Jul 1, 2022 - Politics

Inslee takes aim at "dirty" natural gas after Supreme Court EPA ruling

Photo illustration of Washington Governor Jay Inslee with lines radiating from him.
Photo Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photo: Karen Ducey/Getty Images

Thursday's Supreme Court ruling limiting the EPA's ability to regulate emissions from power plants puts more pressure on states to combat climate change, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Thursday.

  • In comments shortly after the ruling's release, Inslee took aim at "dirty" natural gas, saying he wants to see gas heating and cooking phased out in the next several years — including in homes across the state.

Why it matters: While natural gas produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions than coal, it still warms the planet and is a major source of methane emissions. Methane is a powerful, short-lived greenhouse gas.

What they're saying: "The federal government now is going to be frankly much less effective at restraining pollution, which means more of that burden is going to be on our shoulders," Inslee told reporters Thursday.

  • "One of the things we will need to do is to restrain the future use of dirty gas," the governor said.
  • That means "using alternate means of heating and cooking, which we know are effective."

Of note: Several studies have also found indoor gas cooking is tied to a 25% increase in risk of children developing asthma.

Context: In an interview last month with Axios, Inslee praised recent action by the state Building Code Council to require the use of electric heat pumps — as opposed to gas-burning furnaces — in nearly all new commercial buildings starting in 2023.

  • Inslee said he wants to see the building council adopt similar requirements for new homes, which it's considering now.

Yes, but: The council isn't actively considering a ban on installing gas stoves in new buildings.

  • In his public comments Thursday and previously to Axios, Inslee said he wants to go a step further and look at ways to phase out gas-burning stoves, too.
  • He praised Microsoft for switching to electric induction cooktops in its new corporate food hall and said other businesses — and over time, homeowners — should do the same.
  • "This is the type of transition that we need to go through — and we want to help people make it," the governor told Axios.

Flashback: Washington already has a law in place requiring 100% clean electricity production by 2045.

  • Because the law mandates greater emissions reductions than the stalled EPA rules would have, Thursday's Supreme Court ruling has little direct impact on the state, said state Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D-Seattle), who chairs the House Environment and Energy Committee.

The other side: Critics of moving to all-electric heating say it could drive up the cost of building housing.

  • Peter Godlewski, a lobbyist for the Association of Washington Business, called the Building Council's earlier decision to require electric heat pumps "a disappointing move that will raise the cost of construction and make energy unaffordable for more Washingtonians at a time when costs are already spiking."

What's next: The building code council will hold hearings later this year on the proposed changes to residential heating requirements.

  • The council also may decide to mandate more ventilation in kitchens with gas stoves based on concerns about indoor air quality.
  • Jaime Smith, a spokesperson for Inslee, said the governor is working on proposals for next year’s legislative session that will include plans to move away from natural gas.
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