Seattle poised to invest in Green New Deal programs

SEATTLE – Today the Seattle City Council unanimously voted to advance a plan to invest more than $20 million annually into Green New Deal programs, creating local clean energy jobs that will accelerate the city’s transition off fossil fuels.

The funding is a part of the council’s Jumpstart Seattle plan, which is expected to raise an estimated $214 million a year through a payroll tax on highly paid employees at the city’s largest businesses. A final vote on a spending plan is expected on Monday.

The money will be used to support low-income homeowners in Seattle in switching their home heating systems away from fossil fuels such as oil and gas to cleaner, safer electric heating. It will also include financing for energy efficiency upgrades, including weatherization projects that lower monthly energy bills. The first phase of the program will prioritize homeowners that make 80% or less of Seattle’s average median income before being opened up to the broader public. Outreach will be concentrated in BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) communities.

This program is one of Seattle’s first steps in implementing a local Green New Deal, a key strategy in meeting the city’s goal of eliminating climate pollution by the year 2030. As of 2016, buildings were responsible for 35% of Seattle’s climate pollution, primarily due to the burning of oil and gas in household appliances like water heaters, furnaces and stoves. Statewide, buildings are Washington’s fastest-growing source of greenhouse gases, up by more than 50% since 1990.

The Green New Deal proposal in the Jumpstart legislation is expected to create a significant number of job opportunities in the city, and was supported by a broad array of climate and environmental justice groups and labor unions, including the MLK Labor Council.

“MLK Labor is energized that we came together with our friends at 350 Seattle and dozens of community organizations to help craft a Green New Deal plan for Jumpstart,” said Nicole Grant, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of MLK Labor Council and member of IBEW Local 46. “This is a moment when our city is looking in the mirror and asking hard questions about who we are and who we want to be. This policy challenges environmental racism and is a first step towards a better Seattle.”

“$20 million is a good start but it’s still a start,” said Debolina Banerjee, Climate Justice Policy Analyst at Puget Sound Sage. “The climate crisis isn’t going away anytime soon. Once the pandemic comes under control, and people start resuming their usual activities, emissions will rise again, and so will the impacts. There should be more investments in climate issues, especially in communities who are at the frontlines of the climate crisis.”

“This is the right thing to do,” said Maria Batayola, chair of the Beacon Hill Community Council. “Most oil heated homes are located in Central Area, the Duwamish, Beacon Hill, South Seattle and West Seattle where Black, people of color and low income reside. This will be very helpful.”

“Investing in Seattle’s Green New Deal is how we address the overlapping crises of COVID-19, systemic racism, economic injustice and climate change, to create a more just and healthy future for all,” said Lucas Vargas Zepetello, a community organizer with 350 Seattle. “This plan will create local clean energy jobs that will help make good on the council’s commitment to eliminate carbon emissions in Seattle. It ensures communities already most impacted by the climate crisis and economic injustice are served first. It prioritizes job training & retraining for workers impacted by COVID-19 and the transition away from fossil fuels. We are proud to have worked with partners in labor, affordable housing advocates, environmental justice leaders and Councilmember Mosqueda’s office to put forward this proposal.”

“The collective efforts to bring these amendments forward from frontline communities, Native organizers, climate and environmental justice activists, the labor movement and elected officials shows what can be accomplished to protect lands, air, water, community health, labor rights and address the climate crisis when we work together,” said Matt Remle (Lakota) co-founder of Mazaska Talks

“By investing in a Green New Deal, Seattle is proving that we don’t have to choose between a stable climate and a healthy and fair economy,” said Brittney Bush Bollay, chair of the Sierra Club’s Seattle Group. “We’re reducing our contributions to the climate crisis, creating jobs and supporting our marginalized neighbors at the same time.”

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