The global fight over climate change spilled over into the state Legislature last week as a Senate panel voted to forbid cities from telling developers they cannot erect new buildings using natural gas.
The 4-3 vote by the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy on SB 1222 came amid lobbying by business interests who argued that any move to deny access to natural gas would harm economic development.
Dan Bogert of the Arizona Restaurant Association said cooks and chefs prefer natural gas because it comes on instantly and heats the side of the pans. He also said it’s less expensive.
That statement drew derision from Sen. Juan Mendez, D-Tempe.
“Is it your position that climate change, global warming, all that’s just way too hard and expensive and that because we like to cook a certain way, we should just keep maintaining this process even though it’s bad for the environment and our future?’’ he asked.
“What the restaurant association’s position is that we should continue to have a choice to access the fuel types that we need to have accessed,’’ Bogert responded.
Senate President Karen Fann said her legislation is a preemptive strike.
The Prescott Republican said there are communities in California, Massachusetts and Washington that, in the name of reducing greenhouse gases, have prohibited the use of natural gas in new construction and adopted all-electric building codes.
Absent some state mandate, she said, local communities here could follow suit.
“I do not believe this is a function of a municipality,’’ she said.
“If we are going to have that conversation, we should have it on a statewide level because it doesn’t affect just that municipality,’’ Fann said. “It affects everybody.’’
Sandy Bahr, president of the Arizona chapter of the Sierra Club, said Fann is right in arguing that issues of energy policy and climate change are best dealt with by the state as a whole.
“The bottom line is the state is not doing that,’’ Bahr said. “So why limit local government?’’
Southwest Gas lobbyist Matt Ligourdi told lawmakers that killing new natural gas hookups as a solution to climate is misfocused.
“We’re not here to hide from the environmental side of this,’’ he said.
Ligourdi said only 4 percent of carbon emissions each year in the United States comes from natural gas, compared with transportation in the 30 percent range and electric generation where carbon emissions rate in the high 20 percent of greenhouse gases.
Robert Bulechek, an energy consultant, argued that lawmakers concerned about the economy need to consider what he said is the $14 billion cost of climate-related disasters like fires, drought and floods.
“We know, science knows, that climate destruction caused by burning fossil fuels puts our prosperity at risk,’’ he said.
But Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, sees the issue the issue in a different way.
“There are many people that do not believe in man-caused climate change and in the fear tactics that have been put out there that is driving us to go away from things that are necessary to keep our economy strong,’’ she said.
Allen said she prefers the views of “the scientists that are not paid by the U.N. who are giving us this faulty information.’’
Sen. David Gowan, R-Sierra Vista, expressed his own skepticism about claims of climate change.
“In the ‘70s we were saying ‘global cooling,’ through the ‘80s, ‘90s we were saying ‘global warming,’ ‘’ he said. “But neither one were right so now we say ‘climate change.’ ‘’