Assistant Majority Leader Idaho Rep. Sage G. Dixon, R-Ponderay, talks with fellow lawmakers at the State Capitol in Boise on Jan. 9, 2023. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)
Idaho Rep. Sage Dixon is carrying a new bill that would ban cities, counties and other local units of government from placing restrictions on natural gas and propane to fight climate change and greenhouse gas emissions.
“This is a bill that addresses an instance that has been growing across the nation —and we just saw something happen in Oregon yesterday — of cities prohibiting the use of cheap, reliable uses of energy within their jurisdictions,” Dixon, R-Ponderay, told the House Local Government Committee on Wednesday afternoon. “What this will be doing is a preemption, essentially, stating that those cities may not deny that cheap energy to their citizens be it a public utility, municipality or a cooperative utility.”
On Monday, the Eugene City Council became the first city in Oregon to ban natural gas in certain new residential buildings, which city council members said will reduce carbon emissions and air quality hazards from gas stoves, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
Rep. Richard Cheatum, R-Pocatello, asked Dixon during the bill’s introductory hearing where the bill originated from and whether local jurisdictions have weighed in on the proposal.
But House Local Government Committee Chairwoman Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, told Cheatum that question would be better suited for a full public hearing on the bill, since Wednesday’s hearing was an introductory, or print hearing. Since it was an introductory hearing, no public testimony was accepted Wednesday.
Without any further discussion, the House Local Government Committee voted to introduce Dixon’s bill, which clears the way for the bill to return to the committee for the full hearing that Ehardt referenced.
Dixon’s bill will be posted on the Idaho Legislature’s website and assigned a bill number after it is read across the desk on the floor of the Idaho House of Representatives, which will likely happen on Thursday.
Idaho proposal mimics law passed in Wyoming in 2021
A physical copy of the bill that Ehardt provided to the Idaho Capital Sun is a nearly word-for-word copy of a 2021 Wyoming law. Similar language to Dixon’s bill also appears in bills and laws in Missouri, Texas, Georgia and other states.
In February 2021, the Washington Post reported that the American Gas Association industry group is pushing bills in statehouses across the country designed to prohibit local bans on natural gas and propane. The industry group is pushing for bans in response to local cities and municipalities rewriting local building codes to block the use of natural gas in new and renovated homes and buildings. The Washington Post reported that in 2019 Berkeley, California, became the first U.S. city to ban natural gas, which emits carbon dioxide when it burns. Since then, dozens of cities across the country have banned natural gas hookups in new construction in favor of electric stoves and heat pumps.
At Ehardt’s suggestion, Dixon didn’t answer Cheatum’s question where his bill originated from.
Generally speaking, it’s becoming increasingly common to see multiple states considering bills with similar language. One tactic industry groups, advocacy organizations and policymakers on all sides of the political aisle use is form legislation, or model legislation. Model legislation can be thought of as a template where a few words or citations can be localized to a particular state, but the substance of the bill can be shared freely and introduced easily in statehouses across the country. Stand your ground laws, bans on transgender athletes participating in school sports and bills designed to block environmental, social and governance standards, or ESG standards, are examples of recent bills that have been shared among states via model legislation.
The new Idaho bill is likely to return to the House Local Government Committee for a full public hearing later this month.
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