- Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson introduced an ordinance on Jan. 24 that would effectively ban natural gas hookups in new construction and additions over 10,000 square feet. Over a dozen co-sponsors joined Johnson in supporting the legislation.
- “This is the first time the City of Chicago has introduced a decarbonization ordinance for our buildings, which account for 68% of Chicago's emissions,” Leslie Perkins, chief of staff and policy director for the city’s Committee on Environmental Protection and Energy, said in an email.
- The Chicago City Council referred the ordinance, which would take effect 12 months after passing, to the Committee on Committees and Rules.
Major U.S. cities, from Seattle to New York City, have adopted “natural gas bans” similar to Chicago’s proposed ordinance. These rules aim to drive greenhouse gas emissions down by requiring most new buildings to be all-electric, rather than burn fossil fuels on-site.
Seeing these ordinances through, however, has proven difficult for some cities as gas and building groups file lawsuits to block them. A federal appeals court struck down Berkeley, California’s first-in-the-nation ban on gas hookups in new construction last year, upending the building electrification plans of some other cities in the Ninth Circuit, which includes much of the western U.S. That court decision, however, doesn’t apply to Chicago.
“This is a critical first step for [Chicago] to take towards a planned transition away from fossil fuels,” Perkins said in her email. The ordinance restricts gas hookups by setting an indoor emissions limit banning the combustion of fuels that emit 25 kilograms or more of carbon dioxide per million British thermal units of energy. This is similar to the standard outlined in New York City’s 2021 law.
Perkins noted that some buildings would be exempt from the rules, including crematoriums, commercial kitchens and hospitals.
The ordinance drew immediate backlash from the local gas industry, mirroring similar clashes unfolding nationwide. “We believe this proposed ordinance is a terrible idea for Chicago. It would increase costs and risk reliability for everyone, especially during the coldest days of the year like we are seeing this week,” Peoples Gas, the natural gas utility serving Chicago, said in a statement, as reported by the Chicago Tribune.
Perkins pushed back on that statement. “While Peoples Gas continues to rake in record profits year-over-year, the current system remains unaffordable and is getting worse,” she said. “Currently, at least 1 in 5 Chicagoans cannot afford to pay their natural gas bill, yet rates continue to increase.”
In a news release about the proposed ordinance, the Illinois Green Alliance tried to allay concerns about increased electric use straining grid capacity, citing research that points to Chicago as a place with some of the lowest long-term reliability risks in the nation. The Alliance, a nonprofit green building group, also noted that Illinois’ largest electric utility, Commonwealth Edison, has been researching scenarios to meet increased electric demand while achieving 100% renewable energy by 2050.