The Chicago City Council is deliberating on an ordinance that could significantly restrict the use of natural gas in new construction projects.
This initiative is part of the city’s broader effort to phase out fossil fuels. Alderperson Maria Hadden (D-49th Ward) introduced the Clean and Affordable Buildings Ordinance, aimed at reducing carbon emissions from new buildings and large additions.
Implications for new buildings and exemptions
The ordinance mirrors a similar policy implemented in New York City in 2021, forbidding the combustion of substances emitting 25 kilograms or more of carbon dioxide per million British thermal units of energy.
Under this proposal, new buildings in Chicago would be required to utilize all-electric heating and cooking systems.
Exceptions are in place for certain facilities, including hospitals, crematoriums, research labs, and some commercial kitchens.
Chicago’s proposed ordinance aims for sustainability and economic viability
The ordinance is expected to be effective one year after the City Council approves it.
Alderperson Hadden expressed the urgency of this measure to the Chicago Tribune, stating, “This is a matter of real survival and the future of our city—and especially our economic future…We’re being forced in this direction by nature, but also by policy and by business and industry.”
Supporters of the ordinance, such as Sarah Moskowitz from the Citizens Utility Board, argue that it is vital for reducing emissions and addressing the high cost of gas in Chicago.
Heating practice debate: Economic and reliability concerns
Moskowitz emphasized the economic and environmental unsustainability of current heating practices in the city.
Conversely, the American Gas Association and Peoples Gas have vehemently opposed the legislation. Karen Harbert, President and CEO of the American Gas Association, warned against the potential negative impacts on consumers and environmental progress.
Peoples Gas criticized the proposal for potentially increasing costs and jeopardizing reliability, particularly during extreme cold conditions.
Villegas’ concerns over electricity costs and timing
Alderman Gilbert Villegas (D-36th Ward) raised concerns, as reported by Fox News, about the potential spike in electricity costs resulting from the natural gas ban.
He also questioned the timing of such a policy, considering recent power outages during winter, saying, “Now is the worst possible time to hastily slam through an ordinance without examining true cost.”
Chicago’s move follows similar actions by cities like New York and Los Angeles, aligning with Illinois’ goal to eliminate fossil-fuel energy sources by 2050.
Rob Samuelson is a writer who splits his time between Chicago and Asheville, North Carolina. He writes the Punk Rock Mister Rogers Substack blog.