Montgomery County approves near ban of fossil fuels in new buildings
The Montgomery County Council took a step toward an all-electric future Tuesday, unanimously passing a measure to require new buildings to be nearly all-electric by 2026. The county, with a population of 1.1 million, joins Washington, D.C., New York City and other jurisdictions which are moving to reduce the use of fossil fuels responsible for climate change. Members of the all-Democratic council called it a step toward cleaner buildings and a better climate.
“A fully electric new home or business is cheaper to build, operate, and better for our kids and our environment,” said council member Will Jawando, the bill’s co-sponsor.
The council now has two years to issue new building standards for any new construction, major renovations and additions. There are some buildings exempted from the legislation such as sewage plants, restaurants, indoor farming operations, breweries and wineries or buildings that require back-up generators like hospitals.
The bill faced stiff opposition from utilities such as Washington Gas and Pepco as well as local chambers of commerce. Utility representatives worried that the measure would hamper the ability to deliver gas to customers and that the county’s power grid couldn’t keep up with the demand.
Environmental organizations were solidly in favor of the measure.
Mike Tidwell, director of Chesapeake Climate Action Network, called it good climate policy.
“Everyone who's paying attention to energy issues in an era of rapid climate change in this country understands that we have to electrify everything,” he said. “We have to electrify our cars or buses and our homes. And this is a first step.”
The measure comes as Maryland’s General Assembly has wrestled with climate issues during recent sessions. A statewide all-electric bill was sent to the Public Service Commission for a two-year study during the 2021 session and last session lawmakers passed a bill requiring the state to become carbon neutral by 2045.
Tidwell predicted other counties would soon follow Montgomery’s lead.
“And then you're going to see the Maryland General Assembly, I believe no later than 2024, pass its own version of this bill,” he said. “And we're going to have only electric new buildings across the state from Garrett County, all the way to Ocean City.”