The Bellingham Climate Action Plan Task Force this week approved its final report on carbon emission reduction policies that include banning the use of natural gas in new construction and requiring existing buildings to convert to electrical heating. The City Council is now scheduled to review the report next week.
If adopted, the recommendations call for mandating the use of electric-based systems and appliances in new building construction, though the report notes that “exceptions may be allowed in limited circumstances. Buildings can be exempted from the electrification requirement on a case-by-case basis if it can be shown that the technology does not currently exist to fully meet space and water heating demands.”
For existing buildings, space and water heating systems must be replaced with electrical equipment by 2040. This mandate would not apply to other appliances such as gas fireplaces, stoves and dryers. A state law approved this year already requires the use of 100 percent clean energy by 2045.
Although the report claims that the transition costs would be “low at point of replacement,” the Building Industry Association of Whatcom County estimates that switching a home’s heating system from natural gas to electricity could cost the homeowner between $30,000-$50,000.
Washington Policy Center Environmental Director Todd Myers told Lens that “even if it’s $5,000 it’s an unbelievable waste of money in terms of C02 reductions. My basic perspective is that we ought to push responsibility and control and choice down to the individual, and individuals ought to do little things to make a difference.” He added that the recommendations seem to “equate misery with environmental benefit. They’re wasting huge amounts of money that could help the planet, but what they care most about is the symbolism and the pain.”
Not included in the report was a draft recommendation stipulating that the energy switch occur within two years of a property sale.
The report also offers recommendations on ways to reduce transportation emissions; one of them is for the city of Bellingham to “encourage” a ban on the sale of light weight gas vehicles by 2030, charge gasoline passenger vehicles that enter city limits by 2030 and outright ban their use in the city by 2035.
“If the City Council hopes to achieve a transportation system that is powered by 100% renewable energy by 2035, ICE (internal combustion engine) passenger vehicles can no longer operate in Bellingham by that date,” the report states. “local governments acting in concert on an ICE ban would be very effective at increasing the rate of adoption of electric vehicles statewide.”
The City Council will review the report at its Dec. 9 meeting.