Ordinance requiring new homes, buildings use electric over gas going before Chicago Council Wed.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2024
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CHICAGO (WLS) -- The debate over gas versus electric will go to City Hall Wednesday.

In an effort for a cleaner environment, Mayor Brandon Johnson and 15 City Council members are introducing an ordinance that would require new buildings and homes to use electric over natural gas.

"We are setting an indoor emissions standard that would effectively eliminate the use of fossil fuels in newly constructed buildings in Chicago," 49th Ward Alderwoman Maria Hadden said. "What we're trying to do is a really small step that only impacts 1% of buildings. It's just for new construction, so we're not taking away natural gas as an option for people. We are setting emission standards."

The Clean and Affordable Building's Ordinance will be introduced on Wednesday, and while it only applies to new construction, the Johnson administration said this is just the first step in making changes for all of Chicago.

"We must design better outcomes that work for every building type and every neighborhood in Chicago," Department of Environment Commissioner Angela Tovar said.

But 36th Ward Alderman Gilbert Villegas said, not so fast. He is introducing a resolution that calls for a study to assess the financial impact of replacing natural gas with electric, especially if the ordinance eventually expands to include all Chicago households and buildings.

"I'm concerned about the senior that is going to have retrofit at the cost of $25 to $30,000 per household," Villegas said. "Let's take our time on it. Let's make sure we get it right. We know that there's already litigation that has occurred in California, and there's ongoing litigation in New York. Why would we set ourselves up for a lawsuit?"

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Villegas said the ordinance does not include subsidies to transition, and he is also concerned about whether ComEd can handle the extra electric load.

Villegas' resolution is supported by unions. On top of the list is Gas Workers Union Local 18007.

"There are over a thousand new construction properties built in city of Chicago every year. That would be a thousand customers that People's Gas would lose," said Sean Gaurige, with Gas Workers Union Local 18007.

If the ordinance makes it through committee and full City Council, it will likely be another year before it takes effect. Unions plan to fight it every step of the way.