Group Sues To Strike Natural Gas Regulatory Ban From Spokane Ballot

Aug 11, 2021

Buildings account for the second biggest share of carbon pollution in Washington, after transportation, largely due to gas furnaces and water heaters such as these.
Credit Tom Banse/Northwest News Network

A group of environmental advocates and a Spokane city councilwoman are suing to stop an initiative that would bar city leaders from banning new natural gas hookups. They want to keep it off the ballot.

They argue it would hamper the region’s ability to fight climate change.

The initiative was first proposed in response to a draft sustainability plan a citizen work group proposed on behalf of the city. It called for the city to bar natural gas hookups on new construction after 2028. That plan has not been adopted and it would take a separate city council action to bar those types of hook ups. No city council member has floated such a proposal.

Amanda Parrish is the executive director of the Spokane-based Lands Council. She said taking away a city’s ability to regulate energy and building within its borders will make it difficult for Spokane to respond to the growing threat of climate change.

“We’re not really proposing any changes to our energy usage at this time. We are just arguing that it’s illegal to try to take away an option from our community," she said.

The lawsuit is filed on behalf of Councilwoman Kate Burke and Protect Spokane Action – a non-profit formed to fight the initiative. It argues that the initiative would limit the council’s legislative powers and the city’s administrative powers, and make it impossible for the city to enact statewide climate policies.

The initiative’s supporters include Avista, which, according to the Public Disclosure Commission, has donated to its campaign. Other contributors, through the Spokane Good Government Alliance PAC, include developers Walt Worthy and Larry Stone, Washington Trust Bank and the Building Industry Association of Washington.

Jon Seaton, a partner at Camelback Strategies, a Phoenix-based political consulting firm, which is leading the initiative effort on behalf of supporters, criticized the lawsuit, calling its supporters extremists.

In his statement, Seaton said they looked “forward to the courts reaffirming the right of the people of Spokane to control their own destiny through the initiative process.”

Camelback Strategies has also worked on behalf of Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers' campaign, as well as for Nadine Woodward’s mayoral election.

A judge will soon rule on whether the initiative is illegal.