After Federal Threat to Gas Stoves, Virginia Republicans Try Again on Right to Gas

Status by state of legislative efforts to preserve the natural gas option. The bill is again pending here in the 2023 General Assembly.  Click for better view.

by Steve Haner

First published this morning by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.

Legislation to enshrine the right to use natural gas and propane in Virginia law, a repeat of a failed effort from 2022, cleared a House of Delegates committee Tuesday. The ultimate showdown will come not in the Republican-controlled House but in the Democrat-controlled Senate, where the effort hit a wall last year.

“The General Assembly and not the localities should be making the decision on whether or not to ban fuel choices,” said Delegate Terry Kilgore, R-Gate City, before joining 11 other Republicans in voting to report House Bill 1783 to the full House. Every Democrat present voted no, many stating they think local governments should have the power to prohibit natural gas or gas appliances.

The 2022 bill emerged from a House-Senate conference committee as just a shell, merely adding some notice requirements before a local government takes steps to close its own government-owned gas utility. That is what Richmond City Council voted to make its ultimate goal about 18 months ago – the closure of Richmond Gas Works.

Since last year, additional local governments around the United States have taken further concrete steps to prohibit the use of gas in new construction, both commercial and residential. They are also moving to require that gas appliances that need to be replaced be replaced with electric versions. Even if done over time, the conversions will be expensive, tens of thousands of dollars in households with several gas appliances.

But it was the recent moves taken by President Joe Biden’s Consumer Product Safety Commission to propose a nationwide ban on gas stoves that finally sparked major national media attention, and no little public outrage. The Biden Administration has since sought to backtrack and dissemble. Don’t believe it.  Banning any use of natural gas is the ultimate goal.

Environmental groups testifying against the bill Tuesday stressed the impossibility of reaching the widespread state, local or national goals of zero fossil fuel emissions before mid-century unless residential and business fossil fuels are also eliminated. No one was seeking to deny that banning gas is the outcome sought and the only question is how and by when.

For more information and concrete steps to help protect gas from prohibition, readers should visit the website for a coalition of bill supporters. The Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy is part of the coalition. The full membership list can be found on this information sheet on the bill prepared by the coalition.  It includes the Virginia Chamber of Commerce and the Virginia Manufacturers Association.

House Bill 1783 seems a bit more direct in its language than the 2022 version. Here is the key section:

No public entity shall enact an ordinance or resolution or promulgate or impose any building code, contractual provision, or other requirement that limits, prohibits, has the effect of prohibiting, or prevents residential, commercial, or industrial consumers within their boundaries from acquiring or using the following:

1. Natural gas utility service;

2. Supply of natural gas, renewable natural gas, or hydrogen from a natural gas public utility or natural gas supplier in accordance with § 56-235.8;

3. Individually metered propane service including renewable propane; or

4. Non-utility gas service in accordance with § 56-265.4:6 and nonjurisdictional propane service.

E. No public entity requiring the issuance of a building permit shall deny a permit application based solely on the utility provider proposed to serve the project….

Brett Vassey of the Virginia Manufacturers Association reminded the committee members that natural gas is not just a building fuel, but also a major ingredient in key industrial products, including fertilizer. One opponent of the bill later claimed industrial uses were not the target but should Richmond Gas Works close entirely multiple area manufacturing facilities would be cut off.

This bill would not prohibit the city from closing its own operation, but it probably would make it much easier for some other entity – likely an existing major provider – to take over and serve Richmond Gas Works’ customers.

Compared to last year, the coalition of supporters is larger and more willing to stand up, as demonstrated in the meeting Tuesday. It is rare when the proponents of preserving fossil fuels outnumber the opponents at the podium. But the ultimate success or failure of the bill will likely depend on a wave of support from the general public. Here’s the website to make that easy again.

Should the bill become law Virginia would join about 20 other states in taking this action, as illustrated in the map at the top of this column.

