Right Now in Climate Change
Bills to address climate change have traveled a tough road this session but some progress occurred toward achieving the state’s greenhouse gas reduction targets. A price on carbon through cap and trade passed (SB 5126) that will generate revenue for investments in overburdened communities and our transportation system, although objections were raised against the credits and exemptions for energy intensive industries, against the anticipated increase in fuel cost, and against continuing investment in our existing carbon-intensive highways.
Also passed was a clean fuels bill (HB 1091) that progressively reduces the carbon content of fuels, but also offers exemptions to energy intensive industries and will fund enhancement of our existing transportation system.
Both these bills endured extensive adjustments via amendments during the legislative process that have increased their complexity. Yet the legislature also passed a bill to increase the availability of and planning for more electric vehicle charging stations (HB 1287), a bill reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from hydrofluorocarbons (HB 1050), a bill Implementing the recommendations of the Environmental Justice Task Force (SB 5141), and a bill updating the Growth Management Act (HB 1220) increasing availability of emergency shelters and housing through local planning and development regulations.
Several bills below await the governor’s signature, and you can demonstrate grassroots support and encourage him to sign them with a message here.
The Energy Issue Web Page lists other bills related to climate.
Bills the League Supported That Passed
SB 5126 Washington Climate Commitment Act. Creates a cap and trade and invest program on greenhouse gas emissions with an environmental justice task force to ensure equity in implementation. During the public hearing in the Senate Environment, Energy, and Technology Committee, environmental justice organizations objected to the market-based approach that also includes exemptions and offsets, and therefore may not reduce pollution and carbon sufficiently, but just move it to overburdened communities with lower incomes and lower political influence. Designing a price-on-carbon system has proven challenging.
This and SB 5373 represent different approaches to implementing a price on carbon and directing that revenue to value-added investment. They each have benefits and challenges, but we think it is time for implementing a price on carbon, so we were prepared to support either bill. SB 5126 had the most support from legislators.
The Senate Environment, Energy, and Technology Committee voted 7-5 to pass this bill and referred it to the Senate Ways and Means Committee. The substitute bill adds an environmental justice review every two years by the Department of Ecology to ensure overburdened communities experience relief from air pollution, plus an environmental justice assessment, an environmental justice and equity panel, and tribal consultation to address some of the objections to the original bill.
It had a hearing in the Senate Ways and Means Committee, and a second substitute bill passed 13 to 12. That version was amended on the Senate floor and was passed 25 to 24. Based on existing League positions we will remain in support acknowledging that some amendments have improved, others have weakened effectiveness, and the complexity has increased.
It had a hearing in the House Environment and Energy Committee and that committee amended it further reversing some of amendments made in the senate during committee votes and the floor vote. That version restored some of the implementation responsibility by the Department of Ecology, and it passed the committee 7 to 6 following a 5-hour executive session.
Another substitute bill (striker) passed the House Appropriations Committee, and that version passed the House floor vote 54 to 43.
Status Implementation is contingent on passing a transportation package. The Senate concurred with the House amendments and passed the bill 27 to 22, actually picking up two yea votes. It is on the governor’s desk, and we expect him to sign it into law. Because this bill experienced strong opposition on both the left and right, it could be subject to a referendum.
HB 1091 Reducing greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the carbon intensity of transportation fuel. This is a new version of the clean fuels bill that failed to achieve passage in the past two sessions. The intent is to reduce greenhouse gas release from the fuels we will continue to use, to improve the air quality by reducing pollution, and to ensure Washington has the incentive to create a clean fuel industry. Fuels that achieve carbon reductions in addition to the requirements generate tradable credits. We think this bill represents an important step in achieving Washington’s decarbonization goals.
A public hearing occurred in the House Appropriations Committee with both pro and con testimony represented. The fuel price increases were the most frequently voiced concerns. Proponents testified that California and Oregon have not experienced significant fuel price increases under similar regulation, and this is an important feature in our drive toward zero carbon energy by 2050. Opponents testified that clean fuel bills in those states have increased fuel prices substantially and did not significantly increase their in-state clean fuel industry. It passed the House on a 52 to 46 vote with amendments requiring additional reporting on progress and results from the Department of Ecology and Washington State University. The bill had a hearing in the Senate Environment, Energy, and Technology Committee where pro and con testimony repeated previous values and concerns. It passed the Senate Environment, Energy, and Technology Committee at 7-6 and the Senate Ways and Means Committee 15 to 10. Senate amendments added off-ramps that could reduce effectiveness of the implementation.
SB 5192 Supporting access to electric vehicle supply equipment, to increase public access to electric vehicle charging stations and standardize the features. It passed the Senate floor vote 35 to 14.
Status A substitute bill (striker) passed the House Appropriations Committee and passed the House floor 56 to 42. The Senate concurred with the version passed by the House on a 30 to 19 vote, so it awaits the governor’s signature.
