Clean energy, pollution prevention, farmland protection & more in WA’s 2024 legislative session

Bills lawmakers have proposed that will have effects on our climate, water pollution, whether or not farmland gets developed, and much more.
January 9, 2024

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Every January, Washington state senators and representatives convene in Olympia for 60 days (during even-numbered years like 2024) or 105 days (during odd-numbered years, longer sessions that include creating the two-year biennial state budgets).

In a short session like 2024, bills are likely to move forward — or fail — quite quickly. That’s why we offer our Legislative Action Team emails, where RE Sources sends out a brief weekly(ish) email update to folks who sign up focused on simple actions you can take to ensure urgent policies make it across the legislative finish line.

More solar power access, less fracked gas in homes & buildings

Utility Decarbonization (HB 1589): This would create regulatory tools to switch Puget Sound Energy (PSE) utility gas customers to clean electric service while limiting impacts to low-income customers and ensuring benefits to overburdened communities. PSE provides direct gas service to the greater Seattle area, and electric service throughout Northwest Washington. As gas prices are increasingly volatile and as more renewable energy comes online, this is an important move for both the climate and ratepayers. 

Energy Navigator Program (HB 1391): This bill would make it easier for people to access rebates, tax credits, and other funding for making their homes and buildings more efficient, installing heat pumps and more through community outreach. Creating a centralized place for people to find savings available to them (and qualified contractors who can do the work) will:

  • Support the coordination and integration of efficiency and electrification programs and incentives administered by local, state, federal and utility entities to maximize savings;
  • Provide education and outreach to building owners and renters
  • Prioritize serving low and moderate income, vulnerable populations, and overburdened communities 
  • Learn more about the navigator program here.

Fair Access to Community Solar Act (HB 2253): This bill would establish a community solar bill crediting program aimed at increasing access to solar energy, and requires that 50% of those subscribed to a community solar project be either a low-income ratepayer, or an organization providing services to low-income families. Making community solar programs financially rewarding for members will lead to more solar installations, allow non-home-owners to invest in regenerative, resilient distributed energy resources. Learn more about the benefits of community solar.

Solar Energy Resilience Act (HB 1427): Owners of grid-connected rooftop solar panels benefit from “net-metering” — having all the electricity they produce help lower their utility bill. However, net-metering will no longer be accessible for many new solar users in Washington unless we pass a bill by March. This bill: 

  • Increases the size limit on solar projects eligible for net metering, so more large and small buildings can participate.
  • Raises the cap on how much solar generation qualifies for net metering. 
  • Transfers excess annual solar credits from net metered customers to low-income customer bill assistance programs.

Revamped recycling, salmon protection, and cutting pollution in highly impacted communities

Re-WRAP Act (HB 2049): An adjusted version of the 2023 Washington Recycling and Packaging (WRAP) Act will create incentives for companies to reduce packaging, move to packaging that is reusable, compostable, or genuinely recyclable. The issue of plastic waste grows worse every day — this bill shifts the focus from consumers to put responsibility on the producers who create the packaging waste in the first place. It would also provide free, universal recycling services for Washingtonians, and make recycling easier with a clear common list of what can be recycled statewide, and ensuring that product labels reflect actual recyclability in the state. Learn more.

CuRB Act (HB 2070): Polluting industries disproportionately contaminate the air, water and land of communities of color due to racist practices like redlining, and the state permitting industrial siting near these communities. The Cumulative Risk Burden (CuRB) Act would require consideration of pollutants that affect human health when considering permit approvals. If passed, a lead agency would deny permits for new facilities that add cumulative pollution on the identified communities, while elevating these communities’ voices in the permit evaluation process. The State Environmental Protection Act has long taken into account environmental impacts — it’s long overdue that SEPA also considers environmental justice and people’s health. (See more from the Washington organization Front and Centered)

Protect Salmon from tire dust pollution (SB 5931): Researchers found that 6PPD-q, a chemical found in tire dust, ends up in streams from roadways. Even in very small amounts, it’s lethal to adult coho salmon who have already survived against all odds to return to spawn in freshwater streams. SB 5931 will expedite the Safer Products for Washington process to more quickly address 6PPD-q pollution. We also support a proposed $300,000 budget item directing the Department of Ecology to conduct a study of the waste tire market in Washington to address 6PPD-q pollution where waste tires are often placed along shorelines for erosion control, docks as bumpers for boats, or on turf fields to continue to cause more human and environmental health concerns.

Funding priority: Defend the Climate Commitment Act, use revenue on highest-impact projects and forest protection

As you may have heard, Washington’s Climate Commitment Act (CCA) is under attack by corporate polluters and politicians who are fundamentally against climate action. These attacks are coming in the form of proposed ballot initiatives heading to the voters this November, as well as dangerous bills that seek to undo the CCA, allowing climate-heating pollution to continue unchecked. It’s essential that communities and elected leaders defend this landmark climate policy.

The CCA is an innovative approach to auction carbon credits to big polluters, then invest that revenue in solutions that reduce carbon emissions and enhance climate resilience. The program went live in 2023, and the legislature began deciding how over $1.5 billion in revenue from polluters would be allocated. RE Sources and our partners successfully advocated for a portion of the CCA revenue to be devoted to protecting mature forests on state land, using an innovative approach that ensures conservation gains don’t negatively impact trustland beneficiaries like schools and fire districts.

In December 2023, the CCA yielded huge wins here in Whatcom County when the Department of Natural Resources used CCA funds to protect 650 acres of mature forest in the Lake Whatcom watershed and along the Middle Fork Nooksack River, including the Brokedown Palace Timber Sale. The CCA can fund projects from forest conservation to electric school buses and renewable power generation — that’s why it’s essential that we defend the program and ask for accountability so CCA revenue only goes towards projects that actually move the needle on carbon!

Bills we’re tracking that could weaken land use rules and forest protection

There are three bills that could weaken Washington’s bedrock land use framework, the Growth Management Act (GMA). We’re tracking these bills closely to ensure bad land use bills don’t become a reality:

  • SB 5834: Would allow counties to add farmland to their urban growth area, which paves the way for urban sprawl across rural lands.
  • HB 1133 and HB 2126 would allow development of detached Additional Dwelling Units (ADUs)  in rural areas. This could mean more population growth and development in rural areas that should be maintained as working farms and forestlands.
  • HB 1789 (Department of Natural Resources’ carbon bill): Last session, DNR introduced a forest-carbon bill that would have created a new program to protect mature forests without harming beneficiaries. Originally, the environmental community was very supportive of HB 1789 because it would have authorized DNR’s pilot carbon program, which yield protections for the Bessie Timber Sale (here in Whatcom County), and could lead to the protection of other important legacy stands in Whatcom. Unfortunately, the timber industry lobbied hard to sneak a handful of poison pills into the bill, which would have done far more harm than good. We teamed up with our allies to successfully kill the bill. This legislative session will likely see another push to pass this bill — we’ll be monitoring it closely to mobilize grassroots pressure if needed to steer it in the right direction.

If you’ve made it this far and you aren’t on our Legislative Action List, what are you waiting for? Receive regular updates during the WA legislative session today.