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40 responses to “After Federal Threat to Gas Stoves, Virginia Republicans Try Again on Right to Gas”

  1. What happened to the Left’s Freedom of Choice? Oh right… that doesn’t apply to school, energy, cooking, light bulbs, shower heads, etc. etc……. get out of my HOUSE.

  2. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    You pass whatever laws you want to preserve gas stoves and furnaces, but think “air bags”.

    “ If your home has a wood-burning stove, or has an oil heating system, you aren’t in luck. Oil based heating can lead to environmental hazards, which is why many insurers charge more for home insurance when one has an oil tank. Using electric heat or a gas furnace is seen as safer and could lower your home’s premium. Ask your licensed insurance broker what the difference in premium is between a wood-burning stove or oil furnace and an electric or gas furnace, the difference may surprise you.”

  3. DJRippert Avatar

    Banning natural gas from home appliances is an extreme idea. So extreme that I would expect a lot of independent (or swing) voters would be appalled to know that such a ban was even under consideration.

    The Republicans are quite right to make this a state level issue. While I normally oppose Dillon’s Rule actions, I support this. Liberal extremists in places like the City of Falls Church are likely to virtue signal by enacting a ban on gas-fueled home appliances. That ban would raise the cost of living in a place that already costs way too much and would accomplish nothing meaningful in the effort to control greenhouse gasses. What happens if a single gas heating unit in a home with multiple units needs to be replaced?

    This is the kind of extremism that the GOP can, and should, use to expose the Democrats absurd efforts to dictate all aspects of modern living through government regulation. Youngkin needs to be very public about his opposition to banning gas appliances.

    1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      Hey, Don, you can’t have it both ways on the Dillon Rule–support it for things you don’t like and oppose it for things you like.

      1. DJRippert Avatar

        Of course you can have it both ways. Dillon’s Rule (or home rule) is not absolute in any state. If there were a pure Dillon’s Rule state there would be no need for any local government to pass laws. If there were a pure home rule state there would be no need for a state government.

        All states are hybrid.

        Te question is the degree to which home rule is allowed by the state constitution.

        1. James McCarthy Avatar
          James McCarthy

          The Dillon Rule by definition is not home rule. The need to adopt local laws emerges from local needs and represented decision making. State governments would exist with or without the Dillon Rule. Moreover, the Dillon Rule is not a constitutional provision as it is a judicial doctrine subject to legislative control.

          1. DJRippert Avatar

            All fine and dandy. The key of Dillon’s Rule is that local power has to be granted by the state since there is no mention of localities in the US Constitution.

            Some states grant localities a lot of power. Some do not. It is a decision made by the politicians elected to represent the state.

          2. LarrytheG Avatar

            made by politicians elected by local people to represent their regions.

        2. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
          Dick Hall-Sizemore

          The Dillon Rule does not prohibit localities from passing ordinances. It says that local ordinances must meet one of these criteria: “First, those granted in express words;
          second, those necessarily or fairly implied in or incident to the powers expressly granted; third, those essential to the accomplishment of the declared objects and purposes of the corporation, –not simply convenient, but indispensable.” Virginia is a pure Dillon Rule state.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            Interesting watching DJ evolving to pro-Dillon-Rule!

          2. DJRippert Avatar

            The original Dillon’s Rule, as described by Judge Dillon, stated that localities have no inherent power since localities are not defined in the US Constitution. Localities only get their power when the state grants them power.

            Some states grant localities a lot of power. Some grant localities very little power.

            Virginia grants limited power to localities.

            Maryland, as an example, allows counties to assess county-based income taxes. Virginia does not.

            Every state has de-evolved some power to localities.

  4. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    Localities should not be broadly prohibited from enacting ordinances prohibiting the use of gas appliances or heating systems. At the same time, there is a matter of equity (I realize that is a bad word on this blog). Many manufacturers have made major investments based on the assumption that natural gas would be available. Their source of supply should not be shut down by the locality. At the same time, the locality should be allowed to prohibit any new industrial or commercial facility from using natural gas. The same principle applies to homeowners who bought their homes with gas appliances and heating systems in good faith. They should not be forced to replace those appliances and heating systems with electric prematurely. However, localities should be allowed to prohibit any new gas hookups. In the same vein, a county or municipality operating a gas system should be prohibited from shutting down that operation without providing its existing customers an alternative supply of gas.

