|Petitioner: Jesse Gray (TMM-10), Werner Lohe (TMM-13), Alan Leviton, Lisa Cunningham (TMM-15), Diane Sokal, Daria Mark, Cora Weissbourd, Kathleen Scanlon (TMM-3), Heather Hamilton (SB), Raul Fernandez (SB), and Nancy Heller (SB)
This by-law will prohibit installation of fossil fuel piping in new buildings and in major renovation of existing buildings. Consequently, this policy will require heat, hot water, and appliances that are installed during new construction and gut renovation to be all-electric. For situations in which electric is not practical or cost effective, this by-law provides for exemptions, including for fuel piping for backup generators. An exception is also included for the Waldo-Durgin development,
because it is the only major commercial project requiring a zoning change that has not yet pulled a building permit.
We are facing a global climate crisis. This climate crisis directly affects Brookline residents and businesses. Massachusetts is one of the fastest-warming states in the country. We have seen a rapid increase in extreme heat events that threaten the health of our children, our seniors, and those who need to work outside, not to mention our fragile ecosystem, our plants and wildlife. Rising seas and increased flooding threaten Boston and coastal communities. Public health risks include
an increase in heat-related illnesses and deaths, as well as outbreaks of insect-borne and waterborne diseases. As natural ecosystems change or collapse, Massachusetts farmers, fishermen, and residents will suffer.
In its Climate Action Plan, Brookline has committed to reducing its carbon emissions to zero by 2050. Every new building constructed with fossil fuel infrastructure makes this goal harder to achieve, by lighting a new fire that will burn, on and off, for thirty years or more. To meet our climate goal, each of these fires will need to be put out through the retrofitting of buildings, which account for 60-70% of our Town emissions. It is unfair to the next generation to continue to install infrastructure that we already know will need to be replaced in a very short time.
Worsening gas leaks in underground pipes constitute their own significant dangers. Recent gas explosions in the Merrimack Valley, which killed one person and injured many more, and non-injurious explosions in Brookline, have put citizens at risk. 25% of the natural gas pipelines in Massachusetts are leak-prone and need repair and replacement. Gas utilities, including in Brookline, are not adequately maintaining natural gas infrastructure by fixing unsafe leaks. Gas leaks have also killed trees in many places in Brookline.
In addition, the burning of fossil fuels inside buildings produces harmful indoor emissions18 that emit nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO), and formaldehyde (HCHO), each of which can cause various respiratory and other health ailments. Cooking with gas has been linked to asthma and other adverse health effects, with children and low-income households particularly affected. Nitrogen dioxide from gas stoves is linked to increased asthma rates among low-income preschoolers, and gas stoves are especially dangerous in smaller apartments with poor ventilation and when they are used for supplemental heat. If the Clean Air Act applied inside homes, the air quality produced by cooking with gas would be illegal.
All-electric buildings are healthier and can operate immediately with zero emissions through the purchase of 100% renewable electricity with programs like Brookline Green Electricity. Even buildings using the default New England electrical grid mix become greener every year as the electrical grid incorporates more and more renewable electricity generation, with a state-mandated minimum 60% renewable energy by 2050.