House Bill 1589 — Selling out Washington families for corporate interests

The natural gas ban – HB 1589 – is clearly unconstitutional.  House Democrats could have stopped it after finding out it was unconstitutional. They passed.  Attorney General Ferguson could have stopped it by telling House Democrats it was unconstitutional. He bowed to politics and refused to advise them it was unconstitutional.  Governor Inslee should have known this bill was CLEARLY UNCONSTITUTIONAL, but he signed it.

Why is HB 1589 unconstitutional?

According to the state constitution, new legislation is required to identify existing laws that it will affect should it be enacted. The drafters of HB 1589 did not do this in the original bill. During floor debate on the bill, we challenged it on those grounds and the Lt. Governor ruled in our favor, calling the bill a “hot mess.” Democrats “fixed” the bill and brought it back to the floor, where it passed. However, they did not fix everything and the bill remains unconstitutional. Both Senate and House Republicans fought the bill on this issue, among others.

Watch the Lt. Governor’s ruling.

Read the written version.

This bill creates the roadmap and tools for our state’s largest utility to get out of the fossil fuel business…

Gov. Jay Inslee

NEWS: Governor signs legislation allowing Puget Sound Energy to phaseout natural gas service

Lets PSE propose big rate hikes – consumers will also have to pay to replace furnaces, other appliances

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Get ready for higher home heating costs as Washington State Democrats push through legislation to phase-out natural gas.

Tracy Ellis explains.

Background

House Bill 1589, requested by Puget Sound Energy, insulates the state’s largest monopoly utility company from paying the price for impractical state-mandated carbon-reduction goals by cutting off gas service to their customers.

Homeowners and businesses would bear the cost of converting from gas to electricity. The Building Industry Association of Washington estimates costs to residential customers to average $39,767. According to PSE, that number could be as high as $74,400 ($7.3 billion to $20 billion total). The impact on business also would be enormous, and energy costs would soar.

HB 1589 reverses the concept behind state utility regulation. Until now, the idea has been to promote efficiency while protecting customers from excessive costs. This bill imposes enormous costs on customers in the name of protecting one company from the financial consequences of bad energy policy.

The real culprits here, however, are Gov. Jay Inslee and the majority Democrats who have joined his climate crusade. First, their cap-and-trade policy drove gasoline prices up across our state, then it caused natural gas bills to climb; now it’s creating a path to the shutoff of natural gas service, area by area.

Sen. John Braun

20th Legislative District

Legislation hastens utility’s ability to ban natural gas

Details

How it Works

  • The bill applies only to Puget Sound Energy, which serves 1.1 million electricity customers and 900,000 gas customers, primarily in the Puget Sound region of Western Washington — but also some in Eastern Washington as well. About 800,000 of these gas customers are residential.
  • PSE, like other utilities, faces tough state requirements for carbon reduction under a series of energy bills passed by majority Democrats over the last six years. By 2030, greenhouse gas emissions are supposed to be 45% below 1990 levels.
  • PSE proposes to get there by treating gas and electricity as a single business, combining them in a single Integrated “System Plan” to be reviewed by the Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) – and cutting people off from gas service, one community at a time. (The UTC consists of three individuals appointed by the governor.)
  • The bill would permit PSE to propose the merger of gas and electric rate bases. Thus PSE’s gas customers could be obligated to pay for current electrical infrastructure, new generating plants and transmission lines.
  • The new planning process would begin by 2025, when new UTC rules are in place. Area-by-area shutoffs of gas service would be permitted once the UTC approves the new plan.

Average Cost to Convert

Source: Building Industry Association of Washington

What it Impacts

  • Homeowners, landlords and renters face a double whammy under HB 1589. Energy costs would skyrocket and retrofit costs would be enormous. Whether you own or rent, you would be hit. These costs would be punitive for most and unaffordable for many.
  • Electrifying one home will cost an average of $39,767. The cost depends on what needs to be replaced, ranging from furnaces and water heaters to wiring and more. The older the home, the higher the cost. (Source: Building Industry Association of Washington)
  • The vast majority would not qualify for financial assistance. Under HB 1589, limited financial assistance would be available only for the lowest-income homeowners. And assistance would be forbidden for the installation of new gas appliances, even if they would be energy efficient for customers.
  • Washington already is facing a long-term shortage of affordable housing, and this would make it worse. HB 1589 would increase the cost of homeownership and rentals.
  • Energy bills would dramatically increase. Under HB 1589, ignoring all other cost factors (inflation, cap and trade), PSE predicts residential electricity rates would increase 37 percent by 2045 and residential natural gas rates would increase by 151 percent.
  • Already 35 to 40 percent of PSE customers are “energy burdened,” meaning they struggle to pay bills and sometimes must make stark choices between eating and heating their homes. (PSE testimony, House Environment & Energy Committee, 2/6/24)
  • HB 1589 would eliminate an affordable energy option for Washington residents. Natural gas costs about 33% less than electricity.
  • These increased costs would be a regressive tax on those who can least afford it. The disadvantaged would pay a disproportionate share of their incomes for energy.
  • Increased business costs would provide another drag on Washington’s economy. The burden would vary widely depending on business and industry.
  • Going all-electric increased refrigeration and equipment costs $1 million at a new Seattle grocery. (Washington Food Industry Association testimony, Senate Environment, Energy and Technology Committee, 1/31/24)
  • Impact would be severe on some industries because they have no effective alternatives for natural gas in their industrial processes. (Association of Washington Business testimony, Senate EET Committee, 1/31/24)
  • Restaurants are another sector that cannot survive without access to natural gas, and this includes cultural cuisine that is important to immigrant communities.
  • The bill may help PSE absorb the shock of arbitrary state goals, but it will do little to help the world climate. PSE’s own “decarbonization” study concludes emissions would increase until new green energy comes online. It also concludes the cost outweighs the benefit to society. Washington produces just 2/10 of 1% of world emissions, and any benefit would be negligible.

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ESHB 1589 is a Natural Gas Ban

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