Seattle Enacts ECC-Backed Energy & Water Efficiency Measures

EC Seattle Director Steve Gelb with Seattle Mayor Ed MurraySeattle Mayor Ed Murray has signed into law energy efficiency legislation that he said “propels Seattle into an elite group of cities with progressive policies aimed at driving energy efficiencies and reducing climate change.”

Emerald Cities Seattle backed the legislation as it moved through the City Council, as did representatives from labor, business and the community – including several members of EC Seattle’s Local Council. EC Seattle Director Steve Gelb was among those testifying in support of the measures last month, as were several individuals who identified themselves as EC Seattle local council members.

In addition to supporting the energy efficiency measures, Gelb used his statement as an opportunity to urge the council to step up its efforts to curb carbon pollution and climate change in support of Seattle’s Climate Action Plan.

The two ordinances and one resolution:

  • Require public transparency of buildings’ energy performance (benchmarking);
  • Requires energy and water system “tune-ups” every five years for large commercial buildings; and
  • Directs the city to conduct tune-ups on city-owned buildings a year ahead of the compliance deadlines for commercial buildings.

In a press release, the mayor said “buildings are the second largest source of climate pollution in Seattle.” He said “reducing their emissions is critical to meeting our city’s ambitious climate goals” and will “ensure that our existing, older commercial buildings are high performing, helping to create jobs and reduce operating expenses for building owners and tenants.” 

At the hearing, Gelb provided another perspective. “Unfortunately, and contrary to popular understanding, we are making very slow progress on improving the efficiency of our buildings and reducing our greenhouse gas emissions,” he declared. More action is needed, he continued, to improve Seattle’s air quality and economic competitiveness while creating family-wage careers in the energy sector.

Gelb encouraged the council to consider the new ordinances merely the first in “a series of policies that support building owners in improving their buildings” with increased energy and water efficiency.

“We cannot leave the achievement of our vision to become a carbon-free city to market mechanisms alone,” he asserted, “as history tells us that markets are not designed to serve the public interest when externalities like the unaccounted-for cost of carbon are present.”

He concluded, “Combating climate change is in the public interest and demands our immediate attention.”

Other speakers coordinated by Emerald Cities Seattle included Michael Mann, who chairs EC Seattle’s local council and is a former director of the Seattle Office of Sustainability. Joining him were Doug Howell of the Sierra Club’s Northwest Regional office and Keith Weir of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 46, who is a founding member of EC Seattle and the board chair of Apprenticeship & Non-Traditional Employment for Women (ANEW).

Mann said his remarks were offered on behalf of Emerald Cities and its partners in support of the city’s efforts towards carbon neutrality, creating green jobs and greening their city. 



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