The Chicago City Council is considering the Clean and Affordable Buildings Ordinance (CABO). CABO is supported by a coalition of more than 50 consumer, community, environmental, environmental justice, and faith organizations, including CUB, because it will lower utility costs, improve public health, create jobs and reduce pollution.
What does CABO do?
The ordinance would set an indoor emissions standard in newly built commercial and residential buildings/homes and major building additions.* That accounts for about 0.5 percent of Chicago buildings. This emission standard would require zero-to-low-emission energy systems in new construction, a key first step in a necessary, long-term transition away from dirty, expensive fossil fuels like gas.
*To be specific, the ordinance would include additions that increase the conditioned floor area of an existing building by the greater of 10,000 square feet or 25 percent of the pre-addition conditioned floor area.
Why is CABO beneficial to Chicagoans?
There are many good reasons to support CABO, but as a consumer advocate, CUB is most concerned about how this measure is the right move for our bottom lines. It’s the first step to gaining some independence from a gas system that is costing us a fortune and making climate change worse.
Multiple studies show that alternatives to gas-heated buildings, such as electric buildings, are cheaper to build and maintain. RMI’s analysis found that all-electric households saved money in every scenario assessed. An NRDC study estimated that Chicagoans can save between $15,000 – $20,000 over a 20-year period.
The current gas system is unaffordable, and getting worse. Consistently, about 1 in 5 customers are behind on their gas bills–and in some neighborhoods 40-50 percent are in chronic debt–and that was before the gas utility received a state-record $300 million gas hike. Now, Peoples Gas has signaled that it might ask for yet another rate increase.
CABO is about good planning. Because consumers like to save money, electric heat pumps (an alternative to gas heat), are beginning to outsell gas furnaces. So while it won’t happen overnight, the long-term transition away from gas is already happening, and we need to manage it thoughtfully to make sure all consumers can save money on their heating bills. Instead of sinking more of our money into an expensive, unsustainable gas system, we should start planning for how we can help all households have access to cheaper and cleaner ways to heat our homes. CABO would be a first step in that process.
What are other benefits to CABO?
- It would protect our health: Burning fossil fuels like methane gas in our homes produces dangerous air pollutants such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, fine particulate matter and cancer-causing benzene.
- It would protect our climate: Fossil fuel use in commercial and residential buildings accounts for more than two-thirds of Chicago’s climate pollution.
- It would create jobs: Moving to cleaner, more efficient homes and buildings will create thousands of union jobs. For example, there is rising demand for heat pump technology, which requires more trained technicians.
Do other communities have ordinances like CABO?
Yes, 50 other municipalities have passed similar policies, including Los Angeles and New York.
Are there any exemptions from CABO?
Yes. The following are exempted from the proposed emissions standard: commercial cooking, emergency backup power, crematoriums, wood fireplaces, industrial production, commercial laundry and labs and hospitals.
When would CABO go into effect?
It would go into effect one year after passing City Council, in line with Chicago’s three-year building code cycle.
How can I get involved?
If you live in Chicago, please send a message or call your alderperson to show your support for the Clean and Affordable Buildings Ordinance (CABO). If you’d like to learn more about electrification in your own home, please read CUB’s Better Heat guide.