ACTION ALERT: Tell Newton City Council New Buildings Should be Fossil Fuel-Free

Green Newton, Mothers Out Front Newton, and other partner organizations support a Home Rule Petition for Electrification in the City of Newton.  If passed, the City could obtain the authority to require new construction to be built with fossil fuel free heating, hot water, and cooking systems.  It is easier and less expensive to install fossil fuel free heating when a building is first built than it is to retrofit existing buildings. Once built with clean energy systems, a building will be a part of the solution and not a contributor to climate change for many years to come.

Please send an email to the City Council by Wednesday, March 31 asking the Council to pass a Home Rule Petition for Electrification, so that Newton can obtain the authority to require new construction to be completed with fossil fuel free heating, hot water, and cooking systems.

Sending an email is easy: 

  1. Click on this  link and your email program will open with a sample letter to the City Council.

  2. Add your name and home address at the bottom.  Your letter will be more effective if you also add in the text any other comments you have regarding the urgency and importance of the issue to you personally.

Below you’ll find information about the issue if you want to learn more.  Also included below is the text of the sample letter in case the link does not work.

Background Information

Home use of oil and gas is a major source of greenhouse gases in Newton.  It is very expensive to correct in existing homes and commercial buildings, but there is essentially no cost penalty to building new without using fossil fuel.  However many new houses are still being built with gas.  The current big developments at Northland, Riverside and Riverdale are being designed using the electrification approach, which is practical and cost-effective.  For such buildings, electric heating is provided with electric-driven heat pumps, and cooking is done with electricity.

To reach Newton’s climate goals, by 2050 all home use of fossil fuel must be eliminated.

Gas is a problem.  When burned as intended, gas results in CO2, a greenhouse gas causing climate disruption.  When leaking, gas (methane) is an even more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2.  Of the 305 miles of gas pipes in Newton streets, 78% have leaks.

Electric cooking is healthier.  Here are some links:

How Home Rule Petition Works

The proposal is to require all new construction to have electric heating (also in the past called a “gas ban” ). By including hot water heating and gas cooking in the requirement, the building will not need any gas service at all.

Massachusetts law says that Newton cannot make such an ordinance without State permission.   The Home Rule Petition is a mechanism for obtaining such permission.  Three municipalities have already passed home rule petitions; see the actual language here: Brookline,  Arlington, and  Lexington

Passing the home rule petition in Newton follows this path: Draft language is written by the City’s legal department. Hearings, debate and approval takes place in the Public Facilities Committee of the City Council.  Debate and approval take place in the full City Council, and approval is given by our Mayor.  The measure is introduced in the Massachusetts legislature by our elected representatives and senators. Approval is granted by the State Legislature, and then the bill is signed by the Governor. 

Similar to other municipalities, Newton’s language will need to include exceptions for special uses, building types, and also a process to apply for exemption from the rule.

Opposition

At the statewide and national level the “electrification” initiative faces opposition from the gas industry.   See these articles on gas utility lobbying.  

 

SAMPLE EMAIL LETTER

To:  [email protected][email protected], [email protected]     

Cc:   [email protected]

Subj:  Home Rule Petition on Electrification

 

Dear City Councilor and Mayor Fuller, 

Please continue to make progress on a Home Rule Petition to require new construction in Newton to be fossil fuel free.  Public Facilities has made a terrific start last summer and more recently.  I want to communicate my support now to make progress as quickly as possible.  The climate crisis threats worldwide are ever more obvious. 

I hope that Newton’s initiative will require electrification of heating and hot water systems in new construction and major renovations, similar to the initiatives in Brookline, Arlington and Lexington.

Cooking should be included in Newton’s regulation.  Air pollution from indoor cooking with gas is a strong concern.  Indoor air quality is better with electric cooking because NOx (Oxides of Nitrogen) is substantially reduced; this has health impacts.  High quality electric induction cooktops are now available and many cooks find them to perform better than gas.

Newton’s voice will be multiplied on Beacon Hill, especially if Newton can pass something before the summer as home rule petitions from other towns and cities are moving ahead.  Our home rule petition is needed;  the legislation currently being debated on Beacon Hill is not sufficient because it does not actually eliminate fossil fuels. 

Thank you very much.

YOUR NAME

YOUR STREET ADDRESS