East Hampton Town may get a lot greener if a proposal to phase out fossil fuel stoves, heating, and cooling systems is adopted. The change anticipates one recommendation to the State Legislature that would prohibit fossil fuel-powered devices in new construction in 2024 for buildings of less than seven stories and by mid-2027 for those seven stories or more. This would be a seismic change in the way people and businesses cook and keep warm in New York State and the already high cost of electricity on Long Island. Yet the stakes of inaction are even higher.
According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the built environment produces almost a third of the state’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Electrical hot water heaters, stoves, and cold climate heat pumps produce no onsite greenhouse gas emissions, and in our region, at least, power supplied to the grid is relatively climate-friendly. The cost to homebuilders for the hardware would add only marginally to the price of a house; quality electric ranges are only slightly more expensive than comparable natural gas or propane units.
Moreover, as dwellings themselves become ever more airtight thanks to improvements in the building efficiency rules, health risks from indoor fossil fuel cooking have grown. The town’s energy sustainability committee has made the startling point that children living in residences with gas stoves are 42 percent more likely to experience asthma. Electric systems avoid this sort of problem.
By adopting the phase-out, the town could help meet its goal of 100 percent renewable energy use by 2030. The board might consider cash rebates for the owners of existing fossil fuel equipment who make the switch — at least to temporarily take the sting out of increased electric bills.