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Community Voices: GOP legislators warn natural gas bill would kill jobs
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Community Voices: GOP legislators warn natural gas bill would kill jobs

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All five Republicans who serve on Washington’s House Environment and Energy Committee this week warned that a bill headed for a Legislature vote “would kill jobs in Washington and could wipe out an entire industry.”

When House Bill 1084 was brought up for a committee vote, Republican members Reps. Mary Dye, Mark Klicker, Peter Abbarno, Matt Boehnke, and Keith Goehner were unified in their remarks. Abbarno, from Centralia, represents the 20th District, which includes Cowlitz County.

The measure passed the committee on a party-line vote, 8-5, with all Republicans voting no.

The original bill would have prohibited the use of natural gas in newly-constructed homes and buildings, including for space heating, furnaces, water heaters, interior gas fireplaces and even back deck grills. An amendment removed that prohibition.

Here are the GOP legislators’ comments.

Abbarno:

Homebuilders, Realtors, the trucking association, air conditioning and heat contractors, plumbers and pipefitters, heavy equipment operators with Operating Engineers Local 302 and trade workers are among those who oppose the bill.

This bill is the worst kind of trifecta—it takes away choice from consumers, it creates a financial burden for working families and small businesses, and it eliminates family-wage jobs.

At a time when we should be investing in our communities and the people who build them and make them better, this bill tells a trade worker, heavy machine operator, pipefitter in my community that their job is not valuable, and they will be re-programmed and transitioned to another job.

Dye:

This is really one of the many freedom-killing bills of the 2021 session. It is designed to eradicate an entire industry and the jobs that industry provides. Government should not write laws that declare someone’s job obsolete. We should be making jobs, not taking jobs. This is truly a sad day for Washington with committee passage of this bill.

The bill still takes major steps to accelerate the removal of natural gas from homes and buildings and would undermine the continued economic viability of natural gas utilities.

The sponsors recognize this bill, as introduced, would eliminate jobs. The original bill required regulators to put a ‘climate protection surcharge’ on gas bills. These funds would have been used to fund retraining programs for workers in the natural gas industry who would lose their jobs. No one wants to be told the future for them is access to something called a ‘just transition fund’ to pay for retraining for a different job. The committee amendment took out this tax, but this bill still takes steps in that same direction by requiring “transition plans” from natural gas utilities. This measure goes way too far when it signals that it wants an entire industry and its workers to be obsolete.

Klicker:

The bill would be significant and impactful on people who are would lose their jobs. This is an abuse of government power and it will hurt thousands of people in the natural gas industry, as well as upwards of a million Washingtonians who rely on this energy resource every day. Natural gas is a reliable and inexpensive energy source and our government should not be given the power to shut it down.

Boehnke:

The bill would have an adverse effect on Washington’s economy. House Bill 1084 would kill jobs at a time when we’re trying to rebuild our economy and get Washingtonians back on their feet. Prohibiting the use of natural gas in homes and buildings would have devastating consequences not just for workers, but also for the one million natural gas customers in Washington who would see a $700 increase in their annual energy bill. House Bill 1084 is costly, not just for employers and employees, but for families who are struggling every month to make ends meet. I urge my friends in the majority to reconsider their support for this misguided bill.

Goehner:

The measure would also create instability across the regional electric grid. We are fortunate in North Central Washington and Washington state to have dams provide abundant, clean and affordable power, but dams cannot provide all of our power. The impact on the electrical grid and power supply cannot be ignored. This legislation negatively effects the energy reliability in our region and the diversity of our energy portfolio across the state. Our local communities and economies will also suffer as this takes jobs away from thousands across the state. Instead of focusing on creating jobs or incentivizing a reduction in carbon, we are pushing policy that will eliminate good family-wage jobs, during a pandemic when many folks need to work to support their families. This is not a well-thought out piece of legislation. The government should not be putting people out of work and at risk when natural gas can be used as an alternative fuel source.

Reps. Mary Dye (Pomeroy), Mark Klicker (Walla Walla), Peter Abbarno (Centralia), Matt Boehnke (Kennewick) and Keith Goehner (Dryden).

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