Decisions on potential revisions to Half Moon Bay’s codes that could ban residential gas use by 2045 remain unresolved following City Council discussion, with the council undecided on if exemptions or extensions for residential and commercial circumstances should be allowed.
“I’d like for us to have another study session on this. I think there are too many details for us to stop the discussion right now,” Councilmember Deborah Penrose said.
Instead, the council will continue its discussion 5 p.m. Oct. 5 on ways to help residents and businesses concerned about regulations switching appliances from natural gas to electric that could be too expensive and unreliable. Under the current proposed ordinance, all new residential and commercial construction must be all-electric with no exemptions, any appliance replaced must be electric, and all fuel gas lines must be capped or decommissioned by 2045.
The city is trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reach carbon neutrality by 2045 as part of the fight against climate change. Building energy in 2017 accounted for 48% of greenhouse gas emissions generated within city limits, with 80% of those emissions due to fuel gas, namely natural gas, in buildings, a staff report said. Half Moon Bay has projected a 16% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 with the proposed ordinance. The proposed ordinance is scheduled for introduction in November and implementation in January.
Members of the public were worried about the cost of improvements, while others were worried about the reliability of electric appliances, citing the last couple of weeks of outages in the area. Some said PG&E public safety power shutoffs would result in electric applicants not working as consistently as natural gas options.
Rocket Farms Wholesale Center, a wholesale plant nursery in Half Moon Bay, is one business concerned about the financial costs of switching to all-electric for new appliances in existing buildings. It said moving to solar rooftops was not an option. A city staff report noted the increased cost to businesses might add a significant cost burden, especially in the short term.
Rocket Farms President Nick Bavaro said his business would cease to exist without natural gas, with retrofitting expected to cost millions of dollars.
“I can’t run the nursery on electricity. It’s an impossibility. Without my boilers, we are literally out of business. From our perspective, this is a non-negotiating point, and we really do appreciate the fact that the city is considering implementing an exemption for nurseries within the city limits,” Bavaro said.
At the council’s Sept. 21 meeting, city staff noted Half Moon Bay could help by offering delays or exemptions to help ease the burden. Options for residences include delaying electrification requirements for existing residential buildings until 2030 and exemptions for fuel gas stoves, ovens or fireplaces. Potential changes for non-residential include delaying requirements for non-residential buildings until 2025, exemptions for fuel gas stoves and ovens in commercial kitchens and exemptions for greenhouses until 2030.
Councilmember Joaquin Jimenez favored going all electrical for new construction but said when it was time for application replacement, he favored leaving it up to owners on their best options for their homes.
“If we force homeowners or apartment building owners to do this, we are going to be driving our community out,” Jimenez said.
Mayor Robert Brownstone agreed with Jimenez, favoring delaying applying the ordinance requirements for existing residential units until 2025 to see how incentives like rebates worked for other cities. He also called for another study session.
Vice Mayor Debbie Ruddock suggesting looking at exemptions for low-income residents but favored mandating electricity for new construction.
“I’d like us to balance it and recognize that we can phase this and move forward,” Ruddock said.
Councilmember Harvey Rarback cited the looming climate change crisis as a reason to have stringent measures to meet greenhouse gas emissions standards. While it would cause inconvenience and difficulty, he did not think the city had any other choice.
“We need to do whatever we to try and reduce the effects of climate change any way we can,” Rarback said. “That’s why this electrification ordnance is a step in the right direction.”
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