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Does a new Washington state law ban natural gas, or is that claim misinformation?

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(The Center Square) – Puget Sound Energy is challenging claims that a recent bill signed into law restricts or eliminates natural gas service, calling it “misinformation.”

This session, the Washington State Legislature enacted Engrossed Substitute House Bill 1589, which was signed last week by Gov. Jay Inslee. The bill was proposed during last year’s session, but failed to clear both chambers. Among its provisions are the consolidation of PSE’s planning process for both electric and natural gas services. Initially, the bill also removed PSE’s legal obligation to provide existing natural gas service to customers, while banning future natural gas hookups to new commercial or residential construction.

A new fact sheet page posted on PSE’s website last week describes HB 1589 as “a planning bill. It will help PSE, under the supervision of the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC), thoughtfully plan for the electric and natural gas choices of our customers consistent with our state’s aggressive climate goals.”

The page also states that “there has been a lot of misinformation about HB 1589 as it changed over the course of two legislative sessions, from when it was first introduced in January 2023 to passage by the legislature in March 2024. HB 1589 does not include a ban on natural gas, and it does not change PSE’s obligation to serve natural gas to our customers.”

The page also notes that utilities like PSE have to comply with a 2019 state law stipulating that their energy portfolio must be 80% non-emitting sources by 2030 and 100% by 2045.

There have been efforts to ban future use of natural gas at other levels of government. The State Building Code last year passed a new code that requires heat pumps for new homes, effectively prohibiting natural gas. It then paused the code, then voted in favor of a revised version that technically allows natural gas, but critics say the code makes it practically speaking impossible to do. A group of plaintiffs are currently fighting the new code in court.

In response to PSE’s new claims, Building Industry Association of Washington Executive Vice President Greg Lane wrote in a statement that “while the ban on new natural gas hookups, as well as the language eliminating PSE’s obligation to serve were both removed prior to passing the Legislature, the bill is 38 pages that describe a ban on natural gas, so the effect remains the same. The bill directs PSE to transition from natural gas to all-electric sources.”

Citing PSE’s fact sheet discussing its energy portfolio requirements under state law, Lane added “that means ultimately, they will no longer offer natural gas to new or existing customers.”