All five Republicans who serve on the House Environment and Energy Committee spoke out today against a bill that would kill jobs in Washington and could wipe out an entire industry.
When House Bill 1084 was brought up for a vote, Republican committee members Reps. Mary Dye, Mark Klicker, Peter Abbarno, Matt Boehnke, and Keith Goehner were unified in their remarks, laying out the damages the legislation would cause.
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. However, Dye, who serves as ranking Republican on the committee, says the bill 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," said Dye, R-Pomeroy. "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."
Rep. Mark Klicker, R-Walla Walla, says the bill would be significant and impactful on people who are would lose their jobs.
"I believe 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," said Klicker, assistant ranking Republican on the committee.
Rep. Peter Abbarno, R-Centralia, noted that 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," said Abbarno. "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."
Rep. Matt Boehnke, R-Kennewick, noted 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," said Boehnke. "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."
Rep. Keith Goehner, R-Dryden, said 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," said Goehner, R-Dryden.
"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," added Goehner. "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."
Dye summed up the committee Republicans' view of House Bill 1084.
"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," said Dye. "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 measure passed the committee on a party-line vote, 8-5, with all Republicans voting no.