City Hall

Seattle City Council Wants Puget Sound Energy to Stop Using Coal-Fired Facility

A resolution sponsored by Mike O'Brien upholds the Paris climate accord goals and takes it a few steps further.

By Hayat Norimine June 12, 2017

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The March for Science in Seattle on April 22, 2017. 

In case Seattle mayor Ed Murray's commitment wasn't enough, council members on Monday unanimously passed their own resolution on Monday—to not only uphold to the Paris climate accord goals, but to go even further.

The resolution urges Puget Sound Energy to replace use of a coal-fired facility in Montana with 100 percent renewable energy by 2025; directs the Office of Sustainability and the Environment to come up with recommendations for climate actions by the end of the year; urges the Seattle City Employees' Retirement System to consider divesting $92.2 million in pension funds from fossil fuels; asks for regulations that could prohibit new fossil fuel infrastructure projects; and calls on other state entities to deny permits of those projects statewide.

The city back in 2011 already implemented goals of establishing zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and a 58 percent reduction of emissions by 2030 from 2008 levels. Council member Mike O'Brien, who sponsored the resolution, said those goals were under the assumption that the federal administration would be part of that equation. The city should now look back on those goals to determine whether there are any additional steps they should be making, he said.

"What's coming forward is a movement that I believe will demonstrate to the rest of the world that, despite our elected president Donald Trump abdicating the leadership role the United States should be playing...cities and states will step forward" to uphold the international agreement, O'Brien said.

Currently Puget Sound Energy uses the Colstrip Power Plant—which the city cites as the third-largest carbon polluter in the country—southeast of Billings, Montana. PSE is currently considering a lease renewal for the coal-fired facility. 

The Seattle City Employees' Retirement System is also already doing another analysis on whether the city could divest its money in pension funds from fossil fuels; its board is slated to discuss the assessment on July 13. The pension fund holds $2.48 billion for the city's roughly 17,000 employees and retirees, according to SCERS. 

To divest from fossil fuels, the board would have to demonstrate that the city is making a prudent decision with its financial obligation, council member Tim Burgess said in an earlier interview. Financial risks associated with fossil fuels continue to grow, so essentially the analysis would have to show it's grown to the point where it benefits the city's employees to divest. 

Updated 5:19pm: This post corrects that the council wants to replace Colstrip with 100 percent renewable energy. 

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