A pre-emptive effort to protect natural gas hookups in Spokane is officially heading to the November ballot.
The Spokane Cleaner Energy Protection Act would amend the Spokane City Charter to prevent the city from ever banning the use of hydroelectric power or natural gas.
No Spokane legislator is proposing to ban natural gas hookups. But the Sustainability Action Subcommittee, a group of volunteers formed under legislation approved by the City Council, included a suggestion that the city ban “gas hookups from all new commercial and multifamily residential buildings by 2023, and from all new construction by 2028” in its draft action plan earlier this year.
The draft action plan has yet to be voted on by the City Council, and it’s unclear if the natural gas connection proposal will remain a part of it.
Still, the mere suggestion of an eventual natural gas hookup ban prompted swift action from those who decried its potential impact on the power grid and on home prices.
Opponents of the initiative question the backers’ motives and object to pre-emptively squelching what could one day be an effective means to combat climate change.
Jennifer Thomas, a director of membership services for the Spokane Home Builders Association, filed a citizen’s initiative to change the City Charter in June. Although she worked for the association, she told The Spokesman-Review she sponsored the initiative on her own after being approached by a political consultant.
The effort, dubbed “Spokane Citizens for Cleaner Energy,” has raised about $56,000 thus far and is backed almost entirely by the Spokane Good Government Alliance PAC, according to Washington Public Disclosure Commission records. The PAC’s major contributors include hotelier Walt Worthy, Washington Trust Bank and building industry organizations.
The signature gathering effort and the initiative’s marketing have been handled by Camelback Strategies, a political consulting firm that has worked on behalf of politicians like Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers.
Per the process outlined by city law, the Spokane City Council directed the Spokane County Auditor on Monday to place the initiative on the general election ballot.
The Spokane County Auditor’s Office verified that the petition filed by Thomas had an adequate number of signatures to qualify for the ballot.
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