Washington State moves to ban natural gas in effort to stop climate change

The bill would ban any gas company that serves more than 500,000 customers from connecting new natural gas lines to new residential or commercial structures.

Ari Hoffman Seattle WA

On Tuesday, Democrats in the Washington Legislature moved forward on legsislation that would effectively ban natural gas from newly built property in the state.

Democratic lawmakers revived House Bill 1589, which failed last year, and passed a revised version in a 52-45 vote.

The Democratic-controlled House previously pushed through reducing energy consumption in new construction by 70 percent with a target of 2031 to help achieve their goal of carbon neutrality for the state by 2050.

The bill would ban any gas company that serves more than 500,000 customers from connecting new natural gas lines to new residential or commercial structures after June 30.

Puget Sound Energy (PSE), the largest gas company in the state, provides natural gas to over 900,000 customers and electricity to approximately 1.2 million customers. The company endorsed the previous iteration of House Bill 1589.

Additionally, PSE would no longer be required to provide natural gas service to existing customers, which is currently mandated by state law.

There would be limited exemptions for certain types of manufacturing, medical, correctional, and military facilities.

Due to an emergency clause in the bill, the ban would take effect immediately.

The latest attempt is part of an effort by Democratic lawmakers for "emission reduction periods" every 5 years until 2050 despite builders and developers opposing the plan.

Earlier this month, while temperatures were well below freezing in Washington, PSE begged customers to limit the use of natural gas and electricity following sporadic outages and rolling blackouts.

PSE sent emails to customers and posted on social media, “We are asking customers to conserve natural gas and electricity use through the evening hours. Due to the extreme cold temperatures facing our area, regional utilities are experiencing higher energy use than forecasted, and we need to reduce strain on the grid.”

“This evening, we’re asking customers to set their thermostats at a lower setting and limit the use of hot water, such as dishwashing or clothes washing, dryers, and other appliances. We appreciate your assistance in supporting our communities throughout the region.”

Executive vice president of the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) Greg Lane said in a statement to KIRO Radio, “Not even two weeks have passed since thousands of Washington families fought bitter cold winter weather causing PSE to ask them to curb their energy use to reduce strain on the grid. Removing natural gas as a source of heating homes and water will cause our electrical grid to fail.”

PSE received backlash in 2023 for attempting to conceal an increase in its natural gas rates to cover the costs of Washington’s cap-and-trade program, part of the Climate Commitment Act, which was passed by the Democrat-controlled state legislature and signed into law by Democratic Governor Jay Inslee.

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