The Environmental Priorities Coalition, which includes environmental groups such as the Washington Environmental Council and the Sierra Club, and faith groups such as Faith Action Network, met recently to set priorities. The following is a list of top priorities as described by the Sierra Club:
Hearings: Jan 19, 2022, Scheduled for public hearing in the House Committee on Rural Development, Agriculture & Natural Resources at 10:00 AM (Subject to change).
Fighting Sprawl to Protect Climate (HB 1099 and SB 5042) — Futurewise-led Washington Can’t Wait campaign to pass two bills that will revise the Growth Management Act to better plan for climate and close development loopholes that exacerbate urban sprawl.
Clean Buildings (HB 1767 / SB 5666)— Buildings are WA’s fastest growing source of climate pollution. Action is planned to expand the availability of incentives for utility customers to switch from fossil fuels to clean electric appliances.
Hearings: Jan 14, 2022; House Committee on Environment & Energy; hearing notes here.
Energy for All (HB 1490)– Clean energy is a human right, and nobody should have their heat turned off for failure to pay a bill. This campaign is led by powerful frontline organizational partners Front and Centered and Puget Sound Sage.
Climate-Focused Transportation Investments (“Transportation Package” may be several bills)– Transportation in WA’s largest source of climate pollution; investments are necessary to end the status quo by stopping needless highway expansion and instead funding transit, electrification, walking, and biking.
At the January 2022 JUUstice Washington summit, we discussed two additional issues that may be priorities:
Energy Efficiency for New and Existing Buildings (HB 1770 1774) — require construction of increasingly low-emission energy efficient homes and buildings and achieve construction of zero fossil-fuel greenhouse gas emission homes and buildings by 2030.
Housing Equity and Proximity to Transit (HB 1782)– create additional middle housing near transit and in areas traditionally dedicated to single-family detached housing.
Hearings: January 18 2022, House Local Government Committee
You can TAKE ACTION on any or all of these bills by clicking on the bill number, which takes you to the Legislative Web Page for the bill, and click on the button labeled “Comment on this Bill.” That will take you to a page where you fill in your address, find your reps and senator, and indicate support by clicking on the “support” button and adding a short comment, such as “Please support this bill.”
On December 19, 2021, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia announced that he would not support the Build Back Better bill (BBBB), which contained a number of climate actions as well as social programs. The Biden Administration has worked with Senator Manchin and other legislators on compromises to make it possible to pass BBBB to no avail. As one of the Board Members of the UU Ministry for Earth, Doris Manchin, stated, "Joe Manchin announced that he will not support Build Back Better. Which only means that STRENGTHEN LOCAL CLIMATE COMMITMENTS (the work of cities and states and industry / sectors)" is even more important. If you are not already involved, please sign up here.
The 27th annual Conference of Parties (COP27) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) took place in Sharm El Sheik, Egypt on November 6 – 18, 2022. The agenda and numerous other documents for the COP are available here. The main issues of COP27 were (1) member parties’ emissions reductions and (2) loss and damage. A summary of the COP by Earth Negotiations Bulletin with some of the significant decisions highlighted is here. "Loss and damage" involves the costs to member parties such as Pakistan of climate events (e.g., flooding) that are triggered by the rise of emissions from other member parties such as the U.S. and Europe. Many small island states, such as Tonga and Tuvalu, are also pushing this issue because of sea level rise. Some European countries (e.g., France and Germany), the US and the EU have pledged to fund reparations for loss and damage. There will be pressure on the US to increase funding for reparations and this could become an issue in Congress, as described here. With Republican control of the House, it will require considerable pressure to get the funding. But before January, 2023, Democrats will retain control during a lame duck session and it may be possible to get Congress to support, for example, funding the US Fair Share of the Green Climate Fund (GCF). US funding on reparations will not come up in the immediate future because the loss and damage fund is not established - that will be left to a 24-member committee to report to COP28 in Dubai. The 2015 Paris Agreement set up a methodology for member parties to declare their annual emissions and announce new (lower) targets for future years. These “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs) are reviewed every five years; they were reviewed in Glasgow in 2021 (the 2020 COP was cancelled due to the pandemic). Many, including the US, EU and China announced new targets for 2030; the US NDC for 2030 is 52% below 2005 levels and many other parties also pledged a 50%+ reduction. This is in line with the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that keeping temperature rises below 2C will require halving emissions by 2030. COP27 was an opportunity to determine if parties are keeping to their commitments and are on track to lower emissions this fast. A number of parties complained at the COP that the world is not on track and urged more action. The EU in particular urged that all parties including developing countries increase ambition and hinted that financing, e.g. for loss and damage, might be contingent on all parties stepping up reductions. Only if the vast majority of parties commit to at least 50% reductions by 2030 can the breach of temperature limits be avoided. One issue that continually arises at the COPs is fossil fuel production. In Glasgow, COP26 introduced the text "phase down of unabated coal power and phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies" after fierce debate about what that means. Many parties wanted text to read "phase out" of all fossil fuels but Saudi Arabia and other parties vetoed that. The term "unabated" was used to allow parties to claim that they were offsetting coal production with carbon capture and storage. The term “inefficient” was added to allow parties to claim that they were using sound financial means of funding fossil fuel production. These terms are in the COP27 decision but are likely to be contentious is future COPs. NOTES
- Washington State is not directly a party to the climate change agreement, but we are a member of America is All In, an organization that represents states, cities and private organizations at COPs.
