proposed ordinance. Staff had planned to offer the all-electric business order at a later date.

“I think that’s absolutely the direction we need to go,” board member Steve Burdo said. “This draft order before us, I believe, represents another opportunity for us to move away from our reliance on fossil fuels.”