With reporting by Seattle City Council Insight
In December, Mayor Jenny Durkan was named a “City Leader of the Year” in large part for her pledges to tackle climate change. 2020 begins with work to live up to the accolade.
Wednesday, Durkan signed an executive order specifying several actions that her administration will take to advance a “Green New Deal for Seattle.”
Last year the City Council passed a Green New Deal resolution and established an oversight board for environment-related work by the city. The resolution lists many actions, including studying the feasibility of the city purchasing renewable natural gas for use in buildings and the city’s transportation fleet and writing a “Green New Deal budget memo” as part of the annual budget process.
But in her signing ceremony, Durkan chose to focus on efforts to change Seattle’s built environment:
- All new and substantially altered city-owned building “shall operate without using fossil fuel systems and appliances.” That includes HVAC, water heating, and cooking systems.
- A task force representing the Mayor’s “capital subcabinet,” the Office of Sustainability and the Environment, Seattle City Light, and the City Budget Office will work with all city departments to develop a plan to eliminate fossil fuel use in city-owned buildings. A draft of the plan is due by July 1, with the final plan delivered by January 1, 2021.
Durkan, flanked by department heads, city officials, and community leaders, began the ceremony with a shout-out to three young climate activists sitting in the front row: Maria Suchoski and Zoe Schurman from Fridays for Future; and Parisa Harvey from Washington Climate Strike who also serves as co-chair of the Seattle Youth Commission.
The three, however, did not return the love. “We won’t stand with you until we see bold climate action,” they told Durkan.
Durkan applauded them for their statement. “I am saddened that we have to have an executive order like this,” she said. “I feel that our generation has not done what it needs to do for the next generation, and I refuse not to take steps.”
However, Durkan balked at moving forward with an ordinance requiring privately owned buildings to transition away from fossil fuels proposed last year for all new construction in the city.
Durkan said she believes the measure would require further dialogue with community organizations, particularly those running community kitchens and other facilities where the cost of transitioning could be burdensome.
This summer, the Seattle City Council passed a Green New Deal resolution calling for a catch-all roster of initiatives including “Building efficiency, Transportation , Housing affordability, Renewable energy, Climate, preparedness and emergency management,” and “Job training.”
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