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What we won in 2019’s historic lawmaking session for clean water, climate, and communities

posted May 21, 2019, 11:33 AM by Simon Bakke   [ updated May 21, 2019, 11:36 AM ]
We might look back upon Washington’s 2019 Legislative Session as one of the most groundbreaking in decades for human health, clean water, and tackling the climate crisis right here at home. People like you met with lawmakers, commented on bills at pivotal moments, and all-around stood up for the future you want to see — and your elected officials heard you. By our count, 42 bills related to environmental and community wellbeing passed! Huge investments in state budgets were made on environmental programs that hadn’t seen this level of funding since the 2008 Great Recession. 

Our top legislative priorities focused on orca and salmon recovery, plastic pollution, oil spill prevention, going 100% clean electricity statewide, and addressing environmental justice. We actively championed 16 bills, of which 13 are now law! All of these successes happened because legislators received your calls and emails. Thank you.

Together, we passed:
  • A 100% carbon-neutral electrical grid by 2030 and a carbon-free one by 2045, building investments for a clean energy economy that Washington is already well-positioned to lead (SB 5116)
  • Reduced vessel noise to protect endangered orcas, allowing them to better find food and communicate (SB 5577)
  • Improving habitat for Chinook salmon and orcas (HB 1579)
  • Reducing toxic pollution sources by addressing chemicals of particular concern to sensitive species — especially orcas — and vulnerable populations like kids (SB 5135)
  • Improving safety for vessels carrying crude oil through the North Sound and San Juans to prevent oil spills  (HB 1578)
  • Targets for reducing plastic packaging in products and the waste stream starting in 2022 Plastic Packaging Stewardship (SB 5397)
  • Improved protections, accountability, and oversight for migrant seasonal farmworkers using an H-2A Visa (SB 5438)
  • Water and energy efficiency standards that go above and beyond federal rules for all new appliances (SB 1444)
  • Banning fracking for oil and gas statewide  (SB 5145)
  • Better safety measures for trains carrying crude oil coming into our state and offloading at Washington refineries (SB 5579)
  • Clean buildings standards that will reduce emissions by 4.3 million metric tons by 2035, creating jobs in the process (HB 1257)
  • Funding to expedite toxic cleanups like the Bellingham Waterfront and Blaine Marina with Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA) reforms (SB 5993)
  • Funding for a task force to address how to better protect vulnerable communities from pollution and climate change impacts. (related to the HEAL Act)

To get the recap of what the final changes were to our environmental priorities and all environmental bills, check out this list.

There are a few bills that did not make the cut, and we will look to next year to continue advocating for them. We look to next year to pass the Reusable Bag Bill (SB 5323), a bill to protect our rivers and salmon from motorized river mining (SB 5322), and the Plastic Utensils On-Demand bill (HB 1632) to further limit plastic pollution.

A big disappointment in the final budget passed was the lack of funding for removing fish passage barriers (also known as culverts) that prevent salmon and other important fish from migrating. The legislature only funded a third of what Governor Inslee proposed for culvert removal, despite a U.S. Supreme Court decision last year mandating that Washington State removal all culverts on state highways before 2030.

The legislature is just getting started when it comes to prioritizing the health of people, salmon, and our land and water. Next year, we will take this momentum and build upon the victories of 2019 — with you at our side taking action like you did this year, we can build the future of clean water, clean air, and a livable climate for all. 

(photo by Rachel Lee, Washington Environmental Council)