Legislators discuss initiative to maintain natural gas at Woodland chamber forum


Last week, a potential initiative to maintain the use of natural gas appliances took center stage at a Woodland Chamber of Commerce forum.

The forum was hosted by Republican 20th Legislative District Reps. Peter Abbarno and Ed Orcutt and Sen. John Braun.

During the brief session, the Republican legislators discussed Washington House Bill 1589, which passed the state Legislature in March. The bill is intended to speed up Puget Sound Energy’s (PSE) move away from fossil fuels by requiring the company to convert 80% of its energy to renewable sources by 2030. Under the law, PSE must transition entirely to clean energy by 2045. Braun and other Republicans openly oppose the new law, citing a need for consumer energy choice.

“Every one of us today can decide for ourselves if we want to use natural gas, liquid propane or electricity, and we can, for the most part, make that choice,” Braun said. “[Democrats] want to take that choice away and make [our] life more expensive. And, again, we’re squeezing the middle class with the notion that we’re going to somehow improve the climate when the outcomes of this are virtually zero in terms of improved climate.”

Voters are petitioning to include Initiative 2066 to repeal the new law in the upcoming November general election ballot. Additionally, the potential initiative would prevent the state from limiting natural gas services to businesses and homes.

Woodland resident Darlene Johnson presented a petition form, which received eight signatures at the meeting. Woodland Mayor Todd Dinehart, who attended the meeting, signed the petition. Dinehart declined to comment. Johnson said Dinehart expressed that the law, which the initiative would repeal, should not have passed legislation.

According to the Washington Secretary of State’s website, for the initiative to appear on November’s general election ballot, 324,516 petition signatures must be collected by July 5. Abbarno, Orcutt and Braun said they would support the potential fourth initiative.

“It’s not that they don’t like natural gas, the problem is it’s too cheap and they want to promote solar and wind power, and it doesn’t work when they have to compete with natural gas,” Braun said of Democrats. “So they’re creating an artificial war against natural gas by taking away your choice.”

The legislators said they will support the existing three initiatives — to repeal the state’s capital gains tax, repeal the Climate Commitment Act and allow residents to opt out of WA Cares — which will appear on the Nov. 5 ballot, pushed by Republican lawmakers. The initiatives would pass into law without Gov. Jay Inslee’s signature with a simple majority vote and cannot be vetoed.