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Contact: Jess Wallach  

King County Council Unanimously Adopts Bold Regulations to Stop New Fossil Fuel Projects Before They Start

Last year, thousands of King County residents came together to win a moratorium on new fossil fuel development. Today, King County Council voted unanimously to make that moratorium permanent, by passing a comprehensive suite of regulations that protect local communities from fossil fuel threats.

“The first step to getting out of a hole is to stop digging. When it comes to the climate crisis, that means we need to stop building new fossil fuel infrastructure which would lock us into decades of climate pollution and injustice,” said Jess Wallach, 350 Seattle Campaigns Co-Director.

Fossil fuel infrastructure poses an unacceptable risk to the health and safety of people living in King County. Fracked gas pipelines, oil-by-rail, and coal extraction (and the toxic messes these projects leave behind when abandoned) are linked to cancer-causing air and water pollution, respiratory illness, heart attacks, birth defects, stroke, and premature death.

“Low-income and communities of color in King County already bear the brunt of negative health outcomes from exposure to the burning of fossil fuels and this will only be exacerbated with the deepening climate crisis” said Matt Remle, co-founder of Mazaska Talks. “The first step in addressing the climate crisis is by not making it worse. With today’s vote, King County is showing that all communities deserve clean air, water, neighborhoods and futures.”

The King County regulations adopted today:

  • Explicitly prohibit certain types of fossil fuel infrastructure, such as coal mines and large-scale oil and gas storage facilities (like the dirty and dangerous Tacoma LNG facility currently being built at the Port of Tacoma).
  • Strengthen permitting criteria for new and expanded fossil fuel infrastructure, to ensure the well-being of current and future King County residents is prioritized in any project review.
  • Require comprehensive review and mitigation of the full scope of environmental impacts of any fossil fuel project, including lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions, threats to air and water quality, and public health risks.
  • Establish demonstrated, early, and meaningful consultation with tribes.

The County also took steps today to ensure local taxpayers aren’t on the hook for the costs when fossil fuel infrastructure inevitably leaks, explodes, and pollutes:

“As fossil fuel companies teeter on the edge of bankruptcy in the age of COVID19, they are leaving potentially gargantuan cleanup costs in their wake,” said Daphne Wysham with Center for Sustainable Economy in Portland, ORG. “We’re glad to see King County, WA, join Multnomah County, OR, in exploring fossil fuel risk bond programs as an innovative way to force the polluter to pay — before they declare bankruptcy or before a major accident occurs — while minimizing costs to the taxpayer and risks to frontline communities and the environment.”

“The longer we wait to act on pollution and climate change, the more dire and wide-spread the impacts on people will be,” adds Dr. Ken Lans, with WA Physicians for Social Responsibility. “We should be doing everything we can to reduce our fossil fuel use, rather than enabling it — so we’re thrilled that the county has taken this critically important action to protect the health and safety of all its residents.”

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