Another delay for city’s heating-oil tax?

Two and a half years ago, then-Mayor Jenny Durkan proposed taxing heating oil as a way to encourage people to phase it out. The City Council approved the 23-cents-a-gallon tax in September 2019. But it still hasn’t gone into effect, and it may not, until next year – if ever. The heating-oil tax originally was set to start in September 2020, a year after its passage, but by then, the pandemic response was at center stage. A start date of April 2022 was eventually decided. On Tuesday, the City Council will look at pushing that back further, to January 1st of next year. It’s estimated that 15,500 households still use oil heat, and that the tax will cost them about $120 a year. Most of the proceeds, according to this briefing paper, will be used to help low-income households cover that cost, and to fully pay for conversion to electric heat pumps. The briefing paper suggests the city’s Green New Deal Oversight Board might eventually recommend another source, like the JumpStart tax, to cover those costs instead. The tax-delay proposal is on the agenda for Tuesday’s 2 pm council meeting. If the council doesn’t take action in March, the tax will start in April.

23 Replies to "Another delay for city's heating-oil tax?"

  • Auntie February 27, 2022 (9:02 pm)

    Sound Oil provides the heating oil for my furnace. They provide “Bioheat” fuel which has a lower carbon footprint than natural gas. I sent the information that Sound Oil provided me to Councilmember Herbold and she assured me that this fuel will be exempt from the tax. I hope she is right! My guess is that most of the homes still heated by oil are owned by seniors, like myself, and the last thing we need is additional taxes on our homes. 

    • WSB February 27, 2022 (11:28 pm)

      From the agenda document: “The tax rate is $0.236 per gallon of heating oil sold by heating oil service providers in Seattle (excluding biodiesels).””

  • John February 27, 2022 (9:22 pm)

    It’s an unjustified and immoral tax that will unfairly affect the elderly and low-income that can’t afford the thousands and thousands of dollars required to remove the old furnace, tank, get gas hooked up to the house and /or have an electric / gas furnace installed. I don’t see the city offering any rebates either

    • WSB February 27, 2022 (11:27 pm)

      It is literally part of the plan to cover the costs for low-income residents. From one of the linked agenda documents;

      Recognizing that this tax will disproportionately burden low-income households, most of the
      tax proceeds will be used to:
      • Fully cover the costs of converting from oil heat to an electric heat pump system for
      low-income households; and

      • Reimburse low-income households up to $120 annually to offset the added cost of the
      tax, either as a credit on their City Light account or as a check.

      Converting low-income households with oil heat to electric heat pumps will provide them
      greater benefit from the UDP and is expected to reduce their overall utility costs.

      • WS Guy February 28, 2022 (1:39 am)

        I want to know if the “cost to convert” includes: (1) upgrading electrical service to 200 amps; (2) decommissioning the existing oil tank; (3) emplacing a concrete pad and/or other structural modifications but I received no answer from Herbolds office.  An oil-to-electric conversion is a complex project that involves multiple contractors and costs are, at a minimum, $15,000 for the heat pump, $10,000 for the new panel.  $3,000 to clean and fill the tank with foam so it doesn’t seep oil into the ground.  But if evidence is that it has been leaking the cost to excavate and clean is in the tens of thousands.  I witnessed the City’s budgeting process on this and it by no means appraised it correctly, surely thanks to estimates from pro-legislation business interests.  The commenter is correct that this legislation targets the poor and taxes the borderline poor to pay for it.

        • bill February 28, 2022 (8:48 am)

          WS Guy: You haven’t appraised the costs correctly, either. Your heat pump number might be ballpark correct, yet high. Actual cost of work done on my house in the last two years: New panel $2500, decommission old oil tank: $1000. Oil customers can buy cheap leak remediation insurance with their fuel, and they had better, because remediation can easy run $60,000. If they are not insured I have no sympathy.

          • Adam February 28, 2022 (1:20 pm)

            You have no sympathy for someone who may not be able to afford this fee or the insurance you talk about? Cool. 

