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San Francisco to ban gas appliances — but not stoves

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District voted to ban natural gas water heaters starting in 2027 and natural gas furnaces in 2029.
The flame of a gas stove being ignited.
Posted at 12:34 PM, Mar 17, 2023

Gas stoves have sparked heated debates over the past few months, and now one California city has taken steps to ban natural gas appliances — but surprisingly, not stoves.

The San Francisco Bay Area is set to transition away from natural gas furnaces and water heaters in an effort to address harmful nitrogen oxide emissions.

TheBay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) voted Wednesday to ban natural gas water heaters starting in 2027, natural gas furnaces in 2029, and commercial water heaters in 2031.

The BAAQMD board of directors consists of mayors and county supervisors from nine Bay Area counties, including: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, southwestern Solano, and southern Sonoma counties.

Twenty of the 21 directors who were present voted in favor of the ban, with one abstaining.

“The 1.8 million water heaters and furnaces in the Bay Area significantly impact our air quality, resulting in dozens of early deaths and a wide range of health impacts, particularly in communities of color,” Dr. Philip Fine, executive officer of the Air District, said in a statement.

He referred to the ban as a "groundbreaking regulation" that will "phase out the most polluting appliances in homes and businesses."

However, the new regulations only apply to new appliances and don't include those used for cooking, such as gas stoves.

Burner on a natural gas stove.

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Natural gas appliances — particularly gas stoves — have recently been linked to cancer-causing agents, infertility and global warming.

However, some Bay Area residents aren't pleased with the new regulations.

In a letter to board member Jennifer Elwell, one resident called the ban "ridiculously unrealistic."

Another person wrote that the "mandated movement to all-electric is a mistake," citing California's already-strained electric grid.

While language in the new regulations refers only to "NOx-emitting natural gas furnaces and water heaters," a fact sheet distributed by the agency claims the only stoves that don't emit nitrogen oxide are electric ones.

According to the agency, these new regulations will prevent an estimated 85 premature deaths and save up to $890 million per year in health impacts.

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