Berkeley’s Fossil Free Ballot Measure: Pioneering Methane Emissions Tax on Large Gas-Powered Buildings

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Fossil Free Berkeley gas-powered buildings tax Berkeley climate action building electrification fund methane emissions tax

Berkeley, California residents will soon vote on the “Fossil Free Berkeley Ballot Measure,” which proposes a Methane Emissions Tax on large, gas-powered buildings. This measure, driven by climate activist Daniel Tahara, aims to tackle methane emissions and fund building electrification. Buildings over 15,000 square feet will be taxed based on their natural gas usage and methane emissions, starting January 1, 2025. This innovative tax is designed to generate approximately $23 million annually for building decarbonization, with a focus on low-rise residential buildings and restaurants. The measure also includes funding for city staffing to manage the program. Notably, the tax excludes city and state buildings and prevents landlords from passing the cost to tenants. Amy Turner from Columbia University’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law highlights that this approach contrasts with other U.S. cities’ climate taxes. While the measure is specific to Berkeley, it might inspire similar initiatives elsewhere, depending on local legislative frameworks.

Environmental activists again take aim at natural gas appliances in Berkeley

Fossil Free Berkeley: New Methane Emissions Tax Proposal for Climate Action

The suggested tax is “something we’ve had on ice for a couple of years”, said Tahara.

His efforts to promote climate change in San Francisco gave rise to the concept. When Tahara relocated to Berkeley a few years back, he claimed he needed to hear from neighborhood groups before putting the idea on the 2022 ballot.

Members of the Berkeley People’s Alliance, a group that fights justice, contacted Tahara in the fall to ask about the ballot measure. In the spring, the organizers began adding signatures, and they discovered in recent weeks that they had much to put the measure on the ballot.

If the ballot measure gets the majority vote needed to pass into law, it would take effect on Jan. 1, 2025, with second payments due on Feb. 28, 2026.

Based on how many gas each building owner uses and the likely amount of methane that is emitted while fueling the natural gas system, the amount that each building owner would be taxed would be. According to Tahara, the tax calculations even depend on the social costs of carbon and methane, which account for the financial harm caused by each additional ton of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere.

Berkeley Climate Action: Methane Emissions Tax Targets Large Gas-Powered Buildings

The tax would apply to buildings 15, 000 square feet or larger, which Turner, the Cities Climate Law Initiative director, said is on the smaller side compared with various “big building policies”.

” 15,000 square feet is ] not a small building by any measure, but it is maybe]the size of a smaller apartment building, even a 10- or 15- unit apartment building”, she said, noting that some native building performance standards in the U. S.  apply to buildings larger than 20, 000 or 25,000 square feet.

Because Berkeley currently has a law mandating buildings of this size to report their energy use to the city, Tahara said the measure applies to buildings of 15 000 square feet and more. According to him,” That was, like, what would be a great policy in terms of not adding a lot of overhead to the city for collecting the taxes or having to spin out fresh city departments.”

Because” we’re not legally allowed to tax them,” Tahara said, city and state buildings are excluded from the tax. The law especially prohibits landlords from distributing the tax’s cost to tenants. Those who do n’t pay the tax on time will face fines.

Berkeley Building Electrification Fund: New Tax to Subsidize Decarbonization and Staffing

Most of the fund the tax would create would be used to subsidize building decarbonization, with priority for minimal- rise residential buildings and restaurants.

Additionally, the measure allocates some of the proceeds to funding city staffing needed to run the program, which Turner described as a wise decision. ” This will be something that’s administratively somewhat burdensome to implement”, she said.

Turner argued that this strategy would n’t work in the numerous cities without the authority to pass taxes through a straightforward ballot measure. Some places will have the power to pass a tax through congressional action, others through a referendum, and finally, some places will do it through the passage of a state law, she said. ” As a broad strategy, I could see this being considered elsewhere, but it’s not something that’s really plug and play somewhere”.

Berkeley, California - Wikipedia

Resume: Gas-Powered Buildings Tax: Berkeley Votes on Fossil Free Ballot Measure for Electrification Fund

  • After gathering enough signatures to get a measure on the ballot, Berkeley, California residents will decide this November whether the city should tax big, gas-powered buildings.
  • The” Fossil Free Berkeley Ballot Measure” is in part a response to a national appeals court’s 2023 decision to strike down Berkeley’s initial- in- the- nation ban on gas hookups in new construction, organizer and Berkeley resident Daniel Tahara said. ” We want to take a stand against the gas industry”, he said.
  • The suggested tax, according to its supporters, would generate$ 23 million annually to fund a fund dedicated to building electrification. According to Amy Turner, director of the Cities Climate Law Initiative at Columbia University’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, that’s a novel approach in comparison to the several U.S. cities that have imposed taxes to fund public climate action

Viktor Musil

Victor Musil, pen name for Edouard Py, advocates for inclusive, people-centered city development. His work underscores the importance of ethical considerations and equitable access, shaping the discourse on urban innovation worldwide.

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