What’s Going On With a Federal Agency’s Seemingly Sudden Interest In Natural Gas Stoves?

Headlines across the country this week are saying that the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is considering a federal ban on natural gas stoves, following a Bloomberg interview with CPSC Commissioner Richard Trumka, Jr. where he said:

“This is a hidden hazard…Any option is on the table. Products that can’t be made safe can be banned.”

And while Trumka’s interview was greeted with enthusiasm by advocates for eliminating consumer choice for cooking and heating appliances – and swift rebuke from Democrats and Republicans alike – it appears Trumka’s comments don’t actually reflect the opinions of the rest of the commission.

As E&E News reported:

“CPSC’s four other commissioners, including Trumka’s fellow Biden appointees, don’t support that view.

Minutes from an October commission meeting about CPSC’s strategic plan for fiscal 2023 show that Trumka proposed directing the agency’s staff to start a rulemaking to regulate gas stoves.

“’However,’ the minutes state, ‘Commissioner Trumka acknowledged the lack of support … and withdrew this amendment.’

“Instead, the commissioners unanimously agreed to issue a request for information ‘to obtain public input on hazards associated with gas stoves,’ which the agency plans to issue by March.”

In fact, just a day after the announcement, Trumka himself walked back his initial enthusiasm, tweeting:

“To be clear, CPSC isn’t coming for anyone’s gas stoves. Regulations apply to new products.”

So how did we get here and what’s to come?

December Set the Stage for Coordination

Up until about a month ago, the debate over policies that would limit consumer choice (i.e. ban gas stoves in residences and businesses) had largely taken place at the local and, even less frequently, state levels. In December, Trumka brought the discussion to the national stage when he spoke at a webinar hosted by “Keep It In the Ground” group, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), on the topic on indoor air quality, where he admitted to using the agenda-driven group as a resource for background on issues like this one.

And despite having withdrawn his amendment for a ban at the October CPSC meeting because of a lack of support, during the webinar, Trumka told attendees that “we could get a regulation on the books before this time next year. It’s absolutely possible.”

The PIRG webinar coincided with the publication of a PIRG and Sierra Club survey that claimed consumers are not getting the information they need about indoor air quality when buying a gas stove and recommended that alleged health impacts be shared with consumers considering purchasing these appliances.

A week after PIRG’s webinar, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rep. Don Beyer (D-WV) sent a letter to CPSC Chair Alexander Hoehn-Saric urging the agency to take several regulatory measures “to help protect Americans from the hazards of gas stove emissions.” The recommendations echoed those of PIRG and Sierra Club, including requiring labels warning consumers of harmful emissions from appliances and having a public health campaign with similar warnings. The signers backed their health claims with findings from a 2022 Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy study that took NO2 emissions readings taken over the course of a few minutes and compared them to the NAAQS one-hour outdoor air quality standard.

Health Claims Rely On Faulty Research

These biased findings are the results of an increasingly loud scare campaign from activist organizations designed to frighten residents into environmental NGO’s preferred climate solutions and not to actually improve public health outcomes. Their claims consistently receive media attention, despite their findings not standing up to investigation.

Take for example the recent RMI study cited in Bloomberg’s article on the CPSC’s investigation. This study is highly flawed and features:

  1. AN UNSOUND METHODOLOGY: RMI used modeling and a limited dataset to measure health impacts. Their analysis amplifies any inaccuracies in the data sample, and ignores the nuances of the individual studies. When EID ran a search using their parameter, one of the generated studies admitted authors of the report were unable to compare the effects of stove operating behaviors on respiratory illnesses in homes that used electric stoves since only respondents with a gas stove were asked about ventilation practices and using their stove for heat.
  2. A SOPHMOREISH GOOGLE SEARCH: RMI’s performed a PubMed search for studies using keywords on natural gas stoves and public health and selected studies they deemed “potentially pertinent.” Their report does not specify which 27 of 357 studies they selected to generate their conclusion.
  3. A PROVEN NEED TO VENTILATE: In the discussion section of the study, authors note “ventilation is associated with the reduction, but not elimination, of childhood asthma,” but fail to acknowledge that the cooking process regardless of the energy source is the primary source of cooking emissions, and cannot be addressed in any household without proper ventilation.

Further, RMI’s study is in direct contradiction to the largest and most complete analysis examining any potential link between gas appliances and childhood asthma to date where scientists found no evidence of an association between the use of gas as a cooking fuel and either asthma symptoms or asthma diagnosis.”

Unfortunately, this isn’t the only study that has gone largely uncontested in coverage of the topic. As EID has discussed previously, research being used to back these health claims have used questionable methodology like highly unrealistic kitchen environments to get a desired impact. One PSEHE study even found that the Volatile Organic Compounds from natural gas “are likely lower compared to other source types,” while a Sierra Club-funded study quietly admitted that the authors “do not claim that the transition to electric appliances would make a substantial difference in terms of emissions from cooking oils and food,” despite claiming health impacts in the study’s press release.

Bottomline: As the American Gas Association said in response to the CPSC announcement and RMI’s study:

“Any efforts to ban highly efficient natural gas stoves should raise alarm bells for the 187 million Americans who depend on this essential fuel every day.”

And while there’s been a flurry of response and media attention on Commissioner Trumka’s interview, it sounds like the rest of the CPSC saw the red flags in Trumka’s proposed amendment. CPSC is planning to issue a request for information in the first quarter of this year allegedly, an effort that will find the same facts that even activists pushing for bans on natural gas have been forced to admit: The cooking process, regardless of the fuel source, creates emissions that can only be addressed through proper ventilation and consumer behavior.

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