- At the COP26 in 2021, a number of side agreements were made among governments, businesses and civil society. Agreements were made on coal, methane, fossil fuel subsidies, oil and gas production, deforestation and finance. Since the U.S. did not join all of them, you can take action using the information here.
Governor Inslee signed several of the big environmental bills of the 2021 session on Monday, May 18 in Seattle at various locations. Bills included SB 5126 (the Climate Commitment Act), HB 1091 (Clean Fuels); and SB 5141 (HEAL Act). He vetoed provisions in 5126 and 1091 that would have made them contingent on passing a 5 cent per gallon gas tax.
The legislature passed HB 1287, the zero emissions vehicle (ZEV) bill, after it was amended to “establish a goal that all publicly and privately owned passenger and light duty vehicles of model year 2030 or later sold, purchased, or registered in Washington state be electric vehicles, contingent upon vehicle participation in a new road usage charge or equivalent tax or fee policy.” Note that is a “goal,” not a mandate, and it is contingent on a new road usage charge for electric vehicles (to fund transportation like the gas tax does). Because of this contingency, Governor Inslee vetoed provisions of the bill referring to the 2030 goal. Other provisions remain intact, including some that require the state to plan for increases in electric vehicle chargers.
JUUstice WA has not made the Climate Commitment Act a priority because there is some opposition from frontline communities on equity issues (see the detailed hearings report, below). Some members have asked about the bill, so it is described here. It passed the legislature with amendments to meet some of the objections of frontline communities. The “Cap and Invest” program directs Department of Ecology to set a cap on emissions and set rules for compliance. Allowances are used to invest in clean energy projects. By 2022 Ecology must set caps and rules for allowances. Reductions begin in 2023 and are made more stringent during each period. The caps are set on a sliding scale according RCW 70.235 as follows:
- By 2030, reduce overall emissions of GHGs in the state to 45 percent below 1990 levels,
- By 2040, reduce overall emissions of GHGs in the state to 70 percent below 1990 levels,
- By 2050, reduce overall emissions of GHGs in the state to 95 percent below 1990 levels,
Watch it by clicking here: SolutionaryRail.org/
(Move the scroll bar to start at the 6 minute mark to bypass the initial tech set up delay.)
Tom White, one of the lead authors of the Amtrak Cascades LRP, and Solutionary Rail Project Lead Bill Moyer, wrote this article about the future of rail in our State:
by Thomas White and Bill Moyer
Washington state has two potential tracks toward a 21st century rail future, with starkly different outcomes.
One provides higher speed, climate-friendly passenger service linking as many as 13 communities on the Cascadia corridor, with increased capacity for freight trains. It has been in development since 1991 and some elements have already been completed. It would provide clean, electrified Amtrak Cascades passenger service at up to 110mph along existing lines. The phased effort would rapidly create jobs, upgrade service and cut carbon pollution. It could be completed in a decade.
Tragically, this shovel-ready plan is being ignored while another flashy vision grabs the spotlight. That is the “ultra-high-speed rail” (UHSR) project proposed by Washington State Governor Jay Inslee’s administration and developed by WSP, a giant engineering firm. It offers a maximum of five stops along the route. To facilitate speeds up to 220mph, it would require an entirely new passenger-only corridor acquired through costly land acquisitions and the controversial use of eminent domain, with many environmental challenges. While science tells us we need to dramatically cut carbon pollution this decade, UHSR would take many years before the first track is put on the ground and decades more to completion — if it happens at all.
