Second Pacific Northwest city to prioritize health and clean air by cutting climate pollution from new commercial buildings
December 7, 2021
On Monday, Dec. 6, the Shoreline City Council voted unanimously to approve an ordinance that eliminates most uses of fossil fuels for space heating and hot water in newly constructed commercial buildings, as well as multifamily buildings that are four stories or taller.
SHORELINE, WA — On Monday, Dec. 6, the Shoreline City Council voted unanimously to approve an ordinance that eliminates most uses of fossil fuels for space heating and hot water in newly constructed commercial buildings, as well as multifamily buildings that are four stories or taller. With the vote, Shoreline became the second city in the Pacific Northwest region to adopt a policy that aids in accelerating the transition to all-electric buildings by eliminating most fossil fuel uses from new commercial and large multi-family development. The Seattle City Council adopted a policy similar to Shoreline’s in February 2021.
Momentum for clean and healthy buildings builds across the Northwest
Cities and counties in Washington have clear legal authority to impose these regulations on new commercial and large multifamily buildings through their commercial energy codes. As momentum builds behind the nationwide building electrification movement, several more of these policies are in progress among local governments throughout Washington and Oregon.
- The Bellingham City Council is set to introduce its building electrification policy at a hearing scheduled for Dec. 13, with a vote on adoption at a subsequent meeting.
- In November, Eugene became the first city in Oregon to support transitioning buildings to 100% clean electricity. Staff will draft the policy and return to the council at a future meeting for a vote on its adoption.
- In October, King County Executive Dow Constantine submitted a proposed ordinance to the County Council that follows the standard set in Seattle and Shoreline by banning fossil fuel use for heating and hot water in new commercial developments and multifamily buildings that are four stories or taller. The council is set to take up the proposal early next year.
- Other entities like the city of Tacoma, Multnomah County, OR, and Seattle Public Schools have also made commitments to phasing out gas in buildings.
Environmental advocacy groups Stand.earth’s SAFE Cities movement, 350 Seattle, Shorecrest High School’s Climate Justice Club, and Climate Solutions applauded Shoreline’s action and are encouraging more cities in Washington and Oregon to use this policy tool to effectively reduce emissions, support their climate goals, and promote cleaner, healthier environments for residents.
“We have to address things locally,” said Shoreline Mayor Will Hall during Monday’s hearing. “How would we explain to our grandchildren 50 years from now that we were still constructing new buildings in 2021 that were dependent on the combustion of fossil fuels?”
“It’s so exciting this bill is being passed,” said Bella Tancreti, a member of the Climate Justice Club at Shorecrest High School. “It’s a huge step in securing a livable future for my generation. I am really looking forward to see what actions Shoreline continues to take to fight the climate crisis as the most pressing issue we face today.”
“I’m thrilled to see my Shoreline City Council prioritize the health and well-being of our community and our climate,” said Ariana Rundquist Ylvisaker, a Shoreline resident and Climate Solutions staff member. “I hope this will be a model for other cities looking for ways to cut emissions. Together, local actions like passing this ordinance can add up to big solutions for the climate crisis.
“The Shoreline community urged their city leaders to act on climate, and the Shoreline City Council is delivering,” said Deepa Sivarajan, Washington Policy Manager for Climate Solutions. “This policy is a necessary first step to ensuring that Shoreline’s buildings are clean, safe, and all-electric, protecting Shoreline residents from the climate, health and safety risks of using gas, and creating job opportunities in clean energy for Shoreline’s workers.”
“The clear advantages of electrifying buildings makes policies like Shoreline’s an easy choice,” said Matt Krogh, SAFE Cities Campaign Director for Stand.earth. “We applaud the Shoreline City Council’s leadership in taking this huge step forward, and more cities in the Pacific Northwest will soon join them. As more and more cities take action to electrify their buildings, we’re only seeing more proof of the benefits they achieve, such as reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, lower-cost construction, and protecting public health by eliminating harmful sources of indoor air pollution.”
Taking action on gas prioritizes cleaner air and public health
Burning fossil fuels in buildings accounts for almost one quarter of Washington state’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to the 2021 State Energy Strategy. While emissions from electricity and transportation are declining, emissions from buildings in Washington have continued to grow. In fact, building emissions are growing at the fastest rate of any sector in the state. Using gas, propane, and wood in homes and businesses also creates indoor air pollution that exacerbates risk of respiratory disease and existing respiratory conditions. A 2013 study found that growing up in a home that used gas stoves led to a 42-percent increase in a child’s risk of developing asthma symptoms.
Additionally, both Washington and Oregon have now passed 100% clean energy laws putting the Northwest on a pathway to getting fossil fuels out of the electricity grid, transitioning fully off coal and gas for power generation. Putting this clean, low-cost electricity to work in buildings is a huge climate win. Using all-electric appliances and systems in buildings eliminates these hazards and costs less to construct and operate. And building all-electric eliminates the costs of hooking up new buildings to gas lines.
Peter Jensen, SAFE Cities Communications Coordinator, email@example.com, +1 415 532 3817 (Pacific Time)
Stephanie Noren, Washington Communications Manager for Climate Solutions, firstname.lastname@example.org, +1 360 580 7885 (Pacific Time)