HB 1050 Reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from hydrofluorocarbons. Many of the working fluids in our air conditioning and heat pump systems are far more powerful greenhouse gases than carbon dioxide. Hydrofluorocarbons are a powerful greenhouse gas that replaced chlorofluorocarbons to preserve the protective ozone layer of upper atmosphere. We must now enable replacement and control of hydrofluorocarbons as we invest in clean energy sources and in systems that need such working fluids. Passed the House Environment and Energy Committee on an 8-5 party-line vote, and the Appropriations Committee on a 19-14 vote. The bill passed the House floor vote 56-40.
Another substitute bill, offered by the Senate, passed the Senate Environment, Energy, and Technology Committee. The Senate substitute made additional adjustments for specific applications and effective dates. It passed the Senate Ways and Means Committee 16-9 and the Senate 30 to 19.
Status The House concurred with the Senate’s amendments, so it awaits the governor’s signature.
HB 1287 Preparedness for a zero emissions transportation future. This bill requires the Department of Commerce to develop and maintain publicly available information and locations of vehicle charging and refueling infrastructure. Requires utilities to plan for and additional building codes to support the anticipated increase in zero-emission vehicles. Passed in the House Environment and Energy Committee 8-5, and the House Transportation Committee 17-12. The bill as amended passed the House 65-31, passed the Senate Environment, Energy, and Technology Committee, then was amended to include requirements from HB 1204 for light vehicle electrification by 2030.
Status The amended bill passed the Senate 54 to 43, and the House concurred with the Senate amendments. The next step is the governor’s signature.
SB 5141 Implementing the recommendations of the Environmental Justice Task Force, also known as the HEAL Act, would implement the recommendations of the Environmental Justice Task Force, including equitable engagement with communities primarily affected by environmental hazards to create solutions that meet their needs. The bill also establishes the environmental justice council to review existing laws and propose new laws that heal the environment where it is most needed. Amendments have reduced some of the originally drafted oversight requirements. It passed the Senate 28-21. This bill had a hearing in the House Environment and Energy Committee and an amended version passed 8-5. The House Appropriations Committee passed the bill 19 to 14.
Status It passed the House floor vote 56 to 41, and the Senate concurred with the House amendments on a 27 to 22 vote. It is on the governor’s desk for his signature.
Growth Management Act (GMA) Bills That Passed
The League of Women Voters at all levels considers climate change a threat to equity and democracy, therefore—based on the best available information and expert opinion—we testified for and promoted bills that reduce and mitigate climate change including those that require additional attention to housing so that there is no anticipation of expanding residential areas outside the urban growth areas. Of all the GMA bills that were introduced and that we supported, only one passed this session, HB 1220, described below.
GMA Bill HB 1220 Supporting emergency shelters and housing through local planning and development regulations, would modify the Growth Management Act to specify that special consideration for low, very low, extremely low, and moderate-income households must be incorporated in the housing element of comprehensive plans. This bill passed the House 57-39, and passed the Senate 25-24. The House voted 57-40 to concur with the Senate amendments.
Status This bill has now been signed by the Speaker of the House and President of the Senate and awaits the governor’s signature.
Bills the League Supports That Failed To Pass
HB 1075 Reducing emissions from vehicles associated with on-demand transportation services. This bill establishes processes for determining the greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint of commercial transportation service providers and to plan meeting GHG reduction targets.
HB 1084 Reducing statewide greenhouse gas emissions by achieving greater decarbonization of residential and commercial buildings. Carbon dioxide released from fuel used in buildings is a large part of our total state release of our greenhouse gases. Ensuring we begin reducing this source requires an early start to retrofitting heating and other existing systems and installing low carbon systems in new buildings. To achieve the 2050 climate goals, we must avoid stranding investments in current technologies as we construct new buildings and reduce the on-going carbon footprint in existing buildings. The House Environment and Energy Committee passed the bill, but the House Appropriations Committee took no action.
GMA Bill HB 1099 Improving the state’s climate response through updates to the state’s comprehensive planning framework. This bill would require local governments to plan for mitigation of climate change and how they will aid in achieving the state’s greenhouse gas reduction levels. The substitute bill changed a number of elements among the mandates, which makes the bill more stringent; but it also adds a provision that the requirements do not apply if there is not an appropriation to support local jurisdictions in meeting the bill’s mandates. Having passed the House and two other committees in the Senate, this bill did not get passed from the Senate Transportation Committee by the cutoff date. A proviso was included in the final operating budget for the Department of Commerce to implement structure and framework in time for a few counties to proceed with their 2024 comprehensive plan updates should the bill pass during the 2022 session.
