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Mayor Durkan signs ban on gas heating in new apartments and buildings into law

Gas space heating will soon be banned in new apartments in Seattle. (drpavloff, Flickr Creative Commons)

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan signed a recently-passed bill into law Monday, effectively banning natural gas space and water heating in new apartments, hotels, and commercial buildings.

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City councilmembers unanimously approved the measure last week, as part of a larger vote to bring the city into alignment with other Washington state building codes. The citywide ban on natural gas space heating will take effect for qualifying new buildings on June 1, 2021, while the gas water heating ban will wait until 2022.

Durkan labeled the measure “a critical mechanism to support our City’s transition to a clean energy future” on Monday.

“Every new building should be all-electric,” she said in a written release. “I’m eager to continue our work toward a green recovery to put people to work replacing dirty fossil fuels with renewable electricity.”

Proponents of the bill estimate that over a third of Seattle’s greenhouse gas emissions are generated by buildings, 86% of which is directly linked to natural gas. It’s estimated that this ban could reduce those emissions by 10% to 12% by 2050.

A 2019 iteration of this proposal 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 2020. That would have included gas ranges, in addition to natural gas space and water heating.

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That bill, however, failed to make it to a vote before the council, after sparking a wave of outrage from local construction companies, Puget Sound Energy, unions, and various other businesses that provide services related to natural gas.

The latest bill didn’t face nearly the same uphill battle, limiting its focus to space and water heating in apartments and commercial buildings, and garnering a wide base of support from climate change groups, labor unions, and housing advocates.

“The updates to the Seattle Energy Code are a prime example of how we can confront the climate crisis while creating good-paying union jobs and boosting our local economy,” MLK Labor Executive Secretary-Treasurer Nicole Grant said Monday.

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