September 18, 2019 / 1:06 AM / a month ago

CORRECTED-UPDATE 1-San Jose becomes first big US city to discourage natural gas in buildings

(Corrects paragraph 6 to say that the San Jose rules ban natural gas in new single-family and low-rise multi-family buildings not that rules allow gas buildings to meet higher energy efficiency standards.)

By Nichola Groom

Sept 17 (Reuters) - San Jose, the 10th most populous U.S. city and political center of Silicon Valley, adopted new rules on Tuesday aimed at phasing out the use of natural gas in buildings.

With the unanimous vote by the 10-member City Council and Mayor Sam Liccardo, San Jose became the largest U.S. city so far to adopt building codes that seek to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by favoring appliances that run on renewable electricity sources over those powered by natural gas.

The moves by San Jose and others come amid rising local and state opposition to the use of natural gas in buildings because of the fossil fuel's contribution to climate-warming emissions.

San Jose's move falls short of an outright ban on natural gas in new buildings such as the one passed by nearby Berkeley, California, earlier this year.

San Jose, Berkeley and other cities adopting new building codes or natural gas bans want buildings switched to electric power from a grid that is powered by renewable energy. Residential and commercial buildings account for about 12% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The city's new building codes ban natural gas in new single-family and low-rise multi-family buildings beginning in 2020, while allowing the use of the fuel in high-rise buildings.

San Jose, home to tech companies like eBay Inc and Cisco Systems Inc, last year adopted a goal of making all new residential buildings zero emissions by 2020, with the same target for commercial buildings by 2030.

Other large U.S. cities like Los Angeles and Seattle are also considering laws that could drastically reduce natural gas usage in buildings.

Oil and gas industry groups have argued that natural gas has helped cut U.S. carbon emissions and is an affordable option for heating and cooking. (Reporting by Nichola Groom; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)

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