When thousands of the world’s leading scientists are all saying the same thing, “The Climate Crisis is serious, and we need rapid and bold action to ensure a climate safe future,” how do you respond? You look at the biggest root cause of the Climate Crisis: burning fossil fuels like coal, oil, diesel and gasoline.

But there’s another fossil fuel that pretends to be cleaner: natural gas. Over the last year, a longtime movement to get off natural gas – or “kick gas” – became a local organized effort with the creation of the Campaign for Fossil Free Buildings in Silicon Valley.

The Campaign started with a gathering of climate and environmental leaders from San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties in March 2019. Since then, over 100 people have been working together, testifying at City Council hearings, meeting with city leaders, and organizing in communities.

The Campaign helped 14 cities take action: Brisbane, Campbell, Cupertino, Los Altos Hills, Los Gatos, Menlo Park, Milpitas, Morgan Hill, Mountain View, Pacifica, Palo Alto, Saratoga, San Jose and the City of San Mateo all have “Reach Code” clean energy policies or prohibitions on gas use in new construction.

On February 25,  San Mateo County joined those cities with one of the strongest reach codes that requires new homes and buildings to be fossil free.

Cities are acting to phase out gas from new homes and buildings because it’s now much cheaper to build with electric heaters and appliances, entirely avoiding gas pipes, meters and carbon monoxide sensors. Over the past decade the cost of electric heating and appliances has come down, and the technology has surpassed gas to be five times more efficient than top-of-the-line gas products.

The Campaign for Fossil Free Buildings has 30 member groups working to phase out fossil fuels from all buildings in Silicon Valley to help meet climate goals. We are focused on replacing natural gas with clean electric power that is now almost exclusively carbon-free. Burning gas in homes and buildings contributes to more than one-third of total greenhouse gas emissions (it’s the second largest source of GHGs behind transportation).

Burning gas indoors also creates air pollution that can be lethal, leading to hundreds of deaths and thousands of hospitalizations every year from carbon monoxide poisoning. The stew of pollutants from gas stoves alone creates pollution levels inside a kitchen that would be illegal if measured outdoors (for nitrogen dioxide). Studies have found serious health impacts from that pollution, showing that cooks with gas stoves have double the odds of lung and heart disease and triple the use of asthma medication, compared to people cooking on electric stoves.

The Massachusetts Medical Society released a warning of the environmental and health hazards of natural gas, much of which comes from fracking (December 4, 2019). The physicians “recommend that new residential or commercial gas hookups not be permitted, new gas appliances be removed from the market,…” and several other actions.

Our Campaign is grateful to the physicians who stand up for public health, to the clean energy experts at Peninsula Clean Energy and Silicon Valley Clean Energy who have supported the “reach codes,” and to the dozens of City Council members and staff who have embraced policies to avoid gas in new construction. They are the leaders who will create healthy, resilient communities that ensure a climate safe future for today’s youth.

In 2020 we’re inviting more cities and counties to prohibit gas in new construction, and we’re working with partners to help home and building owners convert to safer, cleaner and carbon-free heating and appliances. Stove by stove, heater by heater, clean electric will come to pass. It’s time to end our fossil fuel dependency. Who wants to join us in kicking gas?

Diane Bailey is Executive Director of Menlo Spark , the organization that founded the Campaign for Fossil Free Buildings in Silicon Valley.

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Hear from the candidates for Senate District 13 at a Climate and Environment Forum

A non-partisan forum featuring candidates for the California District 13 State Senate race will take place on Wednesday, Jan. 15, at Menlo-Atherton High School Performing Arts Center (555 Middlefield Ave). It will include six of the District’s registered candidates: Josh Becker, Michael Brownrigg, Alex Glew, Sally Lieber, Shelly Masur, and Annie Oliva. They are running for […]

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Make appointment for free household hazardous waste collection event in Menlo Park on Jan. 11

Menlo Park residents are invited to make appointments to drop off their household hazardous waste materials at a special local HHW collection event January 11, between 8:30 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. (appointments required). Acceptable items include: acids/bases, aerosol cans, automotive supplies (car batteries, motor oil, antifreeze, break fluids, etc.), cleaning products, fertilizers, pesticides, flammable liquids, […]

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Holiday tree recycling available through Jan. 31 for Menlo Park resident

Menlo Park residents can place trees in the street for pickup as part of the City of Menlo Park’s franchise agreement with Recology San Mateo County. Crews will collect holiday trees placed curbside next to your green compost cart on your regular collection day through January 31, 2020. Please remember to keep trees out of […]

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Tonight marks the Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice is on Saturday, December 21, 2019 at 8:19 pm in Menlo Park. In terms of daylight, this day is 5 hours, 10 minutes shorter than on the Summer Solstice. In most locations north of Equator, the shortest day of the year is around this date. Photo of Fitzgerald Marine Preserve by InMenlo co-founder […]

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Test drive an induction cooktop – free – with new loaner program

The Menlo Park City Council approved a groundbreaking local energy ordinance September 24, 2019, that requires all new buildings to be electric (with some exceptions) effective January 1, 2020. The Reach Codes sparked discussions among Peninsula residents and encouraged many to learn more about induction cooktops. Now, Acterra, a nonprofit based in Palo Alto, has […]

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Coyotes continue to roam the streets of Menlo Park

I’ve long seen coyotes on the Dish, especially at dawn, and my husband sees them frequently on the Stanford golf course. But in my 25 years living in Menlo Park near Oak Knoll School, I’ve never seen as many as has been the case in recent months. A neighbor spotted one sitting on our front […]

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M-A junior Claire Beebe attends Maine Coast Semester at Chewonki

While her M-A classmates head towards finals and then winter break, M-A  junior Claire Beebe (pictured center) is enjoying a Maine Coast Semester at Chewonki. Emails Claire: “Maine Coast Semester at Chewonki describes its program as ‘life-changing learning in nature.’ After doing a lot of research, I loved the idea of learning in the outdoors and […]

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How to help keep Menlo Park streets clean during fall leaf season

Along with the environmental and social benefits of the City of Menlo Park’s expansive tree canopy comes the winter task of removing all the fallen leaves. Every residential and commercial street in the City is swept on a regular schedule. The peak of leaf removal season is from November through February, when all of the […]

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USGS free public lecture looks at sea level rise and coastal erosion on Nov. 21

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Six tips for a more sustainable holiday season courtesy of Menlo Spark

Between Thanksgiving and the new year, Americans throw away 25% more trash. The season, fraught with over-indulgence and consumerism, can be made made more sustainable — and potentially less stressful. Here are seven tips to have a more eco-friendly holiday season. -Reuse odds and ends for more environmentally friendly wrapping paper There are many ways to […]

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