Washington County Passes Moratorium on New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure

Climate activists at a rally in Washington in 2016.

Climate activists at a rally in Washington in 2016. Alex Garland / Backbone Campaign

The county that encompasses Seattle, Washington has approved a six-month moratorium on any new major fossil fuel infrastructure — the first such county-wide ban in the United States. The moratorium passed the King County Council by a 6-3 vote.

“Reducing the pollution that causes climate change is quite possibly the greatest moral imperative facing my generation,” Councilmember Dave Upthegrove, who introduced the ordinance, told The Seattle Times. “Our action makes it clear, here in King County, our future is not fossil fuels but a clean-energy future.”

King County, home to nearly 2.2 million people, has several major ports. The moratorium will prevent the construction or approval of any new fossil fuel infrastructure within the county limits, such as pipelines, large-scale storage facilities, refineries, or export terminals. It does not, however, apply to new gasoline stations or fuel storage for airports, marine servicing facilities, or railyards. The new ordinance is similar to more local bans passed in recent years in Portland, Tacoma, Vancouver, and several other cities. Whatcom County, Washington, which includes the city of Bellingham, is considering a similar ordinance, which is slated to be introduced next month.

“The IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] has made it clear - we have just 12 years to radically transform our energy systems if we’re to have any hope of a healthy climate future,” Jess Wallach, an organizer with the Fossil Free King County campaign — a coalition of 40 local, state, and national organizations that supported the ordinance — said in a statement. “That starts with saying no to new fossil fuel infrastructure.”