Seattle City Council to Take Up Ban on Natural Gas in New Construction

Seattle, Washington.

SEATTLE (CN) – The Seattle City Council will introduce a bill banning natural gas in new buildings starting next year, hoping to fight global warming and meet the city’s goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

Natural gas accounts for a quarter of Seattle’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to a 2016 study cited in the bill.

Councilmember Mike O’Brien will introduce the legislation in committee Friday and told the Seattle Times he expects the full council to back the measure.

He said much of Seattle’s natural gas comes from the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which has made the gas cheaper but damaged the environment and accelerated climate change.

Some exceptions could be made for restaurants because there are currently no good alternatives for electrical commercial-scale cooking, he said.

Natural gas is also dangerous if it catches fire.

“Seattle is situated in an earthquake-prone area, with the Seattle Fault running east-west through south Seattle, and natural gas infrastructure is a potentially significant source of fire and explosion during earthquakes and other fire events,” according to the bill.

O’Brien did not immediately return a request for comment on the legislation.

The ban would take effect July 1, 2020, and the council is expected to vote before the end of the year.

Puget Sound Energy, which provides natural gas to more than 800,000 Seattle-area residents, expressed skepticism but promised to work with the city.

“Natural gas is what our customers use every day to heat their homes, to cook and to do laundry. It’s an essential part of our energy mix – on the coldest days of the year, PSE’s natural gas system provides about 2/3 of the energy used by the city of Seattle,” the utility said in a statement.

“Before deciding any new policy, there are several key questions to consider. How the decision would impact reliability, affordability and safety need to be well understood, as well as protecting customer energy choices. We look forward to working with policymakers on a thorough analysis.”

Berkeley, California, became the first city in the nation to ban the installation of natural gas lines in new homes after its City Council passed legislation in July.

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