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Seattle City Council calls upon Puget Sound Energy to end coal use in wake of Paris agreement

It’s part of an ordinance demonstrating the City’s commitment to the climate accord

The Colstrip power plant in Colstrip, Montana.
Ben/Flickr

In a unanimous vote Monday, the Seattle City Council voted to uphold the city’s part of the Paris climate accord, which President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from on June 1.

But the resolution goes a step further to fight climate change: It calls upon Puget Sound Energy (PSE), which provides electricity to most households in the Puget Sound region outside Seattle, to end their use of coal by 2025.

Puget Sound Energy’s coverage map.
Via PSE

Both actions are in line with recent actions from multiple cities to fight climate change on the local level, including a proposed resolution in the U.S. Council of Mayors committing to clean energy.

“The city will do its part, and I’m asking Puget Sound Energy to do the same,” said councilor Mike O’Brien in a statement.

PSE just began negotiating an extended contract with the coal-burning Colstrip power plant in Montana, one of the largest carbon polluters in the United States, but it includes provisions for ending the relationship early if need be. The new contract would be effective through 2029.

In a statement, Vice President of Customer Operations and Communications Andy Wappler called PSE a “leader in renewable energy.” He said two units of the Montana plant will shut down by July 2022, and that they “anticipate phasing out” units of two more around 2035—10 years after the city is calling for them to end coal use entirely.

The current negotiations, he says, “will create greater flexibility for PSE on behalf of our customers.”

Seattle City Light, the electricity provider in most Seattle households, achieved zero net greenhouse gas emissions in 2005—the first energy provider in the U.S. to do so. While part of their plan includes investing in carbon offsets rather than eliminating emissions altogether, Seattle City Light did divest from a coal plant as part of that process.

In 2014, just .9 percent of Seattle City Light’s energy came from coal. That same year, coal supplied 35 percent of PSE’s energy.

The council’s commitment to the Paris accord compounds one already made by Mayor Ed Murray and 291 other mayors to honor the global climate agreement. The accord outlines a goal of keeping global average temperatures from rising 2 degrees Celsius. The only countries not signed on are Nicaragua, Syria, and now the U.S.

Before Trump’s withdrawal, the U.S. had already committed to cutting greenhouse gases 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels.

In addition to upholding a commitment to the Paris accord, the ordinance reaffirms Seattle’s previous commitments to ending climate change—like 2011 ordinance committing the city to zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.