OPINION By SLO COUNTY SUPERVISOR DEBBIE ARNOLD
It is my honor and privilege to represent San Luis Obispo County’s 5th District at the Board of Supervisors. One of the things I’m most proud of is working with a broad range of community groups and interests to find common ground and promote better public access to information about policies that will impact local residents.
Currently, that means bringing attention to proposed amendments that appear to be phasing out the use of natural gas in the City of San Luis Obispo.
As a representative for residents of the city, I believe it is my duty to weigh in on a policy that would have unknown implications for those residing in San Luis Obispo and advocate on behalf of my constituents there.
I know from my experience as a County Supervisor that a great number of folks are typically not aware of all of the proposals before the Board of Supervisors or their local city council. But I believe all residents of San Luis Obispo should know about the proposal before the SLO City Council on Sept. 3, which would amend the building code to require all new buildings be constructed in a manner that would make them “electric retrofit-ready” beginning next year.
City officials say the amendments they are proposing do not constitute a ban on natural gas, such as the one approved by the City of Berkley. They have also said they do not plan to change codes affecting existing homes and businesses in the city.
However, the council’s intent seems clear. I cannot think of a reason to change the building code in this manner if there is no plan to eliminate the use of natural gas in the future.
The City of San Luis Obispo is a member of the Building Decarbonization Coalition, whose goal is to unite “building industry stakeholders with energy providers, environmental organizations and local governments to help electrify California’s homes and work spaces with clean energy.”
Earlier this month, the Coalition responded to an inquiry on Twitter about electrifying California’s building supply by saying “Don’t worry, we are going to win on existing buildings too!”
I am not aware of any public announcement by city officials that they were going to join such a coalition in the name of residents, and that is concerning to me.
Natural gas has provided clean, dependable, and affordable energy to San Luis Obispo County homes and businesses for decades. Equally as important, it has provided countless jobs to our neighbors who work day-in and day-out to ensure our homes have the affordable energy we need.
I hear from families every day who are working hard to make ends meet. We should be weary of any policy, no matter how well-intended its goals are, that could make it more difficult for families to pay their bills. We all want to make sure energy is affordable for families who call San Luis Obispo and the Central Coast home.