There have been a lot of twists and turns during the Washington State Legislature’s first-ever virtual lawmaking session, which ends April 25th. Whether you’re the Sherlock Holmes of Senate committee hearing schedules, or this is the first you’ve heard about the state legislature, here’s a quick mid-session update.
It’s never too late to join our Legislative Action list, where we’ll give you a few actions each week to help pass these important laws for the climate, our waterways and investing in communities.
What bills passed their house of origin* and are moving on?
(*bills that began in either the House or Senate and made it through; they’re now working their way through the opposite chamber of the legislature to hopefully get to the Governor’s desk and become law)
- Environmental justice: HEAL Act (Healthy Environment for All, 2SSB 5141). Defines environmental justice across state agencies, requires internal agency action plans to incorporate environmental justice, creates an Environmental Justice Council and Office of Environmental Justice Ombuds, and requires agencies to use an environmental justice analysis for major decisions.
- Incorporating climate change into growth plans (WA Can’t Wait, HB 1099). The Growth Management Act (GMA) is well overdue for revisions to incorporate climate change. WA Can’t Wait legislation will direct counties and cities to reduce transportation sector emissions through vehicle miles traveled (VMT), require climate adaptation planning (address impacts resulting from sea level rise, wildfires, smoke, drought, and more), and include an environmental justice element into Comprehensive Plans. We wrote an article about this bill you may want to check out.
- Recover salmon and orca by restoring habitat through net ecological gain (HB 1117). Nature filters out pollution, stores greenhouse gases, and uses intact shorelines to limit the damage of floods and storms — all for free! Net ecological gain is a concept that requires development to rebuild natural functions it impacts through restoration of wetlands and shorelines. The Legislature funded an effort to define and determine how to achieve net ecological gain in 2020; however, the funding was returned due to pandemic response and uncertainty around revenue forecasts.
- Reducing Plastic Pollution and Improving Recycling (PSSB 5022). Requires plastic beverage containers to contain a minimum of 15% post-consumer recycled plastic by weight by 2023, 25% by 2026, and 50% by 2031. Plastic utensils, straws, and lids are only provided on demand by food service businesses. The bill also incorporates a ban on Styrofoam packing peanuts, coolers and take-out clamshells for sale or distribution in Washington.
- Create a Clean Fuel Standard (HB 1091). Cuts climate pollution from the transportation sector, incentivizing electric vehicles and lower-carbon intensity fuels.
What hasn’t yet passed in the House or Senate, but is still alive and kickin’?
Some bills have longer to get through their house of origin
- Washington STRONG Act (SB 5373). A resilient recovery program that would generate at least $16 billion over 10 years to accelerate our transition to a clean economy and create more than 100,000 local, family-wage jobs.
- Nooksack River adjudication funding (SB 5092 / HB 1094, the bills for the state biennial budget). Water rights in the Nooksack River watershed have been in disarray for decades. Knowing exactly who has rights to how much water is a vital baseline for making choices about this shared resource. Funding is needed to start the initial work before an adjudication can commence. Learn more about this issue.
These bills are, unfortunately, no longer moving this year
- Healthy Homes, Clean Buildings (HB 1084 / SB 5093, Governor request). A systematic plan to phase out the use of fossil fuels for indoor heating by setting standards for new construction, making investments in electrification, and ensuring justice in the transition for energy users and for workers. Fracked gas (a.k.a. natural gas) has been the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions since the 1990’s. In Washington state, homes and buildings emit more than one-fourth of all our climate pollution.
- Support Community Solar programs (HB 1046). Creates a functional community solar program with virtual net metering for utility ratepayers investing in offsite solar panels.
- Concerning local salmon habitat recovery planning in critical areas (SB 5036).
- Restoring waterways and protecting drinking water from PFAS contamination (SJM 8001). Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS, persist in the environment for long periods of time. These chemicals are linked to health problems in people and animals. Firefighting foam with PFAS has been found in drinking water wells near naval air stations. This Joint Memorial (SJM) calls on the federal government to coordinate with the state and assist in monitoring and mitigating PFAS pollution in waterways.
- Buy Clean Buy Fair (HB 1103). Establishes reporting requirements on the carbon content of structural materials, and the labor conditions at production facilities, purchased for public works.
You made it to the bottom! You must love protecting and investing in our climate, waterways and communities. Have you considered… joining the weekly Legislative Action List?