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Mayor Durkan Celebrates City Council’s Passage of Her Plan to Convert Thousands of Oil-Heated Seattle Homes to Cleaner, Lower Carbon Electric and Help Fight Climate Change

Using Oil for Heat One of the Most Expensive and Polluting Forms of Home Heating in Seattle  

Converting Homes to Cleaner Electricity Would Provide Carbon Pollution Reduction Equivalent to Taking 90,000 Cars off Seattle’s Roads for an Entire Year, A Key Step to Becoming Carbon Neutral by 2050 

SEATTLE (September 23, 2019) – Mayor Jenny Durkan applauded City Council’s 8-0 passage today of her plan to help combat the climate crisis and fulfill a key commitment of the 2018 Seattle Climate Strategy by speeding up the conversion of Seattle’s homes that burn oil for heat to cleaner electric heating. 

Mayor Durkan transmitted the legislation to City Council in August. 

“On Friday, millions of young people around the world—including thousands here in Seattle— marched to demand action on climate change. They are the leaders of this climate change generation, and their activism will help transform our world for the better,” said Mayor Jenny Durkan. “We must recommit to those young people and ourselves that we will accelerate our transition to a clean energy future. Moving faster to convert Seattle’s homes off of dirty fossil fuels is good for our climate, our economy, and the future of the young people who marched on Friday. We will continue the important work of fighting climate change and addressing environmental inequities. By investing in more housing near transit, advancing legislation to create more green buildings, and studying congestion pricing, we continue to work to create a greener and more just future.” 

A $0.24/gallon tax on oil will fund rebates and grants for nearly 3,000 households to transition to clean, efficient heat pumps. Approximately 1,000 low-income households are estimated to be eligible for a fully funded conversion at no cost their family.  

In addition to the tax, the new law also requires heating oil tank owners to decommission or upgrade all existing underground oil tanks by 2028. Most of Seattle’s oil heat tanks are more than 60 years old and are an increasing liability for deterioration and leakage—which can damage soil, property, and potentially ground water.  

There are as many as 18,000 oil-heated homes in the City of Seattle. Converting those homes to clean electricity is expected to reduce Seattle’s climate emissions by 433,000 metric tons over 10 years. That is the equivalent of taking nearly 90,000 passenger cars off the road for a year. 

A typical 500-gallon oil tanks costs a household $1,700 per year. An electric heat pump is more than twice as efficient as an oil furnace and a conversion from oil would save the average household about $850 every year compared to oil heat systems.   

Most of Seattle’s oil heat tanks were installed between the 1920s and 1950s and are now an increasing liability as the steel tanks deteriorate causing oil to leak and damage soil, property, and potentially ground water.    

City of Seattle departments including Office of Sustainability and Environment, Seattle Fire Department and Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections will develop the criteria and plan for decommissioning aging oil tanks by July 1, 2020.  

The legislation also supports workforce development for workers in the oil heating industry. A portion of the tax revenue will support workforce training and business planning support for affected heating oil service providers.