Senate committee to hear natural gas ban
January 29, 2024
|Washington’s freezing temperatures have ended, but legislators continue efforts to freeze out energy security by passing a natural gas ban. While the bill continues to change, don’t let them fool you! The language being considered will still result in a natural gas ban for neighborhoods and businesses.
At 8 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 31, the Senate Environment, Energy and Technology Committee takes the next step in making House Bill 1589 law.
Among other things, the bill allows Puget Sound Energy (PSE) to choose when it’s no longer financially beneficial to provide natural gas service to new and existing customers and thus be allowed to turn off natural gas service. This would allow them to stop maintaining current service or offering new service.
This could mean an increase of up to $206/month above current electrical and natural gas rates on homeowners today.
BIAW encourages everyone in Washington concerned about this assault on their energy security to sign-in CON. The committee accepts input on this bill until 7 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2024.
Fast facts in favor of natural gas
- Natural gas delivers warmth and comfort to more than 1.3 million Washington homes. On average, natural gas monthly utility bills are 33% less expensive than electrical utility bills.
- 64% of PSE customers said they struggle to pay their energy bills each month (Department of Commerce’s Low-Income Energy Assistance 2023 Legislative Report).
- Currently, 35-40% of PSE customers are “energy burdened,” which means they struggle to pay for current energy costs in their homes. While HB 1589 has assistance for the lowest income customers, these costs will be passed onto all other ratepayers — hurting Washington’s working-class families.
- Energy-burdened households are more likely to forgo food or medicine, pay their energy bills, lose housing, and remain in cycles of poverty, according to the state.
- HB 1589 will increase all PSE electric and natural gas customers’ rates. While a foreign-owned company makes a profit, Washington’s most vulnerable will make choices about heating their homes or eating.
- One third of manufacturers in Washington rely on natural gas to power their operations.
- Natural gas supports the energy needs of 200,000 businesses and institutions. HB 1589 would ensure those businesses pay more for energy.
Natural gas ban legal fight continues
In February 2023, BIAW and a coalition of trade associations, union representatives, businesses and homeowners filed a lawsuit in Thurston County Superior Court. This challenge alleges the State Building Code Council (SBCC) violated rulemaking laws in approving energy codes restricting natural gas and propane in new residential and commercial construction.
Facing a federal legal challenge as well, the council voted to delay the codes’ implementation date to March 15, 2024.
BIAW filed new briefs in the Thurston County Superior Court case on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2024.