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Republicans renew calls to protect gas stoves

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(The Center Square) — New Jersey Republicans are renewing calls to protect gas stoves as state regulators push new electrification plans for residential buildings.

This week, the state Board of Public Utilities approved new rules that encourage the state’s power companies operating in New Jersey to offer customers incentives for switching their appliances like gas stoves and hot water heaters to electric. The new regulations are voluntary, regulators stressed during a hearing on the new rules.

“Let’s be quite clear, we are not requiring, not mandating anyone give up their gas stove,” Joe Fordaliso, the board’s president, told lawmakers during Wednesday’s hearing. “We are not coming for your gas stove, or your local pizza shop’s oven.”

But Republicans say they want more assurances that the new rules won’t impact gas stoves and other home appliances. They are urging Democratic leaders to take up a proposal, filed earlier this year, that would prohibit New Jersey from banning the sale, installation or operation of gas stoves and other appliances.

“Unless we have ironclad guarantees written into state law to protect energy choice and the right of New Jersey consumers to buy and use gas stoves, the governor’s words are meaningless,” said state Sen. Joe Pennacchio, R-Montville, one of the bill’s primary sponsors. “Our bill would guarantee the right of New Jerseyans to use gas stoves and prevent state regulators from implementing any intrusive and expensive bans.”

Republican concerns have been stoked by Gov. Phil Murphy’s climate change plans, which were finalized earlier this year, to electrify at least 400,000 residential buildings and 20,000 commercial buildings by 2030. Murphy says he has no plans to ban gas stoves.

“Governor Murphy is trying to bypass the Legislature to enact major energy policy changes through an obscure agency with little public comment,” said state Sen. Edward Durr, R-Gloucester. “New Jerseyans can’t afford the estimated $1.4 trillion it will cost to fully electrify the state and replace their affordable gas stoves, furnaces, and hot water heaters.”

The wrangling in New Jersey comes as the culture wars fight over gas stove bans is heating up, with states and the federal government weighing restrictions on the appliances as part of dual efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions and reduce childhood illnesses such as asthma.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and World Health Organization say gas-burning stoves are “unsafe” and linked to respiratory illness like asthma, cardiovascular problems, cancer, and other health ailments, especially when not used with proper ventilation.

But critics say policies aimed at forcing consumers to ditch fossil fuel-powered appliances will impact the estimated 40 million Americans who use gas stoves. They argue the health and environmental concerns are being overblown.

In Congress, House Republicans filed a bill that would prohibit the Consumer Product Safety Commission from banning gas stoves after the federal agency suggested it was looking to restrict household appliances to reduce health concerns.

The move came in response to comments from Commissioner Richard Trumka Jr. that gas stoves are a “hidden hazard” and that “any option is on the table” from tougher emissions rules to a complete federal ban.

Meanwhile, a group of House Democrats, including Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., wrote a letter earlier this year to the federal agency urging it to take a closer look at regulating gas stoves, which they said pose a risk to consumers by causing “indoor air pollution.”

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