Seattle takes new approach in latest bid to curb use of natural gas in homes
A measure to ban natural gas in newly-built single-family homes and buildings fizzled out in 2019. Now, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan is looking to take a different tack with an updated proposal.
The newly-announced legislation from Durkan would seek to limit the use of natural gas in newly-constructed large multi-family buildings and commercial construction. The hope is to reduce the city’s overall carbon emissions, and combat an ongoing climate crisis.
“We are facing a climate disaster,” Mayor Durkan said in a written release. “It is up to Seattle and other cities to make the bold changes necessary to lower our greenhouse gas emissions.”
Council President Lorena Gonzalez voiced support for the measure Thursday, indicating that she is “pleased” to see the proposal, and will “look forward to working with the community and the Mayor on more critical climate action” in the future.
The 2019 iteration of this legislation was presented by then-Councilmember Mike O’Brien, and would have broadly banned the implementation of natural gas in all new single-family home construction in Seattle starting in July of 2020. At the time, the now-retired councilmember pointed out natural gas in buildings accounted for roughly a fourth of Seattle’s total greenhouse gas emissions.
But O’Brien’s bill failed to even make it to a vote before the council, after it sparked a wave of outrage from local construction companies, Puget Sound Energy, unions, and various other companies that provide services related to natural gas.
Those concerns were largely rooted in the expansive nature of O’Brien’s proposed ban, which would have included gas ranges, space and water heating, and all other uses of natural gas in newly-built single-family homes. A 2018 report indicated that just over half of the city’s single-family homes use natural gas.
Durkan’s new proposal is less broad, specifically targeting the use of gas for space and water heating in new large multi-family and commercial buildings, while requiring “electrical infrastructure necessary for future conversion of any gas appliances in multi-family buildings.”
The mayor plans to send the legislation to councilmembers “at the end of the year.” If it’s approved, it would take effect in spring of 2021.