A pipeline installation between farms, as seen from 50th Avenue in New Salem, North Dakota. Photo by Tony Webster/flickr

A pipeline installation between farms, as seen from 50th Avenue in New Salem, North Dakota. Photo by Tony Webster/flickr

King County Council approves fossil fuel moratorium

Six-month moratorium on new fossil fuel infrastructure was narrowly approved

King County has approved a moratorium on new fossil fuel infrastructure for six months, a move that environmental advocates say will help restrict possible pipelines from being built.

The ordinance was introduced by King County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove, who took a leading role in pushing for the moratorium over the past year after it was introduced by environmental advocacy group 350 Seattle. The moratorium will last for six months and freeze new fossil fuel infrastructure developments across unincorporated King County. It also kicks off a regulatory rewriting process designed to update the county’s land use code and permitting regulations to ban new major fossil fuel infrastructure permanently. Additionally, it requires the King County executive’s office to complete a study on the effects of new fossil fuel facilities in the county.

In particular, the ordinance will focus on changing land use zoning codes to block new bulk storage terminals and refinery or export projects. 350 Seattle hopes this will slow or stop fossil fuel infrastructure such as fracked gas pipelines and oil by rail. Activists packed the council chambers on Jan. 28, delivering impassioned pleas ahead of the vote along with statements from councilmembers.

“Reducing the pollution that causes climate change I think quite possibly is the greatest moral imperative facing my generation,” Upthegrove said during the nearly five-hour meeting.

The moratorium was an emergency action, requiring six votes to approve it. The moratorium was narrowly approved by a 6-3 vote, with councilmembers Kathy Lambert, Reagan Dunn, and Pete von Reichbauer voting against it. Councilmember Kathy Lambert previously told Seattle Weekly she had questions about how the county would meet its energy needs if new fossil fuel projects are blocked.

“What are the consequences of doing that, and how are you going to deal with the fact that you need that energy,” Lambert said in a phone interview last week.

Outside of the council, the moratorium has garnered support from other groups, including Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility, which published a 14-page paper urging the council to enact the ordinance.

Their main concerns, as outlined in the paper, dealt with trains or pipelines transporting oil and gas through the county along with coal. In particular, they were worried about a possible expansion related to the proposed methanol refinery in Kalama, which they said would use one-third of the state’s current gas consumption. This could overtax the current infrastructure and possibly lead to greater development on an existing pipeline corridor that passes through King County. In recent years, at least six proposals for new gas pipelines have been made.

Around 100 people signed up to testify at the lengthy meeting Jan. 28. Several councilmembers who voted for the ordinance said it was only a first step. Councilmember Claudia Balducci said residents should also put pressure on legislators in Olympia to pass climate change measures this session.

“We have to change how we live and we have to change how we live much faster than we are used to,” she said.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@bellevuereporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.bellevuereporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in News

Patrick Kim. Courtesy of the Department of Licensing.
Bellevue man defrauds clients from Korean community, joins insurance fraud most wanted

Patrick Kim failed to appear at the King County Superior Court for numerous felony charges.

Ribbon cutting ceremony for the first Pride flag crosswalk at Bellevue College on May 17. Courtesy of Bellevue College.
Bellevue College hosts ribbon cutting ceremony for first rainbow crosswalk

Two more rainbow crosswalks are in the works, with the second one being the Progress Pride flag.

Bellevue Downtown Association logo
Downtown Bellevue Association to host Police Chief Wendell Shirley for Q&A event

The event will take place on Tuesday, May 24, from 7:30 to 9 am at the Bellevue Club.

File photo.
King County Council approves creation of Cannabis Safety Taskforce amid rash of dispensary robberies

The multi-agency task force will cooperate to find ways to improve safety in the cash-only industry.

Screenshot from ORCA website
New ORCA system launches for regional transit across the Puget Sound

Overhaul includes new website, mobile application and digital business account manager.

Judged by XII: A King County Local Dive podcast. The hands shown here belong to Auburn Police Officer Jeffrey Nelson, who has been charged with homicide in the 2019 death of Jesse Sarey.
JUDGED BY XII (Episode 4): Foster mom wants accountability in Auburn cop’s upcoming murder trial

Special podcast series explores Auburn Police Officer Jeffrey Nelson’s role in the death of Jesse Sarey.

The Newport Team launches their rocket. Courtesy of AIA.
Newport High School team crowned National Champions at American Rocketry Challenge

The team will represent the United States at the International Rocketry Challenge this July.

Screenshot from Bellevue School Foundation website
Bellevue Schools Foundation to study affordable housing in the community

Research made possible with $250,000 grant from the Amazon Housing Equity Fund

Most Read