Healthy Homes and Clean Buildings

Background


UPDATE: HB 1084 failed to get approval in the House Appropriations Committee, and is out for this session. Unions and gas industry were opposed.


Healthy Homes and Clean Buildings (HB 1084) is an proposed bill for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from residential and commercial buildings that is coming up before the State Legislature in 2021, sponsored by Alex Ramel. It establishes a goal for the state to "Limit and reduce the use of fossil fuels for space and water heating and advance the use of high-efficiency electric equipment." It calls for:

  • State building codes to require fossil-free buildings by 2030.

  • Removes the "right to gas" in state law

  • Regulatory certainty of transition, so that utilities and workers may begin planning for the transition

  • Benchmarking requirements will be extended to smaller commercial buildings, so the state can assess needs.

  • Parity among all electrical utilities, and utilities able to use rate payer dollars for incentives to help customers with the transition.

UPDATE: Health Homes and Clean Buildings passed the House Committee on Environment & Energy, but failed to get the approval of the House Appropriations Committee.

Status

The bill has been introduced in the House as HB 1084, and has been referred to the Environment & Energy Committee.

Description

Washington State law currently requires a 70% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from buildings by 2031, as measured against the 2006 baseline. The new bill would move that deadline back by four years to 2027, and requires that as of 2027 the state Energy Code will eliminate on-site fossil fuel combustion for space heating and water heating. The Energy Code will now have an established target reduction that it is aiming for, and will report progress toward the goal every three years, starting in 2023.

The new law would enable local jurisdictions to enact their own, stricter Residential Energy Codes that provide greater reductions of energy use or greenhouse gas emissions.

The new law stipulates that it is no longer a goal of the state to foster availability of natural gas; protections for gas in current state law are removed.

It mandates that owners of commercial buildings larger than 10,000 square feet are required to benchmark the building's energy use and report it to the state. The state will gather the data and compile a report to the Legislature by October 1, 2027 with recommendations for building performance standards.

Gas companies operating in the state are required to insure that vulnerable communities are not disproportionately impacted by the transition away from natural gas. Gas companies must submit a transition plan every four years to the state that reports on whether the company has met its share of the state's goals for greenhouse gas emissions reductions, based on how much natural gas it has sold. Gas companies must charge customers the full cost when installing new gas lines. And as of July 2021, gas companies may not offer new services to any customer outside their recognized service area. Gas companies as a whole shall be held responsible for this, and in addition employees of the companies that fail to comply may also be help personally accountable.

Public utilities may establish beneficial electrification plans, and may offer incentives and make investments based on the electrification plan, to accelerate electrification of homes and buildings.

The Department of Commerce will have a heat pump program that will provide incentives, education, and outreach about heat pumps. It will coordinate with utilities, developers, and the public to promote the use of high efficiency heat pumps for space and water heating. It will create and distribute educational materials, and do outreach to disadvantaged communities. It will coordinate with state and local schools to establish workforce training for installation of heat pumps. And it will establish an incentive program where payouts may be based on the recipients income.

Gas companies will charge customers a climate protection charge that will be used for paying for the transition, that must not exceed the social cost of carbon. Renewable natural gas, zero-emission synthetic gas, and renewable hydrogen are exempt from the charge. Funds collected may pay for incentive programs, weatherization, workforce transition, developing lower carbon fuels, and environmental justice projects.

Questions

  • The state Energy Code will eliminate on-site fossil fuel combustion for space heating and water heating -- does this refer to new buildings only, to new buildings and older buildings undergoing extensive refit, or all buildings when replacing gas appliances?

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