The Seattle City Council voted unanimously on the 23rd of September to phase out the use of home heating oil in the city, a major step in the goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions from residential buildings by 32 percent from 2008 levels by 2030.
The ordinance from Mayor Jenny Durkan hits home heating oil with a one-two punch by imposing a 23.6 cents per gallon tax on heating oil beginning September 2020, then requiring “that all heating oil storage tanks in Seattle are either decommissioned or replaced with a modern tank no later than December 31, 2028.
The mayor’s office estimated that converting 18,000 homes would be equivalent to removing the emissions of 9,000 cars each year.
Durkan’s proposed tax of 24 cents per gallon on heating oil providers would fund programs to help households switch to electric heat. The tax would take effect in July 2020, according to the news release. The legislation also calls for oil tanks to be decommissioned or upgraded by the end of 2028.
Converting and decommissioning oil heating systems can cost thousands of dollars.
The mayor’s office estimates that 1,000 low-income households would be eligible for conversion entirely on the city’s dime.
The mayor’s office also estimates that heating oil costs a household $1,700 a year on average and that an electric heat pump would cost about half that in electricity.
Robert Lauch, an employee of the Ballard Oil Company, a heating oil provider, called the mayor’s proposal a “tax on old people,” saying most of the company’s customers were over 50 years old and living in Seattle’s older homes.
“Business never pays for anything. If you don’t pass the cost on to the consumer, you’re not in business anymore,” he said.
Lauch said Ballard Oil Company has about 3,000 customers in Seattle. The company serves households from Des Moines to South Everett.
Typically, customers have 300-gallon tanks on their property, which are filled up about two or three times each year, Lauch said. He said Ballard Oil in recent years has lost some customers to electric heat pumps, but picked more up as other heating oil providers shrank and consolidated.
The company charges $2.83 per gallon to fill tanks that are 275 gallons and larger, according to its website.