          • WS Guy February 28, 2022 (8:48 pm)

            “Haven’t appraised the cost right either.”  I have bids that say otherwise.  And a new panel is just a part of a 200 amp upgrade.  I am not sure where you found a panel replacement for that price, for starters.  Does that include parts and permitting?  Let me know who you’re using as an electrician; I’d be happy for a recommendation.

  • StopCuttingDownTrees February 27, 2022 (10:54 pm)

    Good news. We use biodiesel in our still-new oil furnace when we can and don’t want to convert to a new electric heat pump until this furnace wears out. It’s nice being able to buy the oil when the price is low, too.

  • Eric1 February 27, 2022 (11:23 pm)

    LOL.  If you don’t pay us 12 cents per kWh for heat, we are going to charge you an extra 23 cents a gallon for fuel oil.  Sounds like a criminal enterprise extorting people who can least afford it.   Oh wait..  politicians are involved…

    • James February 28, 2022 (7:36 am)

      Now you know how renters feel. Extorted by landlords. 

      • Jim February 28, 2022 (10:52 am)

        Now you know how landlords feel extorted by the state, county, city with outrageous property taxes

        • Neighbor February 28, 2022 (8:08 pm)

          Well, landlords choose to be landlords.  They are free to sell their property.

  • Rick February 28, 2022 (7:36 am)

    Great solution. Tax folks out of their homes and they won’t have a need to heat them

  • shotinthefoot February 28, 2022 (8:22 am)

    I have an oil furnace and as a renter, I am unfortunately stuck with it. I already received a bill for heating oil last month for +$900. I wish the council would also think of the renters while pushing their agenda. It’s hard on those of us without a say, and seems needlessly punitive. 

    • WSB February 28, 2022 (9:54 am)

      It wasn’t the council’s proposal, as noted, it was the former mayor’s. The council approved it but they’ve also been the ones delaying it for going on three years so far.

  • bill February 28, 2022 (8:56 am)

    Oil heat exhaust is noxious. I have neighbor still using oil. We’re lucky his exhaust usually blows away from our house. I’ve lived in house that drew in the neighbor’s oil exhaust. It was horrible. Oil heat is bad for your own health – watch your furnace when it lights. The puff of smoke that comes out the draft regulator before the chimney establishes draft is polluting your house!

  • CarDriver February 28, 2022 (9:08 am)

    When mom passed away she was still in her house. Still had it’s (working fine for her) 60 year old oil furnace and 60 year old wiring. There was NO WAY she could afford any “upgrades” Link provided by city to WSB say’s they’ll “help” with costs. Seniors will be left holding the bag. Fun fact. Friend from church wanting extra money dug the hole for the 750 gallon tank by himself with a shovel. Charged dad $20. 1st oil fill up by Carlson & Winquist was 10 cents a gallon.

  • Kathy February 28, 2022 (11:45 am)

    Everyone knows burning fossil fuels is wrong. Besides pollution it is causing disasters, drought, flooding, climate refugees and energy wars. The rich countries contribute most to the climate crisis while the poor countries suffer most from it. Yet people continue to turn off their consciences and burn fossil fuels, most of them complaining about fuel prices. Poor homeowners and landlords could get a loan against their real estate equity. The cost of conversion would payback eventually and then you will be financially ahead when you never again have to pay for expensive fossil fuel.

    • Rick February 28, 2022 (1:34 pm)

      Wrong according to you.  Give me your tesla.

    • StopCuttingDownTrees February 28, 2022 (2:17 pm)

      “Poor homeowners and landlords could get a loan against their real estate equity”Wow. Just wow. Homeowners CANNOT get home equity loans if they’re poor and their debt-to-income ratios won’t let them qualify. That’s what poverty does. Now you want them to go into even more debt to satisfy the CrAzY proposal of a failed former Mayor? 

  • Mj February 28, 2022 (1:23 pm)

    Putin’s actions have already caused a significant increase in cost.  The Council should ax this tax proposal. 

    And regarding pollution at my prior home I had oil heat with a very old furnace that I ultimately replaced with a new one, this change significantly reduced emissions!

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