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Volume XI, Number 101


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Seattle Proposes Natural Gas Ban for New Buildings

On December 3, 2020, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced new measures for electrifying buildings to help achieve the City’s aggressive climate goals. By updating its energy code, Durkan proposes banning the use of natural gas for space heating in new commercial buildings and large apartment buildings.  Gas for water heating would also be barred in hotels and large apartment buildings. The proposed changes would not affect newly constructed houses and townhouses. Energy codes for those buildings are set by the state.

Mayor Durkan issued the proposal on the heels of a new report from Seattle’s Office of Sustainability and Environment. Emissions from buildings grew by more than 8%, pulling the city away from its stated goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050. The proposal is less restrictive than recent natural gas bans in Oakland, San Francisco, and San Jose which ban natural gas outright in new buildings, whether commercial or residential.  

Key Changes

The Seattle Energy Code impacts new construction and substantial alterations of commercial buildings and multifamily buildings over 3 stories. The proposed energy code amendments include the following key changes:

  • Eliminates all gas and most electric resistance space heating systems;

  • Eliminates gas water heating in large multifamily buildings and hotels; and

  • Requires multifamily buildings with gas appliances to be constructed with electrical outlets for future conversion.

Next Steps

Mayor Durkan’s proposed changes have been reviewed by the Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections staff and recommended for approval by the Seattle Construction Codes Advisory Board, an advisory body tasked with reviewing changes to technical codes for construction. The Mayor is scheduled to transmit legislation to City Council at the end of the year. City Council will discuss the legislation, and with their vote of approval, code updates would become effective in the spring of 2021.  While the current proposal focuses on large commercial and residential buildings, it is possible that future energy code changes could include other buildings, such as single-family dwellings.  Developers should be aware of these changes and the requirements imposed.

© 2021 Beveridge & Diamond PC National Law Review, Volume X, Number 343



About this Author

Rujeko A. Muza Business & Environmental Attorney Beveridge & Diamond Washington, DC

With a strong business background, Rue enjoys working at the intersection of business, environmental law, and the government.

Prior to joining the firm, Rue worked at a Fortune 50 company in government and regulatory affairs. She helped the company formulate a climate change strategy, build coalitions, and respond to federal environmental regulations. When advising clients, Rue leverages her in-house experience by integrating business priorities into her legal solutions. 

Rue has a colorful background having also litigated at a large mid-western firm. Her clients ranged from...

Eric Christensen Energy & Natural Resources Attorney
Of Counsel

Eric is a leading energy and natural resources attorney in the Pacific Northwest.

He assists renewable and traditional energy companies, as well as major energy consumers, to navigate the complex legal and regulatory systems governing the nation’s energy industry. With more than 30 years of experience, Eric has successfully represented clients in litigation and regulatory matters, ranging from the U.S. Supreme Court to proceedings before federal and state agencies. Before entering private practice, Eric served as Assistant General Counsel at Snohomish County (WA)...

Kirstin K. Gruver Environmental Litigation Attorney Beveridge & Diamond Seattle, WA

Kirstin Gruver is efficient and responsive to clients' needs.

She maintains a diverse environmental litigation and regulatory practice, working with clients nationwide across industrial sectors with a focus on wetlands and water issues. She also has experience in product stewardship and sustainability matters.

Prior to joining Beveridge & Diamond, Kirstin worked as a deputy prosecuting attorney at the Clark County Prosecutor's office. She also worked as a legal intern with the Department of Transportation, Maritime Administration, and as a summer clerk at Earthjustice....