Orcas, plastic, oil, and clean energy: 2019 in Washington’s legislature.

Our communities’ priorities for the health of the environment and Washington residents depend heavily on lawmakers’ choices this year — from a dwindling southern resident orca population to devastating wildfires exacerbated by a changing climate. The Washington State Legislature convenes for a four-month session on January 14th for lawmaking and budgeting, and elected officials need to hear from you before, during, and after the session in order to take bold action.

Once you sign up below, we will alert you of opportunities to use your voice to pass key environmental measures: How to write your legislators, chances to meet with them in Olympia, and everything in between,


In collaboration with the Environmental Priorities Coalition, we are advocating for and tracking the following issues of significance to the people and ecosystems of the North Puget Sound:

Orca Recovery

Southern resident orcas are at their lowest population since the days of orca capture in the 1970s; however, this time their decline is due to lack of salmon to eat, pollution, and vessel noise and traffic. Governor Inslee’s Southern Resident Orca Task Force submitted 34 recommendations that address these three issues, which are wrapped into his 2019 budget and legislative package. All recommendations that RE Sources and supporters like you urged the Task Force to include made it into this final package. The ball is now in the legislature’s court and we will be advocating for full adoption of the recommendations - the list may be long, but the need is great in order to see the recovery of southern resident orcas.

Reducing Plastic Pollution

Bellingham is one of over 26 jurisdictions to eliminate plastic bags given out at grocery stores, yet many towns and cities across the state continue to distribute plastic bags.  Thin plastic bags tear apart into plastic bits quickly, adding to the growing concern about plastic particles (microplastics) in waterways, drinking water, and in the stomachs of animals. The time is now for Washington State to eliminate plastic bags altogether. Brown paper bags will be available for purchase at 10 cents each and free for individuals on fixed incomes and/or food assistance programs.

Oil Spill Prevention

The threat of an oil spill in the Salish Sea increases with expanded oil production and transportation. Think of the orcas, salmon, and other wildlife that would be devastated if there was an oil spill near the San Juan Islands — not to mention economically crucial fishing sectors. Unfortunately, the state’s protections for reducing the risk of oil spills apply only to large tankers, and not to smaller barges and other vessels that transport large volumes of crude oil. This loophole must be closed. We also have a chance to station a response tug in the San Juan Islands and prohibit exploratory drilling off the state’s coasts. 

100% Clean Electricity

Washington can (and should) join forces with other states like California and Hawaii that are moving toward 100% clean electricity. Dwindling streamflows in our creeks and rivers, more intense and longer wildfires, degraded shellfish harvests, and rising sea levels are all signs of a changing climate and underscore the need to act to reduce and eliminate our use of fossil fuels as soon as humanly possible. Reaching 100% clean electricity is doable – nearly 70% of our electric power in the state is already clean and fossil-free. However, Puget Sound Energy sells electricity that is nearly 60% fossil-fuel powered, and currently plans to expand fracked gas-fire power to replace coal. Legislative action is needed to change our course! The proposed legislation would 1) phase out coal power in our electricity fully by 2025, 2) require utilities to achieve net-zero emissions by 2030 through renewable energy credits, 3) set interim emissions targets along the way to 2045 4) provide assistance and investments for low-income Washingtonians burdened by utility bills, and 5) mandate 100% fossil-free electricity statewide in 2045.

In addition to the above four priorities, we are keeping our eye on the following issues:
  • Clarifying water rights: the Department of Ecology and the Governor are budgeting $600,000 over two years to address water rights uncertainties. The Nooksack River System in Whatcom County is a candidate basin that could benefit from this work, since many water users are operating with insufficient water rights or without any at all.
  • Water conservation: legislation could be introduced to require new buildings to install low-flow fixtures and plumbing.
  • Stabilizing funding for toxic cleanups, such as Bellingham’s waterfront: ever since the Great Recession, the state’s Model Toxic Control Act accounts have been used for programs not strictly related to cleaning up areas contaminated with toxic materials. Some funding was instead used for Air Quality, Environmental Assessment, Shorelands, Water Quality and Administration programs. The Governor and Ecology are proposing to shift funding for the mentioned programs to the General Fund. This will free up more funding to expedite toxic cleanups like those on the Bellingham Waterfront.


Questions? Contact Karlee Deatherage, Policy Analyst at karleed@re-sources.org.