B.C. Liberals and Vancouver clash over natural gas restrictions

B.C. Liberals and Vancouver clash over natural gas restrictions

The B.C. Liberals are promising to overturn a City of Vancouver decision to "ban natural gas" from new buildings — but the city says no such ban is in place. 

"Today's B.C. Liberals will ensure that natural gas remains an energy option for residents, restaurants and businesses in the City of Vancouver," said Liberal candidate Andrew Wilkinson in a media release.

"While we all agree that climate change must be addressed, banning natural gas from the City of Vancouver at a huge cost to residents is not the way to go."

But the city says there is no outright ban on natural gas in place.

Instead, after May 1, developers will have various options to meet the city's new Renewal City Strategy goals, which aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from all new homes and buildings by 2030.

"How a developer meets those targets is up to them," said the city in a written statement. 

"It can involve a mix of better insulation, thicker windows, and better design, as well as opting for renewable energy."

Renewable energy could include so-called green natural gas, which is derived from the breakdown of organic materials and wastewater. 

Restaurants oppose strategy

Wilkinson said the new regulation "needlessly adds cost to consumers, homebuyers and restaurateurs." 

In a letter sent to council last July, natural gas supplier FortisBC also denounced the city's decision, claiming it would cost an average family of four $1,500 per year in additional energy costs. 

FortisBC does supply renewable natural gas to about 900 customers in Vancouver, but in another letter written to council, the company said it doesn't have enough of it to supply all of its existing customer base.

The Liberals also said the B.C. Restaurant and Food Services Association, which relies heavily on natural gas for cooking, has also come out against the strategy.

"There are more than a thousand restaurants in Vancouver [that] use natural gas as a key component of their business," said the association's CEO, Ian Tostenson, in the same release.

Wilkinson made the announcement Saturday at a restaurant in his riding of Vancouver-Quilchena. 

Buildings the largest source of greenhouse gases: City

The city also said its new targets match the province's amendments to the B.C. Building Code, announced on April 11, which similarly target greenhouse gas emissions. 

However, those amendments do not appear to make any specific reference to natural gas.

According to the city, buildings are Vancouver's largest source of greenhouse gas emissions — making up 56 per cent of all emissions in 2014. Of all the energy used by buildings, natural gas accounts for 26 per cent.

The city estimates that by 2050, 40 per cent of all buildings in Vancouver will have been built after 2020 and will meet the new targets.