Packed In: Builders, home owners and energy experts voice concerns over natural gas ban

SPOKANE, Wash. —  Spokane is trying to figure out its sustainability efforts for the future. One big point to unpack is the role natural gas should play in the community.

Leaders from the building, energy and heating sector are concerned what a natural gas ban would do people who live in Spokane.

The City Council is getting ready to vote on a measure which could ban natural gas on multi-family and commercial construction as early as 2023. While the initiative seems like a step towards a greener city, some are worried the implications will be devastating.

“This is really something that’s purely political, and this is where we need to say hey citizens need to get involved and citizens need to know about this,” said Isaiah Paine, the Government Affairs Director for the Spokane Home Builders Association.

A concern for these citizens is how Spokane will adapt if natural gas is taken out of the picture. They say it seems like a cheap fix to a growing issue that will have detrimental effects on the city’s most vulnerable.

“Natural gas, the city’s looking to ban it, and people are going to have to choose between heating and eating eventually,” said Jennifer Thomas, the Director of Membership Services at Spokane Home Builders Association.

They want to find climate change solutions but fear this is just a political game. Now, they’re asking at what cost the city will go to implement the changes?

Brian Burrow is the CEO for Really Clean Energy. He says the current electric grid can’t handle this type of change and also worries electric bills will be a lot higher for consumers.

However, the city says they have to make drastic changes like this because greenhouse gas emissions in Spokane are mostly caused by burning fossil fuels for transportation and temperature control.

Burrow isn’t convinced getting rid of natural gas will help the issue.

“The price to convert gas to electricity and then transport it from point a to point b to power a baseboard heater in a house for example costs more than it does to get the natural gas there,” he said.

He’s concerned about people’s safety if the electricity goes out in people’s homes.

“We don’t want people to have to choose between heating and eating,” said Paine. “We don’t want to put our population more at risk when we lost electricity in the heat or the cold.

A citizen initiative was started for voters to have a say in this issue, but a judge ruled to take it off the ballot. Thomas said they had over 6,000 signatures from voters who wanted a say in the Council’s agenda. They’ve appealed the ruling which is in still in court.

Now, a third party energy company is looking at the city’s energy plan and will release new findings on how realistic the city’s Sustainability Action Plan really is.

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