Developers of new buildings in New York state and of new and renovated buildings in New York City may soon be prohibited from powering and heating their buildings with any fossil fuels, including natural gas, and from installing gas-burning cooking equipment. Bills are pending in the New York Senate and the New York City Council that, if enacted, would require newly constructed buildings in the state―and in the case of the city, renovated buildings―to be developed as all-electric buildings.

The New York state bill was introduced in May, but amended in October to accelerate the effective date. The state Senate bill, SO6483, prohibits municipalities in New York from issuing a building permit for any new commercial, residential or mixed-use building that is not an all-electric building. An all-electric building is defined as one that “uses a permanent supply of electricity as the sole source of energy to meet the building energy needs” and “shall have no natural gas, propane, or oil heaters, boilers, piping systems, fixtures or infrastructure installed to meet building energy needs.”

There are some exceptions: If a building is found, after the submission of evidence, to be physically or technically incapable of being constructed as all-electric, it may be exempted if constructed as a mixed-fuel building. Financial factors may not be considered when determining whether the building is physically or technically incapable of being developed as all-electric. A mixed-fuel building is one that uses a combination of electricity and natural gas, propane or oil to meeting building energy needs. Commercial food service establishments also may be exempt if they cannot feasibly use all-electric appliances.

The bill is proposed to become effective upon enactment, but the prohibition against issuing permits for nonelectric buildings will not take effect until January 1, 2023. The New York Public Service Commission and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority are required to report to the governor and others by February 1, 2023, proposals to make changes to the design of electric rates, new or existing subsidy programs, and policies or laws needed to ensure that implementation of the statute does not diminish the production of affordable housing or the affordability of electricity for customers in all-electric buildings. At present, the bill is in committee.

The New York City bill, Intro 2317, introduced in May 2021, would update the city's building code to prohibit both new and renovated buildings from burning all fossil fuels, including natural gas, propane and heating oil. The bill provides for exemptions if fossil fuel combustion is required for emergency standby power, manufacturing or operation of a laboratory, laundromat, hospital or commercial kitchen. It enables building owners to demonstrate that application of the bill would create undue hardship. There is no definition of hardship in the bill. As drafted, the bill will become effective two years after passage. The bill was the subject of a hearing on November 17, 2021, and remains in committee.

The main difference between the New York City and New York state bills is that the city would require building owners that make major renovations to their properties to convert them to all-electric, while the state has no such requirement. There has been significant opposition to Intro 2317―and to the state bill―from the same stakeholders, so stay tuned for developments as the bills work their way through their respective legislative processes. We will provide updates as they become available.