Seattle council approves ban on gas heating in new apartments, commercial buildings – KIRO 7 News Seattle

Seattle City Council has approved a ban on natural gas space and water heating in new homes, hotels, and commercial buildings.

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The council unanimously voted in favor of the ban, which was passed in addition to a separate vote to bring the city in line with other Washington state building codes. The city-wide ban on natural gas space heating will come into force on June 1, 2021 for the qualification of new buildings. The gas water heating ban will come into force in 2022 to “give the market time to adapt”.

Councilor Dan Strauss, who sponsored the bill, pointed to 8.3% carbon emissions from buildings in the city between 2016 and 2018 as one of the driving forces behind the bill’s passage. It is estimated that the ban will reduce building emissions by “at least 12%” by 2050.

“With this update, Seattle will have one of the most forward-looking energy codes in the country and set an example that the rest of the state can follow,” Strauss said on Monday.

An iteration of this proposal for 2019 was put forward by then Councilor Mike O’Brien and would have largely banned the implementation of natural gas in all new single-family homes in Seattle from July 2020, in addition to natural gas room and water heating.

This bill failed even to get a vote in front of the council after it sparked a wave of outrage from local construction companies, Puget Sound Energy, labor unions and various other companies providing services related to natural gas.

This new proposal by Councilor Strauss did not meet nearly the same resistance, as a large majority of public commentators expressed their support on Monday.

“These codes could save lives by reducing greenhouse gases outdoors and improving indoor air quality,” one commentator said.

“Climate change is harming working people right now – this is an asset to well-paying family-wage jobs here in our community,” said another.

Monday’s commentators included architectural designer Nathaniel Gunderson, who noted that his industry colleagues “strongly support” these code updates for both environmental and financial reasons.

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“Buildings are one of the largest and fastest growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions and climate pollution in Seattle,” he said. “Each generation of new buildings is a long-term investment that will take decades, and the cost of future building retrofits is significantly higher.”

Steve Tate, an employee of Fireside Home Solutions, spoke out against the ban in public comments, arguing that the bill could actually increase CO2 emissions.

“Restricting or eliminating our customers’ ability to choose natural gas is creating a greater need for propane and wood burning appliances, which have higher CO2 emissions than natural gas,” he said. “We’d move backwards.”

Council members expressed their general support for the ban, albeit with some qualifications, noting that it is still a smaller part of a larger mission to combat climate change.

“It is a significant step forward, although it is obviously limited,” Councilor Sawant said, pointing out that natural gas consumption in older buildings or when new single-family homes are being built is still not taken into account.

“This is an important part of the future, but there is still a lot to be done to achieve the goal of significantly reducing CO2 emissions and increasing energy efficiency,” agreed Councilor Lisa Herbold.

Mayor Jenny Durkan has expressed support for the law at an early stage and is likely to sign it into law in the coming days.

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