@Washingtonians: there's still time to reach out to State Legislators & ask that the Amtrak Cascades LRP be funded.Please, if you haven't done so yet, contact your two state Representatives AND your state Senator, asking for:
- State funding to update the Amtrak Cascades Long Range Plan
- Legislators to work with WSDOT to request that Federal Railroad Administration grant programs be generously funded by the federal government.
Send this letter ("Legislative Sponsors Needed") by email:
- Click to download the suggested text
- Copy and paste the subject line and text
- Send today to each of your State legislators
Let's do this, Washington!
While SB 5373 is not one of the environmental priorities identified at the Justice Summit, a number of people have expressed interest in the bill. The bill appears to be dead for the session, but there is some possibility of its revival in the budget negotiations. Information below provides some background and notes on a hearing on March 4, 2021. Provisions of the bill:
- It imposes a carbon pollution tax beginning January 1, 2022, equal to $25 per metric ton of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on the sale or use of all fossil fuel within the state of Washington, except for the sale or use of electricity in Washington generated using fossil fuels.
- It increases the tax rate annually by inflation, as measured by the consumer price index, plus 5 percent beginning July 1, 2023.
- It establishes a ten-year climate finance program using carbon tax revenue and a bond program to reduce GHG emissions and increase the resilience of Washington's natural resources to the impacts of climate change
At this point in the legislative session, it would be a good idea to meet with your legislators to discuss pending legislation. Most legislators are scheduling town halls online, and you can find out when at the Washington Conservation Voter website. Some will let you ask questions beforehand, which is a good opportunity to discuss our legislative priorities. Here are some of the priorities we discussed in the Justice Summit.
- Environmental priorities: Fluorinated Gases, Clean Fuels, Growth Management Act, Building Electrification.
- Racial Justice priorities: Insurance fairness act, Healthy Environment for All (HEAL) act.
- Criminal Justice priorities: Legal Financial Obligations.
HB 1050 addresses the leakage of HFC (Hydrofluorocarbon), a greenhouse gas approximately 10,000 times as potent as CO2, although it is in much smaller concentrations (parts per trillion) than CO2 (parts per million). It was developed to replace CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) when it was discovered that CFCs depleted the ozone layer. Although better than CFCs for solving ozone depletion, HFCs were discovered to be highly potent GHGs. Provisions:
- Applies certain existing regulations addressing emissions of ozone depleting substances to HFCs.
- Directs the Department of Ecology (Ecology) to establish a refrigerant management program to address refrigerant emissions from large air conditioning and refrigeration systems.
- Requires Ecology to provide recommendations to the Legislature by December 1, 2021, regarding the design of a program to address the end-of-life management and disposal of refrigerants.
- Establishes a state purchasing and procurement preference for recycled refrigerants.
- Requires consideration of HFC emissions in mandatory utility conservation activities and in codes adopted by the State Building Code Council.
The environmental-explicit portion of the Growth Management Act (GMA) revision, HB 1099, regarding vehicle miles traveled and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions was introduced as part of the GMA suite of bills. This is one of the legislative priorities identified by participants in the Justice Summit.
Provisions of HB 1099 include, inter alia:
Transportation: Encourage efficient multimodal transportation systems that help achieve statewide targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and per capita vehicle miles traveled, and are based on regional priorities and coordinated with county and city comprehensive plans.
Housing: Encourage the availability of affordable housing to all economic segments of the population of this state, promote a variety of residential densities and housing types, and encourage preservation of existing housing stock.
HB 1099 passed the House 56-41. (See below for notes on House committee hearing) It went next to the Senate Committee on Housing & Local Government for executive action (see below for March 16 hearing). It passed the Housing & Local Government committee and the Ways and Means, but was stopped in the Senate Transportation Committee. However, a a proviso was approved in the Final Operating Budget that will fund the Department of Commerce to create the programs needed to implement the GMA climate change element that HB 1099 would have created.
The building electrification bill, HB 1084, has been transformed into the Governor's Healthy Homes & Clean Buildings bill. Building electrification is one of the environmental justice legislative priorities identified at the Justice Summit. The following provisions are in the bill:
- Eliminate all gas hookups by 2030.
- Eliminate building code preemption of local building codes; state code becomes minimum but local governments can go beyond.
- Expand requirements in law for benchmarking, energy audits on 5 year cycle for small bldgs.
- Eliminate RCW (Revised Code WA) references that favor gas industry.
- Create surcharge on use of natural gas, money used to address Environmental Justice issues.
