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NH Stands Pat as New England Declares War on Gas Stoves

Granite Staters can continue to cook free or fry as the state stays out of the New England anti-gas stove push.

This Monday the attorneys general of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont and New York signed on to a letter demanding that the federal government crack down on gas stoves.

The letter to the Consumer Product Safety Commission from 11 AGs was led by D.C. Attorney General Brian L. Schwalb, who claims that gas stoves put lives at risk and need strict government regulation.

“Gas stoves emit air pollutants that put people – particularly children – at risk of asthma and other respiratory illnesses,” Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) said in his letter. “Along with other State AGs, I urge the CPSC to develop uniform performance and ventilation standards for gas stoves and to increase consumer awareness about the health risks these appliances pose.”

Unlike New York Democrat Gov. Kathy Hochul, the AGs aren’t calling for an entire ban on gas stoves or new natural gas hook-ups — yet. Last week the Empire State became the first in the country to ban natural gas and other fossil fuels in most new buildings. The Hochul-backed law bans gas-powered stoves, furnaces and propane heating. All-electric heating and cooking in new buildings shorter than seven stories is mandated by 2026, and 2029 for the rest.

Instead, the AGs want the CPSC to start regulating gas stove ventilation and emissions by creating mandatory standards for these home appliances. The standards for gas stoves are currently voluntary.

“Mandatory performance standards could include, among others, standards for gas stoves to address methane leakage, including automatic shut-off valves, and standards that address the elevated levels of hazardous pollution emissions, including sensors,” Schwalb wrote.

The available data show that the attacks on gas stove use are based on evidence that is dubious at best. As Kimberley Strassel notes at the Wall Street Journal:

One frequently cited study from the Rocky Mountain Institute—claiming to find a link between gas stoves and childhood asthma—was co-authored by two RMI staffers, neither of whom has a science degree. Another favorite study by New York University’s Institute for Policy Integrity claims gas stoves cause “dangerous levels of indoor air pollution.” It was written by two lawyers, and it cites . . . the RMI study. Ah, science.

When CPSC commissioner Richard Trumka told Bloomberg that banning gas stoves was an option to deal with the home pollution they cause, there was an immediate backlash. CPSC chairman Alexander Hoehn-Saric tried walking that statement back, saying there are no plans to ban gas stoves in the works. Hoehn-Saric did say the CPSC is investigating gas stoves.

“CPSC is researching gas emissions in stoves and exploring new ways to address any health risks,” Hoehn-Saric said.

Opponents of a ban were dismissed as rumor-mongering kooks at the time. “You have to laugh at the ‘gas stove ban’ narrative being cooked up by the MAGA GOP,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) in February. Around that same time, NHPR broadcast a program claiming “there is no ban in the works… Banning things is about top-down control. It fits nicely into readymade stories about government control or tyranny.”

New York is the first state to pass an outright ban, but activists say it won’t be the last. Massachusetts’ lawmakers are already making the push, in addition to the efforts of their Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell.

Not every state is playing along, however. New Hampshire’s Attorney General John Formella’s signature is absent from the letter. And the Granite State signaled its position on gas stoves when Gov. Chris Sununu signed a law banning local municipalities from restricting gas hookups in new construction.

The 2021 law prohibits all counties, cities, towns, village districts and local land use boards from adopting any rule that prohibits or restricts anyone from “installing a safe and commercially available heating or other energy system of their choice.” 

Sununu has long supported more natural gas in New Hampshire as a way to cut down on high energy prices in the state, telling InDepth NH in December that New Hampshire needs access to natural gas pipelines. 

“What hurts us the most is because we are essentially at the end of the line and farthest away from the source so prices here are higher than the national average,” Sununu said. “At the end of the day, we have to say ‘yes’ to the natural gas.”

NH Climbs in Annual “Best State” Rankings

The Granite State is enjoying another win as New Hampshire has been named one of the best states to live by a new WalletHub report.

The report puts New Hampshire 6th in the nation overall and earning strong showings with a 6th ranking for health and education, 5th for safety, and 7th for its economy. New Hampshire comes in 40th in the nation for overall affordability and 36th for quality of life.

WalletHub used data to compare the 50 states based on 52 key indicators of livability. Those indicators range from housing costs and income growth to education rate and quality of hospitals.

Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York are the top three in the 2022 list. Maine and Vermont come in 11th and 12th respectively. Connecticut landed at the 25th spot and Rhode Island trailed the rest of New England with 28th place.

Louisiana, Alaska, and Mississippi were ranked the three worst states on the list.

Kenneth Johnson, professor of Sociology and Senior Demographer at the Carsey School at the University of New Hampshire, said that while New Hampshire ranks well overall, the lack of affordable housing could put a damper on future growth. Currently, New Hampshire’s saving grace is the high cost of living everywhere else in New England.

“(T)here is certainly widespread concern that the lack of affordable housing may limit the ability of families and workers to settle in some areas of New Hampshire. However, it is also important to recognize that many migrants to New Hampshire are coming from Massachusetts from the Boston metro area. Housing costs in the Boston metro area are generally higher than those in New Hampshire,” Johnson said.

New Hampshire ranked 8th in the 2021 WalletHub study, where it also placed well for its economy, education, and health, though last year it also placed 40th for affordability. Robert Ross, the Vice President of Sweatfree Purchasing Consortium, and Emeritus Professor of Sociology at Clark University said housing affordability is the most important factor when deciding where to live.

“The cost and supply of appropriate housing is a critical matter. In my own life, I have had to reconsider applying for jobs in places where I simply could not find affordable (to me) housing reasonably near where I might work,” Ross said.

New Hampshire is currently experiencing a housing affordability crisis. The rental vacancy rate is less than one percent statewide — the national rate is almost 6 percent — and the high cost of housing is driving employees away from some of the state’s biggest employers.

Gov. Chris Sununu announced a $100 million program to spur housing development and streamline local zoning in the coming months, to add thousands of rental units to the market.

Johnson said despite the high costs, the comparison to Massachusetts helps people decide to move North and further spur the economy.

“So, even though New Hampshire housing is expensive, families from the Boston metro area may still be able to get more house for the same amount of money in New Hampshire. For example, the median price of an owner-occupied house in the three New Hampshire counties just north of the Massachusetts border proximate to the Boston metro area is approximately $100,000 to $150,000 less than the median house value in the three Massachusetts counties in the Boston Metro area that are just to the south of the state line,” Johnson said.

New Hampshire has the lowest poverty rate of all 50 states, and has the second lowest crime rate, right behind Maine, according to the report. The Granite State also has the 5th highest rate of people over age 25 who have obtained at least a high school diploma or higher.