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King County Council to Consider 6-month Moratorium on Fossil-fuel Facilities

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King County Council to Consider 6-month Moratorium on Fossil-fuel Facilities

King County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove is planning to bring a 6-month moratorium on building and expanding the fossil fuel plants in King County.
Upthegrove said, “We’re throwing a line in the sand for the future, it sends a clear message that moving forward, King County is going to support clean energy technologies rather than fossil fuel.”

The ordinance would also direct the executive officials in King County to produce a study of fossil-fuel facilities in King County, their impacts on communities, and the permits and regulations that apply to them. Then the Council would decide on long-term changes needed.

Upthegrove said, “We’re going to hopefully put the moratorium in place and then go through that lengthy legislative process to look at — what will the actual language be in various sections of county code?”

As per the information shared about the ordinance, the moratorium would not be applied to gas stations or other fossil-fuel products sold directly to consumers.

As per Upthegrove, King County doesn’t have adequate powers to regulate the fossil-fuel facilities. The Ordinance would apply to facilities incorporating in King County only. It will not affect existing infrastructure or directly address rail lines or pipelines, which are regulated by the federal government, not the county. However, County Staffs are yet to identify any proposed projects that would be directly impacted by the moratorium.

The ordinance will target zoning and permitting for possible future storage facilities, processing facilities or compressor stations — “things that aren’t specifically a rail line or pipeline but are part of that network that would deliver fossil fuels into the market,” Upthegrove said.

The moratorium will be voted probably on Monday once it is introduced.

This ordinance is not limited to King County only; the idea has been adopted from the climate activism group, 350 Seattle, and is modeled after similar legislation in Portland, Tacoma, and other cities.

Jess Wallach, an organizer for 350 Seattle, said as the Gas infrastructure poses health and environmental risks to communities, the climate advocacy organizations aim to build a patchwork of Northwest communities with similar bans on fossil-fuel facility construction which will limit the industry’s capacity to expand. As per the organizers, if the moratorium is passed, it would create a precedent for the whole nation.

Wallach said, “We have a very narrow window of time to act on climate meaningfully… and we also have a federal government that is not prepared to take the kind of climate action we need; I believe this is the time for local government to lead the way.”

Organizers now expect the local measures limiting pipeline infrastructure could curb gas supply to future industrial projects. The proposed Kalama methanol plant in Cowlitz County would use vast amounts of pipeline-delivered natural gas from British Columbia to produce methanol to ship to China for plastics manufacturing. Wallach’s group worries the project may boost gas demand and could encourage pipeline construction or expansion.

However, Dan Kirschner, Executive Director of the Northwest Gas Association, said he thinks that the possible moratorium as unnecessary, short-sighted and potentially counterproductive in achieving carbon-reduction goals.

Kirschner said, “This is a solution, a moratorium, in search of a problem that doesn’t exist, natural gas is a terrific natural energy resource, and our perspective is, and will continue to be, that we should make use of it to achieve society’s objectives, even if it is things like reducing carbon emissions.”

Kirschner said without the Kalama plant, methanol would be built or processed through coal-based facilities abroad, and it would have a more significant impact on global emissions than if produced here with natural gas.

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