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Gov. Greg Abbott has signed a bill into law that prohibits Texas cities from banning natural gas as a fuel source for new construction and utility services.
House Bill 17, which Abbott signed Tuesday, according to the Texas Legislature’s online portal, is a response to a trend in progressive California cities. Abbott’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Joe Deshotel, D-Beaumont, argued that banning natural gas would restrict consumer choices. Deshotel was not immediately available for comment Tuesday, but he previously told The Texas Tribune that he filed the bill in response to “what is happening on the West Coast,” where cities have passed energy efficiency plans that prohibit new subdivisions from offering natural gas heating, requiring instead that new homes be heated by electricity.
Using electricity to heat homes rather than natural gas reduces greenhouse gas emissions. The bulk of emissions from residential and commercial buildings in San Francisco are attributed to burning natural gas, which spurred the city’s efforts to mandate a transition, Inside Climate News reported in November.
In Austin, the city’s initial climate action plan would have virtually eliminated gas use in new buildings by 2030, but it was altered after Texas Gas Service opposed the measure, the Texas Observer reported in March.
The new law, which takes effect immediately, prevents cities or municipalities from “discriminating” against any particular fuel source.
At least a dozen similar bills were filed in states including Kansas, Minnesota and Ohio.
But in Texas, the legislation was promoted as a response to the power outages caused by February’s winter storm.
Lawmakers pointed to the ability of natural gas providers to largely continue supplying gas to homes during the storm. Gas-fired furnaces cannot run without power, but some people with gas service were able to use gas fireplaces and stoves.
Disclosure: Texas Gas Service has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.