Like a growing number of communities across the state and nation, Brookline has set an aggressive goal to eliminate its climate-changing emissions by 2050.
Town Meeting member Jesse Gray has proposed a simple but far-reaching bylaw to help Brookline meet that goal: Ban new gas pipelines and infrastructure in future major construction.
"The most practical and cost effective way to achieve that goal is not to install new fossil fuel system when we're building new buildings and when we are gut-renovating them," Gray said.
Brookline will vote on Gray's proposal during November's Town Meeting.
Gray estimates a ban would cut the town's climate change emissions 15% over the next 30 years, but it wouldn't prevent anyone in an existing home from swapping an old gas stove or appliance with a new one.
"This is really only affecting fossil fuel infrastructure installation when it's very convenient and practical to chose alternative options that are better for the climate," he said.
Neil Wishinsky, former chair of Brookline's Select Board, was among 20 town officials, business owners and residents attending Wednesday's community forum on the proposed gas infrastructure ban.
"You know I'm fully on board," Wishinsky said. "I just want to make sure we don't have any unintended consequences. I want to learn more."
While the ban is stringent, it does allow for some exemptions, according to the warrant article. Gas piping for backup electric generators, propane for outdoor heating and cooking, and lines for gas meters are all still allowed under the plan. And after hearing from restaurant owners, proponents of the proposed gas ban also said they'd consider exempting places where commercial cooking is done.
A real estate agent at the forum warned that the ban could harm the value of homes in Brookline as perspective buyers look at nearby communities that would still allow gas in homes.
Town Meeting member Andrew Fisher agreed real estate prices could be affected but said he's got grandchildren to consider.
"We're not going to seriously address climate change until we recognize that there's a price to it," he said. "We have to stop using fossil fuel. Period."
Next week, Brookline residents get another chance to consider the proposed gas infrastructure ban as an advisory panel vets the wording of the warrant article.
This segment aired on September 26, 2019.