September 9, 2019
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Seattle considers ban on natural gas in new construction



Seattle City Councilmember Mike O'Brien plans to introduce a city ordinance this week to ban natural gas from new homes and buildings starting in 2020. O'Brien, who has natural gas in his own home in Fremont, prefers to require new construction to use electricity for heating and cooking.

O'Brien said he believes the bill will help protect public health and the environment, since Seattle City Light's electricity production is now carbon-neutral, The Seattle Times reports.

He said restaurants could be exempted from the ban, at least initially, because "some of the construction experts we’ve talked to say there aren’t great alternatives at the moment for commercial-scale cooking without gas."

Fifty-five percent of Seattle's single-family homes are heated by natural gas, while 28% use oil and 16% use electricity. O'Brien is one of those people who use natural gas in his home, because he considered it environmentally benign compared with oil and coal, but he said now he wishes he hadn't installed it.

Puget Sound Energy, which provides natural gas to the region, urged the city to consider how the bill would impact reliability, affordability and safety.

“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 that ensures the lights stay on and the heat is running when our customers need it most,” PSE spokeswoman Janet Kim said.

Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat wrote over the weekend that clean air regulators didn't get the memo that natural gas is suddenly the new coal. From the Department of Ecology to the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, officials charged with improving the atmosphere all promote natural gas over wood-burning stoves and fireplaces. In fact, natural gas is 1,500-times cleaner than burning wood. Aggressive incentives to replace wood stoves with natural gas mean that Washington has half as many wintertime bad air days than a decade ago.

"Our winter air is now substantially cleaner in part due to aggressive efforts to get people to burn less wood," Westneat writes. "It would be nuts to backslide on that now. It would be dirtying the air in the name of fighting climate change."



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Questionable Vetoes


Gov. Jay Inslee gets slapped with a lawsuit, and democracy is better for it

By The News Tribune Editorial Board

Lawmakers are suing Inslee for a series of one-sentence vetoes in the state's nearly $10 billion transportation budget...

In a moment of institutional solidarity, Democrats and Republicans on the House Executive Rules Committee and the Senate Facilities & Operations Committee voted unanimously to sue.

Yes, lawmakers could have convened for a vote and overridden Inslee's vetoes with a two-thirds majority of both chambers. But both parties wisely considered the importance of precedent...

Meanwhile, legislators are still smarting from another bit of sleight of hand from Inslee, which he also used to manipulate the transportation budget to his liking.

The governor snatched $175 million in leftover funds that lawmakers had appropriated for transportation projects. He redirected the money toward removing road culverts that block fish passage, a mammoth undertaking that will take several years and cost billions of dollars...

We hope Inslee, who's seeking a third term as governor after withdrawing from the Democratic presidential field, has learned a little something about executive power.

Objectionable sentences can't just disappear, and legislatively designated funds can't just float to your preferred projects. It's a pen, sir, not a magic wand.

Read the full editorial in The News Tribune
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High-speed internet is basic infrastructure for the 21st-century economy

By U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Tom Gurr, executive director of the Pacific Technology Alliance

As technology becomes increasingly integrated into our businesses, health care, and education systems, it's more important than ever to ensure that all Americans, especially those in rural areas, have access to a high-speed internet connection.

In visiting communities around our state, meeting with people on the ground, and listening to what they have to say, we're reminded that there is a significant portion of residents who don't have access to this critical technology...

High-speed broadband networks are as important as any other type of infrastructure in the 21st century. We all recognize the logistical and financial constraints of bringing broadband networks to remote or sparsely populated areas. But this technology is critical to daily life, and rural residents deserve access to the same opportunities for education, health care and economic development as people living in larger cities like Spokane. It's up to us to work together to make that happen.

Read the full op-ed in The Spokesman-Review