(The Center Square) – The Snohomish County Council rejected in a 2-2 vote a proposed resolution calling on the Washington State Legislature to “consider the harmful impacts” of a newly-enacted law affecting Puget Sound Energy, which provides natural gas to 150,000 homes in the jurisdiction.

This session the Legislature passed House Bill 1589, which tasks PSE with consolidating their electrical and natural gas plans to be submitted to the State Transportation and Utilities Commission. Although initially written to explicitly prevent new natural gas service from PSE and later removing it’s legal obligation to provide natural gas, legislators removed both provisions from the final bill.

The resolution proposed by Vice Chair Nate Nehring states that “the provisions of ESHB 1589 do not give any predictability with regard to timeline or costs for customers subject to the transition from natural gas to electric service,” calling on the Legislature to “to revise state law regarding transitioning from natural gas to electric utilities in the 2025 legislative session to protect the financial security of residents and businesses.”

While critics have described it as creating a pathway toward removing natural gas service, PSE has released statements calling it “misinformation” to say it bans natural gas.

Testifying at the Snohomish County Council’s April 10 meeting, Robert Knoll with PSE told them “we’ve seen a lot of incorrect information” about HB 1589.

“Unfortunately, this resolution really mischaracterizes the law,” he said. “It was really necessary to update our planning requirements and the regulatory framework to keep up with the state’s shifting energy laws. PSE still maintains the legal obligation to serve in our entire service territory anyone who wants natural gas.”

However, Nehring said that “I think the framework of HB 1589 as passed by the legislature does set PSE on a path to transition their natural gas service to electric. That transition is going to be very costly.”

One of the councilmembers to vote against the resolution was Strom Peterson, who said it was “misleading to the public. There is nothing in the legislation that mandates homes convert from natural gas to electric. There is nothing in the legislation that mandates a switch from gas to electric.”

He added that it is “important in this space that we know the market that is changing. Heat pumps for the last two years have actually outsold the gas furnaces.”

Also opposed to the resolution was Councilmember Megan Dunn. Councilmember Sam Low voted in favor of it, while Chair Jared Mead abstained.

Meanwhile, the Washington State Building Code Council late last year approved a new code that originally would also have explicitly banned natural gas, but was later revised. Yet, plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed against the council claim the code still bans natural gas by making it impossible to meet the new requirements necessary to install it in new construction. The new code also prohibits PSE from subsidizing natural gas pipeline extensions.

“Those are policies that actually disincentive customers from connecting to the natural gas system,” Knoll said at the April 10 meeting.