DENVER–Signature gathering is underway to place a measure on Colorado’s 2020 general election ballot that, if passed, would serve as a a preemptive strike against an ongoing trend around the country banning or restricting the use of natural gas for appliances. Initiative #284 seeks to prohibit state or local regulations that would “inhibit consumer choice through restrictions on the installation of natural gas utilization in homes and businesses.”
Proponents have until August 3 to turn in 124,632 valid signatures of registered Colorado voters to the Secretary of State.
The initiative was filed by Greg Kishiyama, Senior Engineering Manager with Illinois-based Farnsworth Group, an engineering and architecture firm, and Keith Venable, Director of Business Development Louisana-based WHC Energy Services, a pipeline and energy infrastructure construction company.
Protect Colorado, a state-registered issue committee is circulating the petitions.
“Protect Colorado is committed to ensuring consumer choice for energy,” said spokesperson Laurie Cipriano in a statement provided to Complete Colorado Sunday. “The consumer choice measure on natural gas restrictions, Initiative 284, prevents any special interest from removing consumer choice on what energy is used in homes and businesses for cooking, heating, and running critical equipment. If passed, local and state governments could not enact laws banning clean-burning, affordable, and reliable natural gas usage in new construction.”
Colorado is not alone in combating the spread of natural gas bans. Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arizona and Tennessee all passed bills this year that preempt local regulations that prohibit natural gas hookups.
In a press release Protect Colorado says “The use of natural gas remains the number one driver of CO2 emission reduction both in Colorado and the U.S. since 2010. Natural gas is often used as a backup to alternative, less reliable sources of energy. When alternative forms of energy fail, causing rolling blackouts, natural gas ensures that the power stays on. Natural gas and renewables work together in partnership to provide you, the consumer, with the best forms of responsible energy available.”
The physics of power grid operation require backup generators that can quickly compensate for the inherent variability in wind and solar generation, and almost all new “fast dispatch” backup power plants are powered by natural gas.
Complete Colorado interviewed Charles Griffey last June about the feasibility of Governor Polis’ 100% renewable energy plan.
Griffey is an electric utility resource planning consultant and former senior officer at Reliant Energy, a Texas provider with more than 2 million customers, who said reaching 100% renewable energy “Can’t be done with existing technology.”
“Renewables don’t provide the capability to meet the second to second movements in the electric system,” said Griffey. “You can’t maintain electrical reliability, you have to have electrical capacity that moves up and down quickly.”
Lynn Granger, Executive Director for API Colorado, a national oil and gas trade association told Complete Colorado Sunday, “We are fans of an all-of-the-above solution. All forms of energy are good. We wouldn’t have some of these forms of renewable energy without our industry, solar and wind in particular. The quest for 100% renewables is just not realistic. We really need to have realistic conversations about our energy future.”
The push for full electrification and the elimination of natural gas as an energy source began last year in Berkeley, California with a ban on natural gas in new buildings.
Since then more than 30 cities and counties in California, including San Jose, the 10th largest city in the US, as well as municipalities in Massachusetts, Washington, Oregon, Ohio and New York have enacted codes restricting or prohibiting the installation of natural gas appliances.
There is no current organized push to ban natural gas installations in Colorado, but groups like the Sierra Club are advancing the agenda and are claiming that not only does natural gas contribute to climate change, but that, “According to one study, cooking on a gas stove just once a week leads to levels of indoor air pollution that if recorded outdoors would be considered illegal by the EPA,” citing a study by Berkeley Lab scientist Jennifer Logue.
But the Sierra Club admits that only 16% of America’s energy needs are currently being met by renewables including hydroelectric, biomass, wind and solar.
In fact, renewable sources not including hydroelectric only provide 10.9% of U.S. utility-scale power generation, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
“It’s unfortunate that we’re starting to see these types of bans pop up,” said Granger. “Natural gas is cleaner, it’s more affordable, and it’s very abundant. I think consumer choice is very important. It also serves to pull people out of energy poverty by keeping energy costs very low. We want to continue to see that into the future.
Initiative #284 is a statutory change, meaning it would need 50 percent-plus-one of the vote to pass and that lawmakers can later amend the measure if enacted, as with any other state law.