MYNORTHWEST POLITICS

Signature gathering begins for initiative to keep natural gas in Washington

May 16, 2024, 9:13 PM

Image: A burner on a stove emits blue flames from natural gas in Des Plaines, Illinois in 2005....

A burner on a stove emits blue flames from natural gas in Des Plaines, Illinois in 2005. (Photo illustration: Tim Boyle, Getty Images)

(Photo illustration: Tim Boyle, Getty Images)

Supporters of an initiative to halt the state of Washington’s efforts to eliminate natural gas use in homes and buildings have begun their signature drive to get the measure on the November ballot.

Initiative 2066, backed by the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW), aims to repeal parts of a new state law that accelerates Puget Sound Energy’s shift away from natural gas. (A PDF of Initiative 2066 can be seen here.)

Backers say it also protects natural gas and all energy choices across the state.

“It’s to protect natural gas and propane service statewide by restricting any state, county or city entity from banning, restricting or disincentivizing the use of natural gas for existing or new customers in areas where natural gas is available,” Greg Lane, executive vice president of the BIAW, said.

The BIAW, Washington Hospitality Association (WHA), Washington Realtors, and Associated General Contractors are part of the coalition supporting the initiative.

Let’s Go Washington, which is led by hedge fund executive Brian Heywood and successfully qualified three Republican-backed measures for the November ballot, will assist with the signature gathering effort, Lane said.

“We are protecting choice from everybody so everybody can choose any energy resource they think is best for their home or business,” Lane said.

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Potential impacts of a natural gas ban

WHA President Anthony Anton explained Asian restaurants have shown a particular worry of any natural gas ban.

“They are the third most common cuisine in the state and a lot of them have woks and base their cuisine or cooking background on open flame,” Anton said. “There are just not a lot of alternatives from them to lean on.”

In addition, the measure would overturn recent changes to Washington’s energy code that encourage the installation of electric heat pumps in new houses, apartments, and commercial buildings.

The initiative explicitly states that the state code “may not in any way prohibit, penalize, or discourage the use of gas for any form of heating, or for uses related to any appliance or equipment, in any building.”

“We want to give technology more time to give us some options,” Anton said.

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To qualify for the ballot, supporters must submit signatures from at least 324,516 registered voters to the office of the Washington Secretary of State by 5 p.m. on July 5.

Lane says they are targeting the collection of at least 405,000 signatures to provide a buffer for invalid signatures.

“I am very confident that we are going to hit that goal. The response from the public has been extremely visceral that natural gas is going to get shut off to their homes and businesses,” Lane said.

Matt Markovich often covers the state legislature and public policy for KIRO Newsradio. You can read more of Matt’s stories here. Follow him on X, formerly known as Twitter, or email him here.

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Signature gathering begins for initiative to keep natural gas in Washington