King County Council restricts coal mines, fossil fuel infrastructure in zoning and development changes

William Arsn

Evan Bush

The King County Council Friday approved changes to its land use and development regulations that make it more difficult to expand or develop major fossil fuel infrastructure in the county.

The county in 2019 passed a moratorium on developing such infrastructure.  

The new measures make it more difficult to construct pipelines or storage facilities for oil or natural gas. The changes do not apply to gas stations or existing fossil fuel infrastructure. 

Pipelines are regulated by the federal government and King County does not have direct control over them, but it can set strict requirements for zoning and development of some associated infrastructure.  

“We’re setting as high a bar as we legally can,” said Councilmember Dave Upthegrove, adding that he believed the changes will provide the maximum amount of protection against the harmful health impacts of fossil fuel infrastructure.

An amendment sponsored by Upthegrove will require analysis of greenhouse gas impacts, facility alternatives, equity impacts, and social and economic impacts for these infrastructure projects. It disallows these structures to be adjacent to schools, hospitals, gathering spaces and wetlands. Any applications to expand or build new infrastructure would require public meetings and review. 

Upthegrove’s amendment also requires utilities to disclose greenhouse gas impacts when applying for new agreements to use King County’s right-of-way to transport fossil fuels.

The council on Friday also approved regulations promoted by County Executive Dow Constantine that effectively prohibit developing new or expanding existing coal mines or in King County.

In recent years, the Pacific Coast Coal Co. sought to reopen coal mining just outside of Black Diamond.

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