    1. Your idea would require the two sides of the issue to compromise with each other, and we can’t have that, can we?

      1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
        Dick Hall-Sizemore

        Perish the thought! What was I thinking?

    2. LarrytheG Avatar

      We have an existing model, the transition of CFCs to replacements. And for all the hurrah about CFCs, the transition has been mostly a snoozer.. like the “war on incandescent lights” or restrictors on faucets, toilet design, etc.

  5. I’ve had electric stove-tops in my homes for going on 35 years, but I still prefer cooking on a gas stove. They offer more precise temperature control.

    1. Modern gas appliances are safe, and provide much needed energy diversity within the home.

      When street power was unavailable, my water heater still worked. When coupled with town water, we could still take hot showers without street power.

      My gas fireplace also worked without street power, though I needed backup power for the blower (which was easily accomplished).

      But now we’re planning to bet EVERYTHING on an electric grid that is in transition, and will surely experience growing pains down the road.

  6. This is just like the stupid fracas over the shift away from incandescent bulbs. Republicans act like SWAT is going to burst into house and take your bulbs in two months, when it’s an extremely slow transition. So slow that formal ban on sales isn’t happening until this year. In that time, LEDs have gotten cheaper and have always blown their predecessors away in terms of long-term affordability thanks to lower power consumption and longevity.

    The same will happen with gas stoves. The interview states that the first step is to make the existing technology and, failing that, a ban. The ban will likely be 10+ years from, and will likely prevent new houses from being built with gas stoves, whereas existing houses will likely be encourages to switch via tax breaks. If you are 60 right now, then you can rest easy knowing it’s very likely that you’ll be dead before any law forces you to remove your stove.

    As Nancy said, just manufactured outrage to distract.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      Totally dead on truth…..

    2. You left out the first step in the transition away from incandescent light bulbs – having compact fluorescents pushed on us by the anti-incandescent crowd.

      Compact fluorescent light ‘bulbs’ were, are and always will be terrible.

      1. Matt Adams Avatar
        Matt Adams

        “whereas existing houses will likely be encourages to switch via tax breaks.”

        Clearly someone doesn’t know the cost of removing gas and running enough circuits throughout a house to comply.

        That isn’t even touching the cost of appliance.

        1. Yes, and if they don’t want to then they will not be required. “Encouraged” does not mean “forced”.

          I cannot think of a time in my life when the government went door to door looking for appliances to confiscate. Manufactured outrage, as always.

          1. Matt Adams Avatar
            Matt Adams

            If you’d like to have a debate, at least make it about a statement I made. The Federal Government has in our History went door to door, confiscation private property.

            The Confiscation Acts of 1861 and 1862.

            The Great Depression saw the Federal Government confiscate people’s Gold EO 6102, Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917 & Emergency Banking Act of 1933.

            Just for your edification, installing a 240V outlet costs ~$300 and outlet that however is dependent upon your entrance panel having the space for it. Electric ranges are ~$900 per, then you move onto the furnace which is over $1000.

            So I guess you don’t much care for the “poor” now do you.

          2. how_it_works Avatar

            “Just for your edification, installing a 240V outlet costs ~$300”

            I’m sure she could find someone in a 7-11 parking lot to do it much cheaper…

          3. Matt Adams Avatar
            Matt Adams

            Tis true, tis true. You can check outside of the Home Depot as well.

            It’s sad that people don’t realize the financial repercussions their bills will have, it’s like they don’t understand the cost of things.

          4. how_it_works Avatar

            Meanwhile they’re going to ban gas stoves because of indoor air quality problems (have these people never heard of an exhaust fan?? I guess it’s possible, one of them had never heard of a garbage disposal before), yet vent-free gas heaters are still perfectly legal.

          5. Matt Adams Avatar
            Matt Adams

            Oh it’s not about the air quality it’s about the NG. It’s not “green” enough, they’ll come after every single gas appliance in manufacture.

