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Major Carbon Sources, WA Measure Could Give Buildings Makeovers

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Gas stoves release harmful pollutants that can increase the risk of asthma for children. (Ervins Strauhmanis/Flickr)
Gas stoves release harmful pollutants that can increase the risk of asthma for children. (Ervins Strauhmanis/Flickr)
January 29, 2021

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Washington's governor wants buildings to clean up their act.

At the request of Gov. Jay Inslee, Evergreen State lawmakers are considering legislation to reduce the climate impact of buildings and homes.

Buildings make up more than a quarter of carbon emissions in the state. Steve Gelb, Northwest regional director with Emerald Cities Collaborative, said the state needs to start constructing all-electric buildings as soon as it can, so it doesn't dig a deeper hole on emissions.

"The buildings we build today will be around in 50 years," said Gelb. "Llong after we hope to have achieved our climate goals."

The legislation would require any new building started in 2030 or after to be zero carbon. Inslee also wants to put the state on the path to decarbonizing all buildings by 2050.

The biggest culprits for carbon emissions in the home include furnaces, water heaters and ranges that burn natural gas.

Chris Covert-Bowlds is a family doctor and member of the Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility. He said burning gas in buildings produces pollutants that affect people's health.

Covert-Bowlds said kids with a gas stove in the house have a 40% higher chance of developing asthma, and that low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately exposed to these hazards.

"Most people's air pollution exposure is mostly from inside their homes," said Covert-Bowlds. "So we know that switching from gas appliances and heat to electric sources should make a huge difference for people's health."

Although electric appliances ultimately would save money, Gelb noted there will be costs to transitioning homes away from natural gas.

"Importantly, we need to protect low-income communities from any negative impacts that could happen from the changes," said Gelb. "Any slight cost increases, whatever - and help them with that transition."

The House version of this bill, HB 1084, had a public hearing in the House Committee on Environment and Energy last week.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA