ATLANTA (AP) — Cities and counties in Georgia couldn't ban connections to natural gas or any other fuel source under a bill that passed the House on a 103-62 vote Monday.
No city or county in Georgia has yet to order such a ban, but supporters say they're reacting to bans in other states. A state Senate committee could consider a similar bill Tuesday, with widespread backing from business interests.
“ House Bill 150 gives Georgians a resilient path for assuring the lowest possible energy pricing in their homes and business,” said Rep. Bruce Williamson, the Monroe Republican who is sponsoring the measure. “It assures consumers freedom of choice and lets the free market work to keep prices low.”
Opponents said the bill would retard local efforts to fight climate change by limiting the use of fossil fuels. Georgia localities including Atlanta, Savannah, Clarkston, Augusta-Richmond and Athens-Clarke have pledged to use 100% renewable energy by 2050, although none have taken any steps to limit people from connecting to utilities that rely on fossil fuels.
“This bill says you have to permit new natural gas infrastructure 20-30 years down the road,” said Rep. David Dreyer, an Atlanta Democrat. “If a local government wants to be innovative 15 years from now, when renewables are affordable, reliable and readily accessible, we are prohibiting them from doing that."
Supporters said natural gas use is especially important for restaurants.
“This bill would put such a burden on restaurants. I’m not even sure the Waffle House would even exist if we didn’t pass this bill,” said Republican Rep. Kasey Carpenter, a Dalton Republican and restaurant owner. “Natural gas is important for my industry and for all restaurateurs. We’re all for local control until locals get out of control.”
Local leaders from several cities and Democratic lawmakers spoke against the bill at an online news conference, WABE-FM reported.
“None of us are standing out on the curb with pipe cutters,” Athens-Clarke Mayor Kelly Girtz said. “We’re not talking about cutting off any individual recipient of energies’ options right now.”