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This story is part of the series Getting to Zero: Decarbonizing Cascadia, which explores the path to low-carbon energy for British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon. This project is produced in partnership with InvestigateWest and other media outlets.

In late 2019, mere weeks before the first coronavirus case in the U.S. was detected 60 miles south, the city council of Bellingham, Washington, gathered for a presentation from the town’s Climate Action Plan Task Force, a group of nine community members charged with drawing up a roadmap for Bellingham to hit its emission-cutting goals.

In front of a packed house, the task force walked the council through its 50-odd recommendations for the better part of an hour and a half. One of the recommendations split the audience like no other: whether natural gas should be phased out of buildings in Bellingham and replaced with electricity, beginning with new construction, and gradually spreading to existing commercial businesses and homes. Furnaces would be swapped for heat pumps — which run on electricity and can both heat and cool buildings — hot water heaters extracted for electric boil... Read more

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