The first step to putting out a fire is to stop throwing more fuel on the flames; the first step to getting out of a hole is to stop digging. You could dream up any number of metaphors to express it, but prosaic language works just fine too: Building any new fossil fuel infrastructure is unacceptable.
And King County Council, representing the most populated and largest County in Washington state, have just demonstrated that they will not stand for a future dependent on fossil fuels.
After months of campaigning, led by 350 Seattle in close coordination with dozens of allied groups, the Council voted 6 – 3 to pass an immediate moratorium that helps prevent the building of new fossil fuel infrastructure. Over the next six months, the County will be studying how to make the moratorium permanent.
Here’s a quick run down of what the moratorium will do, how it was won, and how you can join us in banning new fossil fuel projects in your community:
What The Moratorium Will Do
When we think of new fossil fuel infrastructure we think of iconic pipeline battles: Keystone XL, Dakota Access, Coastal Gas Link. Or we think of fights against massive new coal mines or LNG terminals. But the expansion of the fossil fuel industry doesn’t always look like that. Sometimes the expansion of the fossil fuel empire is stealthier. Sometimes it goes almost entirely unnoticed, like mustard gas wafting through the cracks of a door.
Example: Right now, in Washington state, under the guise of “upgrading” an existing fracked gas pipeline, the fossil fuel-loving utility Puget Sound Energy is increasing the pipeline’s carrying capacity by 63%. That much additional fracked gas in Washington state could increase our entire state’s climate pollution by 3%.
By making changes to land use zoning codes and by strengthening County permitting criteria, the #FossilFreeKC ordinance proactively seeks to prevent the gas industry (and fossil fuel-addicted utilities like Puget Sound Energy) from doing similar “upgrades” in King County.
The moratorium also erects an important policy blockade to help stop the construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure in King County. This is strategic. The Pacific Northwest is geographically important to the fossil fuel industry as they look for ways to get their fossil fuels from Montana, the Dakotas and Alberta to Asian markets. Over the last decade, Washington state has been the site of no fewer than thirty proposed fossil fuel projects. Fortunately, our communities have organized and stopped almost every single one of them. But we’ve played defense for far too long already; it’s time that we go on the offense against the fossil fuel industry as well. This ordinance does exactly that—by changing laws to make it harder to build any new fossil fuel projects.
How It Was Won
Three Simple Steps:
- We envisioned and deeply researched the idea.
- We found a Council Member who shared our values and who agreed to introduce it
- We built the community power required to ensure it passed.
Of course, we’re simplifying. In reality, some of our most committed organizers and researchers spent almost a year working on this. But in another sense, those three steps are all that it took. And, more importantly, all it would take for you to do this too ― and, hopefully, with the example of so many other communities in double-quick time!
To find out more about how to successfully execute a Fossil Free campaign like ours in King’s County, click here to sign up for our upcoming toolkit on How We Won A Fossil Free KC.
In our press release following the victory, County Councilmember Upthegrove was clear in how this was won ― and where real solutions to the climate crisis come from: “I was fortunate that members of the public approached me with the idea for this proactive legislation to protect our communities. That is how we are going to get out of this crisis: by listening to solutions that come from the grassroots, from people rooted in their communities, working together with their elected officials.”
We want Fossil Free campaigns to continue winning across the United States. King County can’t be the only place that bans new fossil fuel projects. Communities everywhere need to do this, and to do it as quickly as we possibly can. And we want to support you in that.
Very soon, we will be producing an in-depth How We Won A Fossil Free KC toolkit and hosting a webinar with key organizers and strategists from the campaign. If you have any interest in banning new fossil fuel projects in your community, we encourage you to sign up here to receive the toolkit and webinar notification.
Beyond that, what’s next for us here in King County: We will be working closely with the County Council and the Executive’s office, providing input and consultation on the regulatory rewrite that the ordinance directs and to ensure that the moratorium is rigorously adhered to.
And, of course, saying no to new fossil fuel infrastructure is just the beginning. We will be going back to the planning room and thinking deeply about what the next steps are to ensure that we are living in a truly Fossil Free King County as soon as possible.
Additional Fossil Free KC Resources
- Sightline Institute, King County Poised To Lock Out Fossil Fuels
- Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility, The health and safety imperative of preventing new fossil fuel projects
- 350Seattle, Let’s Fight For A Fossil Free KC
- 350 Seattle: Gas Threats and Solutions Memo
- 350.org: Fossil Free KC Interview