GMA Bill HB 1117 Promoting salmon recovery through revisions to the state’s comprehensive planning network. It would require that salmon be included in front-end planning undertaken under the Growth Management Act. It defines compensatory mitigation and net ecological gain as measures of salmon protection and mandates that these be covered in land use, critical areas and transportation plans as of January 2024.This bill passed the House and passed both the Senate Housing and Local Government Committee and the Ways and Means Committee, but the Senate Rules Committee returned it to the House.
GMA Bill HB 1157 Increasing housing supply through the Growth Management Act and housing density tax incentives for local governments, would amend the elements of a comprehensive plan to ensure consideration of multifamily housing units and housing targets, increase urban densities within urban growth areas in buildable land areas to six net dwelling units per acre and create real estate excise tax density incentive zones within Urban Growth Areas (UGAs) in buildable lands areas.
Status HB 1157 passed the House and had a public hearing in the Senate Ways and Means Committee. This bill was scheduled for executive session in the Ways and Means Committee but no action was taken.
HB 1204 Electrification of transportation. This bill calls for the Washington State Transportation Commission to prepare a plan to enable all light-duty and passenger vehicles sold in Washington by 2030 to be electric vehicles, and to make this a just transition for those impacted. It passed the House Committee on Transportation, but no further action was taken, however the objectives for vehicle electrification were incorporated into HB 1287 by amendment.
GMA Bill HB 1241 Relating to planning under the Growth Management Act, would require annual implementation plans after 2024 for addressing GMA requirements. It would also require the Department of Commerce to provide rules for indicators, measures, milestones, and criteria for use by counties and cities in the implementation progress report. These requirements are intended to support the many changes in the Growth Management Act that are currently anticipated, some of which are very complex.
Status This bill passed the House and passed both the Senate Housing and Local Government Committee and Ways and Means Committee but did not receive a floor vote.
HB 1537 Terminating certain tax preferences for fossil fuel products. The language adjusts the use tax on natural gas, exempting renewable gas and some transportation uses. The bill is estimated to add almost $14 million to the general fund for the 2021-2023 biennium. It was revived as Necessary to Implement the Budget and had a hearing in the House Finance Committee but no further action was taken.
GMA Bill HB 1577 Creating a tax and a temporary bond program to fund transportation investments and projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This late-breaking bill has similar features to SB 5373 (listed below) and represents a valiant attempt to revive the approach of that bill.
GMA Bill SB 5042 Concerning the effective date of certain actions taken under the Growth Management Act. This bill would mandate effective dates of various comp plan designations to a minimum of 60 days past the plan publication date or issuance of a Growth Management Hearings Board final order, whichever is later. This bill was passed out of the Senate Housing and Local Government on January 28, but the Senate Rules Committee did not send it to the floor for a vote.
GMA Bill SB 5312 Facilitating transit-oriented development and increasing housing inventory, would amend the Growth Management Act to expand the grants to local government for transit-oriented development planning. This bill passed the Senate on a 44-3 vote and passed both the House Environment and Energy Committee and Appropriations Committee but did not receive a floor vote.
SB 5373 The Washington STRONG Act authorizes nearly $5 billion of green bonds to invest in infrastructure and mitigation to reduce climate change and transition to a clean economy. The bonds would be paid with a price on carbon, which would also fund some of the infrastructure. Using bonds will enable investments to begin soon. Revenue beyond that required to pay off the bonds will be used on additional climate-mitigating investments for a total of about $16 billion. Part of this revenue will fund transportation state needs. A public hearing occurred in the Senate Environment, Energy, and Technology Committee. It will not proceed this session.
HB 1280 Greenhouse gas emissions reductions in the design of public facilities. Sets requirements for all-electric and clean-energy systems in new and newly leased publicly owned buildings be considered using life-cycle cost analysis. This bill passed in the House Environment and Energy Committee 8-5. It passed the House Capital Budget Committee on a 12-11 vote, then passed on the House floor 57-39, so significant opposition remains. It passed the Senate Environment, Energy, and Technology Committee 8-5, but was not scheduled for a Senate floor vote.
GMA Bill SB 5390 Increasing housing supply through the Growth Management Act and housing density tax incentives for local governments, would amend the elements of a comprehensive plan to ensure consideration of multifamily housing units and housing targets, increase urban densities within urban growth areas in buildable land areas to six net dwelling units per acre and create real estate excise tax density incentive zones within Urban Growth Areas (UGAs) in buildable lands areas. This bill had a public hearing in the Senate Housing and Local Government Committee where it passed 8-1 and was referred to the Ways and Means Committee. It did not survive the cutoff and will not proceed this year.
GMA Bill SB 5428 Concerning the application of the state environmental policy act to temporary shelters and transitional encampments would waive the State Environmental Policy Act requirements for organized shelters and encampments serving people experiencing homelessness if they are temporary, less than three years. This bill passed the Senate Housing and Local Government Committee on but was not pulled out of the Rules Committee.
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