          6. Where government is concerned, “encouraged” very often leads to “forced”. The steps are as follows:

            1) Hey, this is a great new idea. You might want to consider doing it.

            2) Studies show that this is a great idea and that it is good for you. We encourage you to do it.

            3) This is good for you, darn it. Why can’t you see that? You really need to do this and if everybody does not do it, then we will be forced to pass a law requiring it.

            4) Okay. Fine. You all had your chance to do the right thing, and you ignored our pleas. Now, under this new law, you must do it or you will be fined/jailed.

      2. CFLs were fine; you all made a panic about the small amount of mercury because the right was desperate to terraform the molehill. And incandescents were still on shelves during that period, so you still had that available.

        1. RE: “Small amount of mercury”

          If the amount of mercury in fluorescent lights is so small, why is everyone other than residential consumers required to dispose of spent fluorescents as hazardous waste? It costs about $4 per spent “bulb”/tube for commercial property owners and government agencies to properly dispose of old fluorescent lights.

          But that is not even what I was referring to. When I said CFLs are terrible I was referring to the quality of the light they provide, their durability and their reliability.

          And I stand by my statement. They were, are and, always will be terrible.

  7. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Oh god. File last two opinion pieces under “synthetic grievance”.

    The war on gas stoves is economic. Comparatively, they’re more expensive, slower, and less efficient.

    OTOH, Red States passing laws declaring that NG must be labeled as “green” in advertising is… I dunno, you pick a word meaning “willfully idiotic”.

    1. Remember that Germany has labeled wood burning as ‘renewable’.

      1. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        Wood is renewable. Think Al Gore.

    2. “Red States passing laws declaring that NG must be labeled as ‘green’…”

      “Green” is relative. Name one energy source that has zero environmental issues. I’ll wait.

      Natural gas is far better than coal, which our electrical grid is still dependent on. We could transition to NG relatively quickly, but for the environmental extremists.

      “Overall, major house appliances that run on gas or electricity give you the option of cheaper upfront costs versus long-term savings. Natural gas is usually cheaper on a month-to-month basis than electricity, and natural gas appliances will to continue to work if the power goes out.”,by%20and%20large%2C%20are%20safer.

  8. Paul Sweet Avatar
    Paul Sweet

    Banning new gas hookups is one thing. Virginia Gas did that in the mid 70s when their supplies couldn’t keep up with demand. That is one of the reasons that Virginia has a greater percentage of heat pumps or electric heat than several nearby states.

    The big problem comes if gas appliance and equipment sales are also banned. Older homes that originally had coal, oil, or gas heat and water heaters often have electric services that are inadequate for electric heat (including heat pumps), water heater, range, etc. Putting in a new 200 amp or larger service can be very disruptive and expensive, especially if the original panel can’t be reused as a subpanel.

    Gas has been safely used for lighting, heating, cooking, etc. for over a century, and was a less-polluting replacement for coal and oil. I suspect that it has been declared a health hazard mostly as an excuse to ban another fossil fuel. New sensors and technology allow smaller amounts of byproducts to be detected, and regulators always want to tighten their regulations until they are impossible to meet.

  9. Eric the half a troll Avatar
    Eric the half a troll

    Conservatives vote for top down, one size fits all, big government… again…

    1. Conservatives are not the ones trying to ban a widely used product. And no conservative is trying to require you to buy a gas stove.

      1. Eric the half a troll Avatar
        Eric the half a troll

        Do you deny that State government is not bigger, top down, and one-size fits all government when compared to local representatives…??

  10. William O'Keefe Avatar
    William O’Keefe

    The notion that gas appliances should be banned is just another case of the far left, environmentalists trying to pick winners and losers all in the name of zero emissions. Technology and economics not politicians and bureaucrats should determine the transition to lower carbon emissions. The notion that we are pushing the planet towards an apocalypse is pure rhetoric that has not factual foundation. Anyone who takes the time to look back at these predictions of doom will discover how poor they have been.

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