Savannah alderman concerned about bill that would outlaw natural gas hookups, supporters weigh in

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Savannah Alderman Nick Palumbo says a bill making its way through the Georgia legislature will put a dent in the city’s efforts to move toward 100% clean energy.

“It’s really tough to stomach this energy outlook and how HB 150 is going to impact us,” said Palumbo.

The city of Savannah is one of five in Georgia with ambitious plans to move away from fossil fuels.

“The plan is that by 2050, all buildings here in the city of Savannah would be reliant on clean energy,” said Palumbo, “so a more resilient profile and more sustainable in the long run.”

Palumbo says that means more solar energy, which he believes will become more affordable, and that the market will drive that. But House Bill 150 would prevent cities from cutting back and or eliminating natural gas hookups if those cities wanted to.

The Georgia Senate passed the bill last week, although local Sens. Lester Jackson (D) and Ben Watson (R) did vote against it.

Palumbo said he’s grateful area senators did not go along with a plan that would thwart 100% Savannah, yet he says after full Senate passage, the bill may pass in the Georgia House as well.

Atlanta Gas Light tells News 3 it supports the bill in Georgia, and similar bills in other states, because natural gas is reliable and affordable and important for continued growth.

Natural gas is foundational to realizing a cleaner energy future, helping communities achieve their economic and climate goals while still maintaining reliability and affordability. Atlanta Gas Light and its parent company, Southern Company Gas, support HB150 and similar legislation around the country that recognizes the importance of natural gas to driving growth and development and maintaining choice for local communities.

Atlanta Gas Light

It says a list of businesses that are part of the coalition Georgians for Fuel Choice also favor the bill. And the Georgia Restaurants Association also says it supports the bill because the industry provides jobs, and many restaurants already have equipment that relies on natural gas.

Restaurants and food service jobs account for 11% of Georgia’s workforce. It is widely known how hard COVID-19 has impacted the restaurant industry. Much of the equipment found in restaurants is fuel specific based on cuisine and would be extremely expensive to replace if the fuel needed was no longer allowed. HB 150 helps to ensure that restaurants can control their costs and position our sector for continued economic recovery.

Georgia Restaurants Association President/CEO Karen Bremer

Palumbo, however, remains concerned about the bill’s impact on cities like Savannah and takes exception to the that most lawmakers are overlooking the aspect of local control that many say they favor.

“Local control is just a convenient argument when it suits somebody else, but truly, for a home rule state like Georgia, you know, we do view that locals know best,” said Palumbo. “We’re right here on the front lines.”

“Our message to the entire legislature was we’re here on the front lines on the coast,” the alderman continued. “Daytime flooding is becoming a more regular occurrence by the day, so we’re seeing the impacts (of climate change) in real-time.”

Palumbo says cities should at least have the right to make energy choices and promises a continued fight even if the bill passes this year.

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