- State policy of encouraging electrification throughout state by transition planning (take bldgs. off gas gradually)
HB 1091 is the Clean Fuels Bill, reintroduced in the 2021-22 session after failing in 2020. It requires reductions in carbon emissions from transportation fuels. It is one of the legislative priorities identified at the Justice Summit. A public hearing was held on January 14 in the House Committee on Environment and Energy; see below for more details. The bill was approved by Environment and Energy and the Transportation Committee, and passed in the House by a vote of 52-46. It was approved by the Senate Environment committee and the Ways and Means Committee; it passed the Senate by a vote of 27-20. Provisions of the bill:
- Directs the Department of Ecology (Ecology) to adopt rules establishing a Clean Fuels Program (CFP) to limit the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per unit of transportation fuel energy to 10 percent below 2017 levels by 2028 and 20 percent below 2017 levels by 2038.
- Directs Ecology to update, prior to 2032, CFP rules to further reduce GHG emissions from each unit of transportation fuel for each year through 2050, consistent with statutory state emission reduction limits.
- Excludes exported fuel, electricity, fuel used by vessels, railroad locomotives, and aircraft, and certain other categories of transportation fuel from the CFP's GHG emission intensity reduction requirements.
The Washington State Senate will be meeting virtually this year and next. In preparation for the session that begins in January, the Senate Environment Committee met virtually on December 1, 2020 at 10:30 a.m. The following topics were be discussed:
Three workshops from the 2020 General Assembly are now available online. They were presented under the title "Learning from Providence," based on the original location of the "live" General Assembly that had to be moved online. The three workshops are:
- Providence, Rhode Island, has an ambitious climate plan that explicitly enlists people of color in its planning and execution. The workship presents the plan and describes the involvement of frontline communities.
- Strengthen Local Climate Commitments is a program of the UU Ministry for Earth, and a number of local programs including King County in Washington are discussed. Bill McPherson is one of the presenters.
- The UU Ministry for Earth has a number of other programs described in a workshop on climate justice.
The 2020 General Assembly Ware Lecture, held online, featured remarks on the Green New Deal by Naomi Klein. She has authored books on the economy and climate change, including This Changes Everything, and attended the 2015 Convention of Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which negotiated the Paris Agreement.
Klein's Ware Lecture noted that the COVID pandemic has changed many people's orientation to change, and opened possibilities for addressing climate, economic and racial issues. The Green New Deal is designed to address these issues on a multi-tasking basis, Klein notes, and would provide a framework for government policy in a post-COVID world.
Klein commends UUs for our "respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part," our Seventh Principle. Although she does not explicitly mention it, UUA has endorsed the Green New Deal and our actions will fulfill many of its goals.
The Ware Lecture by Naomi Klein can be viewed at https://vimeo.com/showcase/7462757/video/433421388
Four climate bills, HB 2311, HB 2248, HB 2518, and SB 5811 passed the 2020 legislature (see full descriptions by clicking on the bill number) and three have been signed by the governor. Two of the bills, HB 2311 (emissions limits) and SB 5811 (zero emissions vehicles) have deadlines for Washington state to reduce emissions in general and in transportation particularly. A third, HB 2518, mandates reductions in methane leakage, an area which is highly significant for climate change mitigation because methane is up to 80 times as powerful as carbon dioxide in trapping heat. One bill passed but did not become law: HB 2248 eases some of the restrictions on the community solar program already in effect; it has some administrative costs to the government. HB 2248 passed the House and Senate but Governor Inslee did not sign it because the state budget has been severely impacted by the corona virus.
One bill, HB 1110, failed because of political maneuvering that ultimately proved to be futile (see description by clicking on the bill number). It would require fuel suppliers to reduce the carbon content of fuels through mixing biofuels with gasoline, and would promote electrification of vehicles. It was the highest priority of a coalition of environmental groups and others, including Washington biofuel companies. They now produce a lot of fuel for California, Oregon and British Columbia, all of whom have succeeded in instituting low carbon fuel standards. We need to join the "thin green line" of the West Coast, and the bill was introduced again this year as HB 1091 (see above for more details).
HB 2518 requires the Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) to increase oversight of measures undertaken by natural gas companies to reduce hazardous leaks and nonhazardous fugitive emissions from gas pipelines. It requires, beginning July 1, 2020, and on an annual basis thereafter, each gas pipeline company to submit to the UTC a report on the environmental and economic performance of its gas pipeline system. It also requires the UTC to publish a report that aggregates data by gas company concerning gas leaks by August 1, 2020, and on an annual basis thereafter. The House passed the bill on February 18 and the Senate passed it on March 5. It has been signed by the governor, and become law.