Fourth initiative to protect natural gas likely to qualify for November ballot


An initiative to protect the use of natural gas in Washington will likely be on the November general election ballot.

In a press release, Let’s Go Washington, the organization that supported the campaign to place the initiative on the ballot, announced they handed 431,063 signatures to place Initiative 2066 on the November ballot. The amount surpasses the 325,000 signatures required to be placed on the ballot. The Secretary of State’s office will validate the amount before November.

If approved by the majority of Washington voters, Initiative 2066 would require cities and counties to ensure natural gas is supplied to applicable businesses and residents. Additionally, the initiative would repeal sections of House Bill 1589, which the State legislature passed last March. The law requires large utility companies, namely Puget Sound Energy (PSE), to merge their natural gas and electric utility customers into one rate plan. Under the law, PSE would be required to develop a plan by 2027 to assess the feasibility of cost-effective electrification options for its customers.

Although the law does not ban outright natural gas, Republican opposition, including Rep. Peter Abbarno, claim House Bill 1589 is a tool to force home and business owners to switch to electricity. The initiative became a hot topic during Abbarno’s late May legislative recap in Woodland.

“It ultimately creates a phase-out mechanism for natural gas, which ultimately would affect most PSE customers, which would be close to a million customers,” Abbarno said.

In a March 29 press release, PSE denied the assertion. The company maintains HB 1589 will not cause a ban or decline in natural gas and does not increase the utility rate of natural gas.

“Nothing in the bill forces electrification. What it does is requires PSE to develop a scenario demonstrating the costs of electrification that will be part of the integrated system plan we submit to our regulators in 2027,” a PSE press release said.

According to PSE, natural gas use has declined 7% for residential customers and 3% for commercial businesses.

Last week, a spokesperson for Clark Public Utilities clarified that, if the initiative is approved by voters, utility companies that do not currently transport natural gas will not be affected. The proposed law would mandate that Clark County and its cities continue to import natural gas. Most natural gas in Southwest Washington is shipped through NW Natural, a utility based in Portland.