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Seattle council delays vote on natural gas bill after public feedback

Seattle continues to mull a ban on natural gas. (Photo Illustration by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

After feedback from businesses, service providers, and more, Seattle City Councilmember Mike O’Brien opted to delay a committee vote on his proposal to ban natural gas from new homes and buildings.

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The council’s Sustainability and Transportation Committee met early Tuesday afternoon, as scores of public commenters urged it to reconsider the proposed ban.

“This will hurt everybody,” one commenter stated.

“This isn’t just about jobs at our factories,” said another. “It’s about the retailers, the service people, the installers, the gas companies, the guys who run those gas lines, and the guys who service those gas lines. It’s vital for most people to be comfortable in their homes.”

A push to include businesses and stakeholders in a feasibility study was a predominant theme among commenters. Puget Sound Energy Vice President Andy Wappler pointed out that fully replacing natural gas in Seattle would require a wind farm roughly three times the size of the city itself.

Many asked for a year-long process to further study the measure, that would include representatives from Puget Sound Energy, local unions, and various companies that provide services related to natural gas.

While such a process would likely extend past Councilmember O’Brien’s tenure on the dais, he acquiesced to the need for more discussion.

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“My original intent was to vote on this legislation today — I’m not going to do that now,” he stated. “I need to get more feedback and input from folks.”

He urged stakeholders to reach out to his office to open up a dialogue, and promised that there would “more to come” on the proposal in the near future.

Natural gas in buildings accounts for a fourth of Seattle’s greenhouse gas emissions. Just over half of the city’s single-family homes used natural gas heating in 2018. Twenty-eight percent used oil and 16 percent used electricity.

San Francisco recently introduced it’s own legislation for a ban, shortly after Berkeley became the first U.S. city to successfully pass one. San Francisco City Supervisor Vallie Brown estimates that natural gas in buildings generates 44 percent of the city’s emissions.

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